There is life outside of social media – I promise!

A month after quitting smoking, Gasant Abarder decided to quit another addiction – this time he destroyed his Twitter account. Well the next day the sun came up and he was fine and in a new #SliceofGasant column he writes about his surprise that there are no specialists who focus solely on social media addiction.

Abarder, who recently published his book Hack with a Grenade, is one of the country’s most influential media voices. Check out his weekly column here.

Exactly a month ago I went cold turkey and quit smoking. I was testing my resilience among smokers at a social gathering the other night and was sickened by the disgusting smell. I’m winning

Now I’m battling another addiction. I’m a twaddict. About a week ago, I couldn’t go 30 minutes without looking at my phone and was spending hours scrolling, posting, and engaging in meaningless nonsense.

It’s just like being a smoker, an alcoholic, or a drug addict. I’m surprised some savvy psychiatrist hasn’t made twaddiction a niche area, milking desperate souls to overcome their poison of choice on social media. There should be a “centre for kids who use too much social media (apologies to the creators of Zoolander)”.

Twitter is my drug of choice. This is where people with real influence meet. You have to eloquently present your point of view in 280 characters. As a former newspaper editor, I didn’t dare to make spelling or grammatical errors.

If you were a member of the mafia, your blue tick meant you were a “made man”. An untouchable. Messi has one. Barack Obama has one. Gasant Abarder had one — until that idiot, Elon Musk, took my tick.

I’ve worked hard to earn my blue tick and my 21,000+ followers, of which more than 90 percent are real users. Every time I got a new follower, mention, like, or retweet and that push notification popped up, it was like a heroin shot in the bloodstream.

My blue tick and reach gave me superpowers. The City of Cape Town responded immediately and responded to my tweets. Big brands hired me and gave me cars to drive. When I didn’t like something or was wronged, the PR people went to great lengths to keep me happy.

Can you understand how strong this drug was? I’ve lived my life with 280 characters at a time – images and videos optional.

I loved the feeling of being a keyboard warrior and tackling issues that are close to my heart. Heck, when I ran out of topics, I took them on behalf of others. People would reach out privately to help them with their concerns. When I spoke about the media, people listened. I also wrote a thread on Twitter about my mental health issues.

And some pretty famous people followed me back. I’m not a fan of names but… Gordon Ramsey and a couple of legendary former Proteas cricketers like Vernon Philander, Jonty Rhodes and Ashwell Prince. Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse… it didn’t get any bigger!

Here’s the thing: Twitter was a tool I used as a journalist as my first source for breaking news. Obviously, this information had to be confirmed. But then I fell in love with the social: a tweet about the merits of a Gatsby versus a Bunny Chow (and other nonsense like that) that went viral. The irony was that the engagement was disappointing when I actually tweeted something meaningful.

I recently helped Africa Check by posting their tips for identifying fake news. It got very little traction. I then compared the time I spent in this Twitter world to the time I spent out there in the real world.

So I deleted my account a week and a half ago. It wasn’t a sudden decision but one I’d thought about over time. I had received some nasty comments about mental health that initially started out as so-called football “banter”. After the Africa Check experience, I finally came to the conclusion that I had had enough.

Now I stop smelling the roses – literally. And I don’t tweet about it anymore after that. I have a habit of commenting on life’s little quirks. Weirdly, I took it upon myself to post these reflections on WhatsApp Status. It just doesn’t hit the same.

But ever since I killed Twitter, I’ve been at it. My mood is lighter. I’ve spent two hours or more straight without looking at my phone, and my average screen time last week was in the double digits.

The sun was still rising the morning after I deleted my Twitter account! Shocker! I gave people my full attention when they spoke to me.

Whatever your poison, don’t be a hunchback and stagger across your smartphone at the dinner table. Don’t get into such a committed relationship on social media that it fills up time in your real life. I wasted so much time on this Bluebird app that I missed important parts of my life because I wasn’t living in the now, in the moment.

So, Twitter, thanks for the highs — like meeting awesome new friends (if I don’t have your number, you don’t belong) — and fuck you for the lows. It was a great ride. But I’m out!

Also read:

It’s time to give abusive sports moms and dads the red card

Image: Pexels