Twitter and Me

I’ve been using Twitter for over a year. I’ve come to dislike it more and more.

Early on, I tweeted 200+ a month. I’ve been around 100 for the last few months. I was never a fan of the platform but learned to use it in ways that have made it worthwhile. That said, my activity on Twitter will continue to trend down.

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The Most Dramatic Person Wins!

Scrolling through Twitter, is an exercise in self control, managing negative emotions and patience. It is exhausting.

I dislike attention seeking drama. I dislike fallacious, hyperbolic arguments. People who have hardened opinions about divisive issues aren’t convincing each other. They are trying to win points in a game of, “I’m right and you’re wrong.” The spectators might get something out of it but even that is doubtful.

If I have something important to do in a given day, if my depression and anxiety are increasing, if I’m tired or having a difficult day; I don’t get on Twitter. It will likely make me feel bad and I don’t always have time or energy to push through it.

The Twitter algorithm rewards drama. When someone tweets, Twitter doesn’t drop that tweet into the stream for you to see merely because you follow that person. The software, through some mysterious calculation, determines who might interact with that tweet. The tweet will appear in the stream to a subset of the people who follow you and people who follow the hashtags you put in the tweet. These are “impressions” in internet marketing jargon.

If those people interact with the tweet by clicking on it, retweeting it, replying to it, going to your profile; then Twitter shows that tweet to more people.

If those people engage with the tweet, then twitter shows even more people the tweet. This is how a tweet goes viral. This is how all the major social media sites operate, more or less. Twitter gives you more of what you engage with.

Humans have a negativity bias. We respond to and remember negative events and emotions more intensely than we do to positive events and emotions. There’s a lot of published research about this bias if you are curious how it works. The people who want to sell your attention use this bias like a heroin dealer will give you a taste.

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram sell advertising. The most important metrics to all of the social media sites is how long you spend on their platform. Also, important is how often you come back.

If we react most strongly to negativity and Twitter has financial incentive to keep you on the site…

Guess what sorts of content are most likely to show up in your feed?

Why do I use Twitter?

I keep asking myself this question.

The original reason I got onto the platform was to find my people and entice them to read my blog. I was being selfish. I’ve had some success. The analytics show that a significant portion of page views have from my Twitter feed. That has dropped off. Search engines have been sending me far more traffic than Twitter. I could bail and while it would effect my view count, it wouldn’t matter much.

You’d think that seeing that shift in patterns would cause me to lay off Twitter. The thing is, when I tweet something that gets a lot of impressions, I can get a big spike in page views. I am also playing the long game. Every month, I add a few more followers, a few more views and it compounds over time. I try to stay patient. It’s hard though. There are other reasons I continue to use Twitter.

I’ve interacted with some great folks. I have had three guest blogs that I arranged with people I met on Twitter.

I have found that Twitter can be a source of inspiration. I’ve written several blog posts built on discussions I’ve participated in on Twitter. Many of them are the most viewed posts on this blog.

I have tested some blog topic ideas on Twitter. The responses I get help me to think through the idea and have been helpful.

It’s easy and addictive. If I have a few minutes before work, I can look at Twitter and drop a comment or like without a big investment of time. I have to be mindful. I find myself using the app in a compulsive way.

#TTRPG Community

A few months ago, I was expressing my dislike for some terminology used in a discussion. I felt that it wasn’t representative of what was actually being discussed. A prominent 5E blogger told me I should take that up with the “entire #TTRPG community” because that is the term “everyone” uses. I’ve spent some time reflecting on that.

There are times when I look at Twitter and think to myself, “There are lot of people who are full of drama and bullshit. People whose opinions I find abhorrent. I can’t see how I would ever want to even play a game of checkers let alone an RPG with a lot of these people.”

I’ve thought several times that I simply didn’t want to be part of “the community.” There are many hobbies with a much healthier culture. Beekeepers for example. I used to keep bees. Beekeepers are almost without exception really nice people. I’ve never seen a beekeeper publically state they hoped a fellow beekeeper would die in a fire. And yet, you can find someone tweeting that sort of nastiness daily in “the TTRPG Community.”

This makes me sad. It upsets me. It causes me to think that maybe I should give up the RPG hobby. Maybe I should give up writing about it. Maybe I should sell all my gaming books and spend more time in the garden or fishing at the river.

The roses might have thorns but they at least they don’t troll you. Photo by Travis Miller

Here are some facts about Twitter that keep me from rage quitting:

  • Twitter users are around 7.7% of the total internet users.
  • 10% of Twitter users produce 90% of the tweets

That blogger who told me I should defer to the #TTRPG “community” was wrong.

There is no such thing as “The” tabletop role-playing game community. And if there was such a thing, the most active people on Twitter do not represent them.

People who play tabletop role-playing games are not a community. I don’t know what a shared interest in role-playing games makes us, if anything.

Allow me a quote:.

A good community insures itself by trust, by good faith and good will, by mutual help. 

Wendell Berry

If you look at Twitter and see a community built on trust, good will and mutual help then please tell me where to look because I don’t see it. There are little networks of people who collaborate, cooperate and support each other. That is not “the” #TTRPG community. Such a thing does not exist.

Some will say, “That’s just semantics.” Semantics is the branch of linguistics concerned with meaning. “That’s just meaning,” as if diminishing the value of what words mean is helpful.

Mmm… Smell the horse blanket.

It has been my observation in coffee, wine, and beer culture that the hardcore enthusiasts have different tastes and concerns than most casual consumers of those products. If you are not a beer nerd and look at the top 100 beers on Beer Advocate, I can guarantee there are obscure beers you’ve never heard of. The most expensive and sought after coffee by connoisseurs is grown and processed on a single farm in Panama. Most people who drink coffee by the pot will never have so much as a sip.

Go to an Adventure League event and do an informal poll. Ask who knows the following names: Robin Laws, Vincent Baker, Sandy Peterson, Jennell Jaquays, Jim Ward, Jonathon Tweet, Shanna Germain. One of the DM’s might know most of those. The players, who make up the bulk of the table? Probably not.

Within the Twitter “#TTRPG Community” those names are all well known. You’ll be thought an ignorant dunce if you don’t know those names. They have influence within the business but to the vast majority of gamers who are people who play only one game (the current edition of the world’s most popular fantasy role-playing game) those designers don’t exist. They are no one. The people playing don’t know those industry names any more than a Starbucks customer knows the name George Howell.

There’s a small percentage of gamers that use Twitter. A small percentage them are doing most of the tweeting.

10% of 10% are putting out 90% of the tweets.

The people doing most of the tweeting about role-playing games are not representative of the total gaming hobby.

They are the people who play games that are the gaming equivalent of Belgian gueuze and wax poetic about the sublime horse blanket notes in the nose.

To keep myself from going crazy, I have to remind myself that many of the RPG people on Twitter, are not my people. They want different things from games than what I want, and that’s not a problem. I can listen and acknowledge you want something different without it being a fight.

Avoiding the Drama

If you pay careful attention to the people doing most of the tweeting with various hashtags such as #5E, #DnD, #TTRPG, you will notice most of them are trying to get attention for their blogs, YouTube channels, live streams, and game products. They are there to draw your eye. I include myself in this group.

Many (not all) do that by stirring up shit and “dunking” on the opposition, who or whatever that may be. I am not interested in these people, at all. If the only way you can get followers and views is by shitting on other people, maybe you should consider working on leveling up your skills.

There are many people who have figured out that creating or participating in drama is the fastest way to gather followers.

Throw out a few “hot take” tweets, re-tweet or screen grab some controversial tweet from a popular account and say something snarky, express your “controversial opinion”, make a straw man argument that will rile up those with no ability to control their emotional responses; You’ll be over a 1000 followers in a day or two.

You can put out positive vibes. Mute the topics and people who frustrate and anger you. Block assholes who attack and harrass you. This is what I do and if I didn’t, I would not be able to use Twitter without spiraling into depression.

That said, I mentioned that I would be reducing my interaction on Twitter. Even though I mute, avoid and ignore a lot of stuff, it’s still hard to avoid the negativity. It makes its way onto my feed and I haven’t figured out a way to eliminate it completely.

Also, I’ve realized that the majority of of the #TTRPG “community” on Twitter are not likely to be interested in my work. The platform skews to a younger crowd and my stuff is probably more interesting to Gen X gamers. That’s OK too. You can’t appeal to everyone.

Be careful out there. I’ll see you on the Twitters. Or not.

7 thoughts on “Twitter and Me

  1. I know this will sound like a pithy response (sorry), and I acknowledge that any platform that isn’t Twitter or Facebook is going to have a much smaller user-base, but I’ve got to recommend as a really great community and Twitter-replacement. You don’t have to go completely whole hog (you can repost to twitter if you like) but lots of people have said they were able to pull the plug after discovering a great platform where discussion is valued over likes.

    Not personally affiliated with them, but I’ve been a happy user for three years or so.

    In any case, I really enjoy your blog–thanks!


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  4. Brian Rideout

    Funny you should mention that.

    Lately I’ve been letting a few posts go without sharing them on Twitter just to see if I need to be involved in that hellish cacophony to get my message out. I originally went on it hoping to share my thoughts, maybe find a way to make my hobby self-sustaining. Get a little attention to the blog, and find a good gaming group or two.
    And I _have_ made friends on it. Quite a few of them. Some will be good friends for life. I’ve started and joined multiple game groups. There has been good times had via Twitter.

    But Twitter itself is a toxic nightmare full of witch hunts, hysteria, and people trying their best to be the edgiest, nastiest piece of work they can be. And it constantly tempts you to get involved in stuff you know you shouldn’t be involved in.

    I am about ready to run screaming for the hills never to return.


    1. Since I posted this last year, Twitter has helped the blog readership grow. Search has improved and more importantly, links from kind souls such as yourself. I continue to limit my Twitter time but I am not quite ready to dump it completely.


  5. I’ve left Twitter once already and I am thinking about leaving. Daily. Twitter is full of hate and trolls and terrible, frustrating news of the world that I would not encounter otherwise. My Twitter thread and most of the people I follow there are “American”. To me, personally, Twitter is the USA and I live thousands of miles and an ocean away – I do not know if I should be worried about things there, but I am. Twitter makes me feel bad, and I’ve got other things going on in my life as it is, unfortunately.

    The other side of the coin is that I found a handful of really nice and/or entertaining and supportive people there, who are actually friendlier and nicer to me than my “friends” on Facebook. Great people, I’ll probably never meet in person.

    And I am also human. I need to be heard and appreciated and need to see that what I do and think matters. Obviously, Twitter is not the place or platform for these things, but one can always hope and try. During the past couple of years, without social media, people can get very isolated…

    That being said, I am almost sure I will give up Twitter yet again this year.


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