Quitting Social Media

Twitter be gone.

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Somewhere, Prince and Andrew Coyne are exchanging messages via Morse Code. Or maybe walkie-talkies. What else is left? Both have said goodbye to Twitter.

Prince recently disappeared from social media, deleting his Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts and even pulling most of his material from YouTube. He had only signed up a year ago and apparently decided it wasn’t for him. Since figuring out why Prince does anything is like trying to interpret the facial expressions of fish, there has not been a whole lot of speculation about the move.

But Coyne is different. The National Post columnist and CBC pundit had amassed over 72,000 Twitter followers and was, for many Canadian Twitter buffs, more or less the Leader of the Pack.  Then boom, he was gone. Those of us who followed Coyne’s prolific tweets were bereft, like remoras who had lost their shark.

Coyne explained he was “refocusing,” adding, “Lordy, it’s just Twitter.” For the likes of Coyne, maybe. He’s a dealer. Us junkies are sweating.

That’s what makes Twitter so attractive for many—it allows contact with people we wouldn’t otherwise be schmoozing with, people who have interesting and informed viewpoints (once you’ve sifted those tweets out from the dross). Coyne was a major content provider. But that sucks up time.

I recently passed my four year Twitter anniversary. Rough calculations indicate I have sent out an average of 12 tweets a day over that time. As a professional writer, I have composed over 18,000 Twitter messages, for which I have been paid exactly squat. Coyne worked Twitter even harder. And, I can safely presume, his words are far more valuable than mine, professionally. To refocus on another project—a book, perhaps—makes a lot of sense for someone like Coyne. His Twitter account was more of a public service than a useful tool—he put in more than he took out.

Presumably Coyne enjoyed the give-and-take he engaged in with his peers—at its best a Twitter feed can be like a great cocktail party. But the returns he would get from the medium would be less than those enjoyed by his followers—particularly since Twitter also provided a handy forum for people to snipe at him and accuse him of being a shill for everybody this side of the Taliban. It seems one day Coyne just decided to stop working for free. Twitter had better hope that attitude doesn’t spread.

As for Prince, I didn’t much care what he thought about the federal budget anyway. No loss.

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December 6, 2014