Do you know what I've just done? Something pretty radical. I've unfollowed everyone on Twitter. Yes, everyone. I am now following nobody and embracing Twitter Lists instead. I realise some of you might consider this overdramatic, but allow me to explain.
I wanted more privacy, control, peace of mind, and less exposure to angry people and depressing topics. But also, I've realised that for the past decade, I've been too "available" and have answered direct messages, replied to people privately and followed people in return, probably for at least an hour every single day. If my calculations are correct, that's roughly 5,000 hours of my life that I'm never getting back.
Now, Twitter has been wonderful. It has allowed me to build a network without paying a penny and is an enormous contributing factor to my venture's success. I've made some great contacts and found a friendly community. It's been a helpful, supportive hub and, as such, has proven to be invaluable. On the other hand, it has caused some anxiety, particularly in recent years.
I was born in the late 1970s. I grew up with no social media, no Internet, no mobile phone. I'm not sure how we would've coped with a global pandemic, but life was good, for the most part. If I wanted to see friends, I'd have to knock on their doors or phone them via the landline. It was glorious. Epic. I didn't know what everyone was doing, so I never felt like I was missing out. I wasn't exposed to excessive amounts of information or negativity. My world was small, manageable, peaceful.
Finding a balance
As Twitter continues to play an essential role in marketing my platform, Creative Boom, and building and maintaining contacts, I've taken the sound advice of web designer and developer Dave Smyth and unfollowed people and created lists to follow instead. I've also spring-cleaned my Twitter history, removing old tweets, replies, likes and retweets.
Why lists? I can make them private and see the people I want to follow. No one is offended if I don't follow back, as I'm not following anyone. And I've saved myself a few jobs every day, too. And because of my new approach, nobody can send me a direct message either. It's a big win for me as a busy editor and journalist. It's now not as easy to contact me, thus making my life more manageable.
Why delete tweets and likes? I've always used Twitter positively. I don't tend to rant or talk of politics. I don't swear much. Irrespective of this, I wanted to reduce my digital footprint and boost my privacy. Because let's face it, I might have shared too much and made myself vulnerable, perhaps revealing too much of my personal information. So I've deleted all of my Twitter history, right up until the end of October 2021. And I've set up an automated service to continue cleaning out old tweets and likes in future.
Want to know how I did it? It would be my pleasure. Disclaimer: I am not responsible for anything you do with your own social media accounts. I'm just sharing what I discovered whilst researching this subject.
How to unfollow everyone on Twitter
This step is surprisingly easy. Developer Jamie Mason shares a helpful Unfollow Everyone on Twitter piece of code that you add to your Developer Console and run.
On your Twitter profile, click on 'following' to see your list of the people you follow and then right-click in your browser window and select 'Inspect'. Next, click on 'Console' and copy and paste Mason's code there. Hit enter, leave the window open and grab a brew. When you return, your following count will say zero.
How to delete your Twitter history
Before doing anything else, request to download and view your Twitter archive. Keep it on file, just in case. Please note this can take up to 24 hours.
Once you've got everything backed up, you can start the exciting process of deleting everything. As it's no manual task, there are loads of tools to consider to help you manage the process.
Some recommend CircleBoom and TweetDelete. On this occasion, I chose TweetDeleter, and it proved to do the trick beautifully. I've signed up for an £11.99 per month subscription to bulk delete tweets, replies, likes, retweets and media. One of the features I love the most is the ability to filter by date, tweet type, time of day, profanities, and day of the week. It means you can take your time and ensure you're not just deleting your entire history in one hit.
Ok, so I've gone down a fairly expensive route on this one. In future, I'll be using TweetDelete, as it's a one-time purchase, costing just £10, to have running in the background, deleting things as I go.
What happens next?
I've unfollowed everyone @katylcowan on Twitter, and so far, so good. People can no longer direct message me, I'm less exposed to negativity or being overwhelmed by excessive information, and I have eliminated time-consuming jobs like following people back or answering messages.
Yes, I've lost a few miffed followers. That was to be expected. Plus, I've now got to create the lists of people I want to follow—another job to find the time for. But overall, it's kind of wonderful not having a feed or the added headache of social etiquette. I feel liberated. It's one less thing to worry about and is setting me up for a more productive, happier 2022.
If like me, you've been finding Twitter a headache lately, for whatever reason, then this "brave" approach might just be the solution.