I was originally drawn to Tech Twitter when I found a handful of users who shared genuinely helpful tips, articles, and resources with their audience. Before Twitter forced me to sign up to view tweets, I would anonymously check in on these accounts in my free time, pick up a few useful tricks, share them in my small circle of friends, and apply my newfound knowledge both at work and in my own projects. Twitter wasn’t all that bad when I was just lurking.
The problem began when I decided to become actively involved on Twitter—to engage with these posts, connect with other developers, grow my network, and share things that I had learned or was working on. But I was also naive and wanted—like so many people do—to be noticed and to earn the approval of complete strangers. Everyone else seemed to be having a great time on Twitter, and I felt like I was missing out and maybe even holding myself back professionally.
Once I reached a certain number of followers that seemed like a big deal to me—and once I was followed by people whom I respected and looked up to—I realized that I had also lost a part of myself in the process. Whereas I had originally started writing because I enjoyed the process of documenting my thoughts, learning process, and experiences, I was now writing less for myself and more for others. The voice in my head suddenly found itself in the company of many other voices, each with their own flavor of disapproval. I cared less about what I thought of my writing and more about the various ways in which a reader could pick apart my work. It was because of Twitter that I began to weigh my word choices more carefully, sometimes to the point that I would spend minutes composing a message to get it just right. To quell my boredom, I would scroll mindlessly through a sea of overcommunication, of overstimulation, often several times a day and sometimes just minutes apart from previous sessions.
In short, I became addicted to Twitter.
Twitter might seem like a great way to network with other people, and it can be if it’s used in moderation. But there’s the rub. It’s difficult to exercise moderation in the first place because Twitter rewards addiction: The more you tweet and engage with posts, the more likely you are to be noticed, followed, and liked. The less you engage with the platform, the less it respects you and the more you drift into irrelevance.
Moreover, because of the nature of a social media platform like Twitter, you are far more likely to see people in your feed who are more successful than you are. You begin to feel like you’re behind in life and that everyone else is speeding ahead. You’re incentivized to change—to mold yourself into a persona that appeals to the algorithm. It’s very easy to lose yourself this way.
There’s also a harmful culture on Tech Twitter that I don’t see developers discussing openly. The best (and really only) essay that I’ve read on this subject is Alvaro Monotoro’s article titled Twitter, Grifters, DevRels, and the end of everything as we know it. Many of these so-called “tech influencers” and DevRels—whose jobs involve tech evangelism and marketing on social media—are popular in this space and wield considerable influence. But they also typically socialize in very tightly knit groups of close friends and colleagues, amplifying each other’s voices far above the rest and helping each other to reach new heights in their careers. This is, in fact, thanks to a core feature of Twitter: a user’s profile will indicate if they are followed by people you follow, and thus the platform encourages you to connect with popular users and lift their posts to the top.
Grifters in particular seem like they’re experts because of their inflated follower count and never-ending stream of ideas. But they are parasites who profit off of other people’s work without attribution. They tweet under the guise of sharing knowledge or career advice for the developer community, but their real motivation is money. Their profiles advertise books, courses, newsletters, coaching services, you name it.
Grifters, tech influencers, and DevRels are warping the image of what it means to be a software developer. They’re constantly churning out new tweets, ideas, and products as if they run on limitless energy. That’s because your worth on Twitter is determined not by the quality of your posts but by their quantity and controversy. It’s determined by how well you can embrace the hustle of sharing tech tips 24/7 👇🧵, cranking out side projects, writing articles, giving talks, attending meetups, streaming dev, sharing CodePen demos, selling courses, publishing books, building a brand, tweeting about dev topics every waking minute of your existence, and practically devoting your mind, body, and soul to software development at the expense of everything else. Junior devs who don’t know any better will come to believe that life outside of dev is just… more dev—that all of this is normal and healthy.
All of this culminates in an overwhelming sense of loneliness, self-doubt, imposter syndrome, and burnout as you realize how very little people care about who you are and what you have to offer on the platform. It’s just a game of numbers and a race to the top. Those who do not conform are trampled by the crowd. As you spend more time on Twitter, it begins to take a significant toll on your mental health. I began to feel exhausted, insignificant, and alone. Twitter had conditioned me to base my self-worth on vanity metrics such as likes and follows—the absence of which suggested that I was doing something wrong.
Ironically, people on Twitter like to complain about other social media platforms, particularly Facebook and LinkedIn, when Twitter is really not any better—and is, in some ways, more detrimental. Humans aren’t well equipped to socialize with hundreds of thousands of people. In real life, you only have a handful of close friends; the rest are acquaintances. True connections are exceedingly rare to come by on social media; the numbers are inflated, and we interact with thousands of strangers in passing. These are empty, fleeting, deeply ungratifying experiences.
I reached my tipping point about two weeks ago, when I finally recognized that I had a problem and decided to take a hiatus from Twitter before things worsened. I say hiatus because this is not the first time that I’ve quit social media, only to cave and eventually return. On the other hand, the more I spent time outside of Twitter, the less I found myself caring about what people were doing or saying on the platform in my absence. So maybe I’ll quit for good this time around and never look back. That’s the hope, at least.
I’m also considering doing the same with Reddit and YouTube, although this would completely cut me off from the dev community and may do me a disservice in the long run. Networking is important for career growth; while these social media platforms can cause problems, they can also expose you to new ideas that you may not find elsewhere unless you go looking for them.
I am convinced that Twitter changes people, and I don’t want to change. So I’d like to make a promise to myself: I will be content with irrelevance. I will spend my free time as I please. I will not doom-scroll on social media. I will not envy others or hunger for their approval. I will write for myself first and foremost. And I will try my best to move through life at my own pace.