One of the topics I write about that isn’t directly related to birds, is my long-standing and largely one-sided battle with social media use. On November 28th I finally decided to permanently stop using twitter. This (seemingly) ominous conclusion has been festering away in my brain and eroding my mental health, for the best part of 2 years. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve proclaimed that I’m taking a break, deactivating my account or in an attention-seeking, pathetic way, have threatened it like I have a right to expect people to care.

In the many blogs I’ve written about this, a number of observations and theories have arisen, the majority of which have been resonant with my own behaviour on Twitter and the behaviour of some of the people I followed. I’ve written about some of these: vanity metrics, dopamine hits and ludic loops, for example – and I’ve reflected on how I became so obsessed with my social media profile that, ultimately, I was taking less care of the real me.

Taking a step back, I could see that social media was starting to take over my life yet again and although it has been incredibly difficult to fight the mental urges to log back in, every time I overcome that neural force, I feel like I’m a step closer to being me again. I’d been sucked into a cycle of shameless, egotistical self-promotion; and in truth, felt like I had to keep doing it. What I really needed to do though, was stop.

So I’ve done just that and I thought it would be useful to collate some of the behaviours I observed in myself, which when combined, are warning signs of an unhealthy relationship with social media. These are also some of the elements that feed its addictive nature, as per my previous posts on the subject. They are also the things that I still observe people doing on social media, as still look at what’s going on, but from afar, as being a nobody sure feels better than trying to be somebody you’re not. Here are my notes:

  • Posting something on social media and not attaining the levels of interactions through likes, retweets and comments, that you think it should; then either deleting it completely or deleting it posting it again. This would seem to mainly be for the dopamine hit and feelings of acceptance that mass interaction can bring.
  • Retweeting your own tweets because you feel they haven’t had enough of the above. I called this ‘recycling’ a tweet. Also, repackaging an old, popular post of your own, to garner attention and interaction.I was so guilty of doing this and I see many others do it too.
  • Feeling like you have an obligation to respond to everyone that tweets you. I used to set time aside to do this, which in itself is quite absurd. A lot of ‘famous’ people employ others to do this for them, or simply they just don’t respond.
  • Being out somewhere, seeing something aesthetically pleasing or interesting, and thinking oh that would make a good Instagram post or that would get a load of likes on twitter. By doing this, we are disconnecting from wonder and beauty.
  • Checking social media when you wake up in the middle of the night, first thing in the morning, last thing at night, when you find yourself on your own in an ad break or meal, on the toilet – basically anywhere and all the time.
  • Taking and proclaiming you’re taking a twitter ‘break’ – then returning after a few days or weeks, because you feel ‘ok about it’ again, when actually it’s an addiction you need to feed.
  • Thinking that your twitter friends really do care about you. I’m sure many, many do. However, I had over 15,000 followers and since I came off there last week, no-one has checked in to see if I’m ok. I could’ve taken my own life – the signs were there – but literally nobody has checked. I was once told that my book was only ‘popular’ because of celebrity endorsement. I can tell you now that these people are not my friends. I’ve not heard from any of them. I probably won’t.
  • Spending time editing and editing to try to compose the perfect tweet. What you have to say ALWAYS has value, no matter how you package it up.
  • Knowing that ‘insert something’ day is coming up and then planning posts for attention even though, invariably, that ‘something’ has nothing to do with you at all.
  • When you’re going on social media just to look at your own notifications, likes, retweets and interactions; and not really paying attention to other people. Taking the ‘social’ out of ‘social media’
  • When you change your profile picture a lot as you’re never quite happy with it.
  • When you think you know the ‘peak times’ to post content, forgetting that on the other end of every @ is another human with their own life to live.

Obviously this list is far from exhaustive, but if you come across this blog and few you can relate to a few of the things I observed in myself, please consider whether your engagement with social media is good for you or not. The irony is that I can’t share this on social media, so it will only reach a few people 🤣

7 thoughts on “Antisocial media – the warning signs of an addiction

  1. Hi Joe.
    I read and listened to your book for what you say in it, the stories you tell, the experiences you relate, the ways of being, and ways of coping your book offers. As you say, on social media, the algorithms take over and reshape your world and what matters.
    But in your book you simply said go out, look, listen, wonder.
    It’s good for you.
    And, if like me, someone who is reaching that stage where its a struggle to remember what you have seen, or what something might be called, or whether you might have seen something before, your book told me that it didn’t matter.
    Just go out anyway. Never mind lists, chalking up lifetime sightings or number 83.
    Connect with the natural world around you wherever you are, your book said. Learn to listen and hear, to look and see.
    “Bird Therapy” is a great store of food for the spirit, peace for the restless soul.
    With grateful thanks to you for writing it, and being a guide.


  2. Hi Joe.
    I’m glad you are blogging again and feeling better for stepping away from social media use.
    I think that acknowledging that Twitter followers aren’t friends is quite important, because it means you would hopefully take it less personally if they happen to stop following. I have no idea who most of the people that follow me on Twitter are, and the people that I choose to follow are simply those that currently tweet things that are of interest to me – I don’t necessarily know anything about them personally (and in some cases I follow people that because of different opinions I know that I wouldn’t be friends with in ‘real life’). Because you were mainly using the Bird Therapy Twitter account rather than solely a personal one you will also have lots of people who followed to find out about your tips for well birding and to see how the book developed and when it would be out. Now the book has been successfully published and is available to all, some of those followers will have finished their ‘journey’ (I know that sounds twee but I can’t think of a better way of phrasing it) and might not be as engaged – perfectly natural but I understand difficult to take.
    Anyway, hopefully it’s not long until the holiday and you can spend some family time and some outside time to continue the recuperation.
    All the best,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. James! Hope you are well. You always respond to things in such a measured and constructive way – I wish I was capable of that. Did t sound twee at all, in-fact, it’s spot on. I spent way too long filling empty social voids in the real world with the empty social void that is social media. Anyway, it definitely is good to be blogging again and this one should’ve got the negativity out of me now.


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