I Accidentally Fell In Love With Twitter Again

I joined Twitter in May of 2008. Which means I’m coming up on my 10 year Twitter anniversary. For reference, I started blogging in July 2006, and joined Twitter less than 2 years into blogging. At the time, it was pretty much the only social media option out there. Facebook hadn’t yet become widely available. And Instagram and Pinterest wouldn’t exist for a few years.

In 2008, I found Twitter to be fascinating and entertaining. Twitter gave birth to the hashtag and I loved seeing how creative hashtags took on a life of their own. In those days, you could get a topic trending with just a small group of people, and at conferences or events, we would do so intentionally and it felt super powerful. Sometimes, when there were too many people on Twitter, the site would shut down and instead, there would be an image of the “Fail Whale” displayed.

When I started my account, I followed everyone I knew personally online at the time — pretty much all bloggers. Later, when Twitter started feeling like an extension of my business, I took Twitter classes from experts like Guy Kawasaki and would try out whatever the current trends were. For example, there was a year or so where I tried the recommendation to follow back everyone who followed me, and I ended up following several thousand people. When Twitter lists were introduced (I think it was 2009), I made a bunch of them, all with silly headings like, “Knows How to Drive Stick,” “Secret Hippies,” and “Has a Good Fake British Accent.” And then never looked at them again till I eventually deleted them. 

A couple of years in, around 2010, I mostly abandoned Twitter. It didn’t support photos yet, and by then, there were other social media platforms that fit my visual heart better. I didn’t shut down my account, but I was minimally active for many years. I would tweet out links for sponsors when asked. And I might tweet during an event to show support. I also connected my Instagram to my Twitter so that anytime I shared an Instagram post, I could simultaneously share it to Twitter too — just so my Twitter feed wouldn’t look too bare. But otherwise, I totally ignored Twitter. As my online community developed I learned they just didn’t care about Twitter, so neither did I.

But something changed over the last year. I seemed to hit some sort of mental saturation limit on Facebook. For a really long time I’d been super active on my personal Facebook page, and then almost overnight, I stopped posting on my personal Facebook page and only posted from my Design Mom page. Overall, I started spending way less time on Facebook and I took the Facebook app off my phone.

Now, when I was bored and picked my phone, instead of looking at Facebook, I tried opening Twitter. At first, it was fine, but not that great. It was mostly the same people I was connected with on Facebook and Instagram, and felt similar. But I started adjusting the list of who I followed. I muted or unfollowed a ton of accounts — people who I followed way back when and didn’t even remember or feel connected to anymore. And I started being really intentional about who I followed instead, and what I would use Twitter for. I figured out I liked Twitter to A) follow news stories and get commentary at the same time, to B) find interesting links to share, and to C) encourage whatever my current hobbies are.

To make sure I wasn’t only getting left-leaning headlines, I did searches like “Best Conservative Voices to Follow on Twitter,” and followed people on the lists that came up. I already followed several design related accounts, but I unfollowed some and focused on those sharing interesting stories from around the web. I sought out a few Mormon voices so I could stay up on conversations related to my religion.

I also started paying attention to other voices being shared in my stream. By that I mean Twitter doesn’t just show you the tweets of people you follow; it also shows you some of the posts that people you follow have liked. When new voices would show up that made me laugh, or made me think, I would follow them too.

I LOVE my feed now. It’s meeting and exceeding the intentional expectations I set — it helps me follow the news, it helps me find interesting articles to share, and it helps me deepen my current hobbies. I don’t do much talking. Instead, I use it to amplify voices I appreciate. Meaning, I retweet a ton. I still use it to promote sponsors once in awhile, but 95% of the time, I use it for me personally. For me, it’s really helpful that I mostly follow people I don’t know personally and have no connection with. If a story is shared that I disagree with, it doesn’t feel so personal, you know? I can read commentary about it and not feel tempted to get in an internet fight. Honestly, it’s currently my favorite social media platform.

If you’ve been curious about Twitter but never taken the plunge, this is what I would recommend:

When you first sign up for Twitter, be aware that you have two different names.
You’ll need to choose your Twitter handle (mine is @designmom), and ideally you’ll always keep it the same. But you’ll also choose another name to associate with your handle, and that name can change as often as you like. I keep mine a traditional Gabrielle Blair. But some people change their name weekly, and it’s pretty entertaining! Keep in mind, as you use the Twitter app, the @handle will actually show up less than the other name. So if you follow me, you’ll see the name Gabrielle Blair way more than you see the handle @designmom.

Don’t just follow all the same people you already follow on Facebook or Instagram. During the sign up process, Twitter will want to connect with your contacts — on your phone or on Facebook. I would skip that step. Don’t follow all your friends and family members. You’re already connected to them on Facebook, right? No need to use Twitter as a second Facebook. If you know of a friend or relative who especially loves to tweet, then sure why not follow them. But otherwise, I would use Twitter to follow an entirely different group of people.

So who should you follow if not your contact list? Think about what topics you want to see stories about. It could be something niche like rock collecting. Or maybe something broad like politics. Or maybe something like humor writers, or more specifically, “dad jokes.” You can come up with as many topics as you’d like. Then go to Google and do a search for top Twitter accounts on X topic. Follow those.

How many people should you follow? That’s a good question. Right now, I follow just under 500 people, but most are still on my list from back in 2008 and are not very active. I’d say only 100 to 125 regularly post. And that seems to be plenty of content. Feel free to look on my list and follow anyone that you take notice of.

Now that you’re following a good number of people, check into your feed when you’re bored. Be aware, that like the rest of the social media feeds, Twitter doesn’t always show posts in chronological order. If I check in right now, I might see some posts from a few minutes ago, and others from yesterday. Yes, it drives me bonkers, but I’m not aware of a workaround.

You can get a ton of joy out of Twitter, even if you don’t tweet anything yourself. If you’re just starting out, I would recommend listening/reading for awhile instead of talking. When you’re ready, I would recommend retweeting something you like. You can retweet as much as you want. Next, once you’re familiar with the format, you can write your own tweets, respond to someone else’s tweet, or retweet something and add your own comment. Or, you can simply read the tweets, and heart what you like, and never write anything at all.

There are a few tools on Twitter that really help me enjoy the experience. One is the heart/like button. You can use it to show support, but you can also use it as a bookmarking tool. If you like something and want to read it later, just heart it. Unlike Facebook, Twitter keeps a list of everything you’ve liked and you can access it anytime. Here is a list of everything I’ve ever liked on Twitter. It’s a mix of articles and tweets that I appreciate or that I want to remember for later. If you want to, you can unheart something on your list at anytime.

BUT. Other people can see your list of likes too. So if you want to save something, but don’t want people to see it, the other thing you can do is send a tweet to yourself in a DM (direct message). I do that a lot when I find something I potentially want to share on my Friday link list. And you can always delete individual messages later — if I’ve shared the link, I delete that message so I know not to use it again.

Other built-in tools that are super helpful are muting, unfollowing and blocking. If you followed an account and you don’t like what they share go ahead and unfollow. You don’t know them. They don’t know you. Don’t stress about it. If you followed an account and are getting tired of them, but don’t want to unfollow because you might offend them, you can mute them. Muting means you’re still following, but you won’t see their tweets until you want to again. If you’re seeing tweets from someone and they upset you, use the block function. Remember, this is your feed, and you get to decide what you want out of it. No need to torture yourself by following someone who makes you mad.

If you’re using Twitter for work, you may need to get familiar with tools like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck that allow you to schedule tweets. But if you’re using Twitter just for you, I find the app and website have all the functionality I need.

Want to give it a try? Here are 5 women I love following on Twitter:

Kelly Wickham Hurst – She tweets about race issues, education issues. Smart as can be and I learn a ton from her.

Sarah Lerner – She writes about feminism and politics. I love her voice. And she retweets interesting people, which I love because it helps me find new people to follow.

Jess Dweck – She writes left-leaning political tweets and social commentary. She makes me laugh out loud a lot.

J.K. Rowling – Yes, the author of Harry Potter is quite active on Twitter. She doesn’t hold back on her opinions or political views.

Tarana Burke — Tarana is the founder of the #MeToo movement, and she’s a huge advocate for intersectionality.

What are your thoughts? How are you feeling about social media platforms these days? Are you already on Twitter? Are you an active user? If yes, what do you get out of it that keeps you coming back? 

23 thoughts on “I Accidentally Fell In Love With Twitter Again”

    1. I have such mixed feelings about Facebook groups. I get added to them all the time without permission, and sometimes it drives me nuts. On the other hand, sometimes it turns out I really like a group I get added to, and then I’m glad someone thought to add me. : )

  1. I’m fed up with fbook to be honest, but I feel that I can’t quit, because there are too many events etc. that I would miss. Fomo, probably… I really like how you use twitter! I should try that — I already check JK Rowling’s account quite often, she is such an inspiration. (I especially like it when she comments on random fans’ tweets out of the blue. Such a generous mind.)

    1. I hear you. I’m so impressed with J.K. Rowling. If she wanted to, she could totally check out and just go be a rich person. She doesn’t have to engage, but she does, and she’s good at it too.

  2. Twitter is nearly the only social media platform I use. I was on Facebook for the briefest of times about ten years ago. My sister, whose husband works in tech, kept telling me about it and asking me to join. At that time, it was mostly old high school acquaintances, relatives, and college friends posting about what they had done that day. I remember after one of my posts about my day as a stay-at-home mom, another mother had posted something about how much more I did than she did, and I didn’t like the way it made me feel about the whole posting little snippets of your life on the internet for everyone else to see. She was a mother to several more children than I had, one of whom has special needs, and was also pregnant. I did try to explain that everyone has stuff they’re good at and prioritize doing, and things that they let slide. I said that if she could see my kitchen counters with all the dirty dishes, she might not be so impressed with my daily baking habit (at the time it was a creative outlet for me, so I would often make scones, muffins, biscotti, etc.) and the activities I did with my kids. But, that was it for me. Long before psychologists started writing about the effects on our psyche of viewing the best version of others lives’ on social media, I had decided that I didn’t want to contribute to that feeling of diminishment in other women. Also, it just wasn’t terribly important to me. I had other ways of connecting to the people I wanted to stay in touch with, and I deleted my Facebook account with no regret.

    I did use Pinterest for a while when it first became popular. It was helpful when we were remodeling our old house and planning purchases for our new house, but I haven’t really used it for years.

    In 2014, I joined Twitter, only because I was in graduate school and was trying to find research participants for a study I was conducting. It didn’t really help with that, but I did start following some interesting people. At first I followed several writers because that was an interest of mine at the time. I didn’t use it that often, though, until the last presidential election, or maybe it was even the aftermath of the election when I started really using it frequently. I use it in much the same way you describe, to keep up with the news and get smart commentary at the same time, to find people with different perspectives, to follow activists, and to find interesting content I would otherwise not know about.

    I did briefly get too enmeshed in it, just following the 2016 election. I would get really worked up about whatever odious thing the new administration was doing. I also noticed that I wasn’t reading books nearly as often, and I was becoming addicted to the app on my phone. So, I occasionally delete the app on my phone for a few days to take a break, or at least make myself be more intentional about checking it. I’ve also tried this year to spend more time doing other things, such as practicing the cello, reading books, taking a walk or exercising, and listening to podcasts.

  3. I’m curious if you’ve read the book, “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” by Jon Ronson. I read it a few weeks ago, and it has really made me take a hard look at what I’m sharing on social media, and what I’m commenting on also. I can see the benefits of being able to hear different voices on Twitter, and enjoy the more light hearted aspects on IG (generally I follow travel/wardrobe sites) but I’m just not sure right now how I want to contribute or take in content.

    1. I haven’t read it, but I remember when it came out and hearing it covered on NPR. Thanks for the reminder. I also like the thoughtfulness in your last sentence:

      “I’m just not sure right now how I want to contribute or take in content.”

      When social media was new and exciting, I think many if not most of us just jumped in without much thought. But knowing what we know now, I like the idea of approaching these platforms with intention. What is it want out of it? What is it we want to put into it?

  4. oh boy. I left FB almost 4 years ago. I felt that good people I knew were somehow magically transformed as they sat in front of it’s screen, wherein they lost all their filters. Their own children and spouses were shamed with a giggle or in anger for things every person does. Our parents just yelled at us in the privacy of our room; and frankly, I am extremely grateful my husband doesn’t share all my sins publicly. When politics came to FB the gloves came off, idiocy reigned on all sides and all my “friends” were just horrible people I really didn’t want to be around. So click, and now I just see them behaving as Bambi’s Mother advised in ‘real life’.

    Twitter. I use twitter SO much more now than in the past as a source for “headlines” to find good resources for news, (left, right, middle, and foreign) I may be missing, finding people who are not like me so that I may learn, religion news, and yes at times “Emergency Kittens”, because yes, we live in a world without filters now.

    Pinterest. Mercy I think I was number 1204 to sign up or something, literally there the week it launched, stayed through the first glitches and loved it, because yes, visual bookmarks for ideas I hoarded organized perfectly along the way. As it has monetized and evolve it has become less a favourite. The people I follow I followed because they were feeding me ideas I hadn’t thought of before, yet I like their personal perspectives. Currently I get algorithmic streams of things I have literally just pinned or weird trends that mean nothing to me along with incessant ads for things that are nowhere near my radar (‘Think’ brand sounds like an absolutely grand idea, but I had my girl parts yanked out decades ago, so wasted ad on me!) I still hoard ideas, but ya, not as much FUN as it used to be, and if I want to see what a friend has pinned I literally have to search for it. : (

    I adore Instagram for it’s visuality. I am visual by nature so seeing surf updates, intricate cake design, high fashion, art/design and or amazing embroidery from Europe in between family and friend updates is awesome. Very rarely will I see vitrial and that is lovely.

    1. As someone who creates a lot of content, Instagram was my favorite for years, but lately has seemed like too much…. work? pressure? Not sure. I don’t find it as satisfying as I used to. I suppose I need to figure out a new approach if I want to stick with it. Or maybe just keep it for personal use.

      1. I think that is the same for me, I tried IG for promoting business things, just not me, but I do love the personal and the inspiring side of it.

  5. I have been on Twitter since 2009 and while fairly active the whole time since, I have really come to value it in the last couple of years, mostly for the political and social conversation. There is a lot of bad on Twitter, but there is also a lot of good. I’ve “met” some incredible people and even taken some of those relationships offline. Facebook is a place where I’m “friends” with family (useful to keep up w my family overseas) and people that I went to junior high school with, but on Twitter and Instagram, I am purposefully following people I am interested in.

  6. I use FB to keep up with family and friends, and it works ok for that. I should really clean up my feed though as I’ve got a lot of political-type stuff in there that I don’t find I like as much now.

    I like IG because I’m mostly into photos anyway so that’s where my heart is now. I keep it mostly politics free and that’s helpful for me too. It’s like my escape from everything!

    I was on Twitter a lot after the ’16 election, and I loved it. I followed smart people who had interesting things to say and felt I was learning a lot. I used it for headline following more than anything. The trouble was that I would get too many interesting articles to read, which took away from other reading (actual books) that I wanted to be doing. So I decided to walk away from it, even though I did still like it.

    If I had unlimited time … :)

  7. Thank you for the tips and tools! I fell in love with Twitter this last year and like many of you, have pretty much abandoned Face Book.
    I first viewed Twitter as an up to the moment news source for “views from the street” during big demonstrations or unfolding events like the beginning of the BLM movement, or snippets of the Outside Lands music festival.
    When I saw that my husband was following a couple of political figures, I realized how Twitter works. Light bulb! Ever since, I’ve been enjoying tweets from artists, museums, lots of journalists, and humorists. From NASA, to my local record store, there are so many great tiny stories. Sure it can be a dangerous time suck, but… BTW If you sometimes need to see an adorable otter, you should definitely follow this feed.

    1. I’m really glad you mentioned your lightbulb moment. That is totally how I felt too as I tried Twitter again. At first I was meh, but then I luckily followed a couple of the just-right-for-me people, and had a lightbulb moment too.

  8. I used twitter to get out of my “smug liberal bubble” after the election so I could get a better handle on what I had tuned out. I find it interesting to see the reactions to the news from all directions and I also have been reading a lot of articles I wouldn’t have come across in the past. The downside is that I don’t read newspapers as often as I used to-meaning I get a lot of news from twitter. Sometimes I’m reading too often and need to dial it back. There’s a lot not to like but it has gotten me out of the bubble!

    1. Yes. Twitter is so great for seeing varied points of view. And I find it’s much easier for me to stomach pro-Trump stuff from strangers than it is from my relatives.

  9. I’m in the same (but considerably smaller) boat! I stopped using twitter a few years ago when I closed my small business, but recently I’ve come to love it again! I’ve learned a lot on some specific topics I would not have otherwise (POC romance authors as example), am getting way better local news info than I do on FB, and can even follow along with the local school boards weekly public meeting – love that!

    I also really appreciate the mute options – muting people and hashtags and words is so nice! It’s been a positive experience, even though I don’t tweet much myself.

  10. I feel like Facebook turned into a far nicer place after everyone left for Twitter. Ha! Either that or I unfollowed the angry voices and now it’s a pleasant place to lob around puppy videos and local stories. I stay because family from across the country is there.

    My issue with Twitter is that I feel like everyone is either yelling all the time or thinking they are the smartest and most clever people on the planet. I just can’t get over it. Maybe I’m doing Twitter wrong!

  11. Joined FB 9/2006. I’ve always kept it private and have lots of clients-turned friends, work friends from my last 3 jobs (spanning 30 years) and family members/groups/personalities that have a special place in my heart. While I’ve never blocked anyone, I did mute 3 family members/friends that were too Trump-happy and racist.

    Tried Twitter when it first rolled out 4/2007 and for the longest time I kept it private and followed under 200 people – mostly friends and bloggers. 4 years ago I made my account public and started following authors, personalities, political figures.

    Got a late start with Instagram – mid-2012. Follow the most on Insta (903) and was public until recently (too many creeps/porn/spam). In the last year, since moving back to CO and living on my own once more, I started following everything design-related as fast as I could. It was my way of healing after a tumultuous 4 year period.My feed is skewed towards design & everything colorful plus authors/musicians/politics.

    I’ve met so many kind and amazing people on Twitter and Insta – they’ve changed my life for the better.

    Yes, there are times when people get too nasty – especially on Twitter – but it’s always my choice not to read and not every comment deserves a reply :-)

    If it wasn’t for so many family and friends being on FB only I would have left years ago!

    My one complaint that is the same across all the platforms is chronlogical timeline…or lack thereof! Soooo frustrating! But first world problems, right?? :-)

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