It’s Not You…But Actually It Kinda Is (Breaking Up with X)

Photo of my Twitter profile bio

I remember when I first joined Twitter.

It was late 2012 and I was attending the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) conference in Las Vegas. Meenoo Rami had a pop-up booth where they were demonstrating uses of Twitter in the English classroom. I had just transitioned from the secondary teaching world into academia and although I was hesitant to try Twitter (mostly because I didn’t like the idea of character limits!), I thought I’d hop on.

In my early years with Twitter, I began exploring it as a public pedagogical tool. I loved engaging in Twitter chats which felt like a powerful way to build professional community. It was a way to extend our classroom space into a more public forum and to share my practice beyond the walls of my university. I began to build a professional network and was able to introduce teacher candidates to a tool that could be potentially helpful for them to connect with others and avoid the isolation of early teaching, as well as find professional resources.

Somewhere along the way, I found deep connections on Twitter. Parasocial relationships on social media are an entire field of study, one that I’m not an expert in (although it is one that, as part of a far too ambitious adjacent research agenda, I’d love to delve more into), but I am an expert in my own need for community and to connect in ways that feel meaningful. The idea of meaningfulness and the sense of proximity in relationships varies by context, but for many years, on Twitter, I was able to connect across distance and close to home with many people (particularly educators) who deeply resonated with my humanity. In a very strange way and world, Twitter felt like a third space home where I could share things like this blog — a personal-professional mix where I didn’t have to think so much, but could just be.

During the pandemic, when in-person social interaction was not really possible, Twitter became a lifeline. It also felt like an important time to be on Twitter, to stay informed about movements for racial justice and events that might forward such movements powerfully. When, during the extended social distancing and continued isolation period of COVID-19, my sister and her mother were in Yangon for the 2021 coup, and facing imminent danger, Twitter showed up in force, to support us and to bring attention to the Burmese people, allowing for my sister to eventually come to the United States.

Twitter also allowed me to conduct and share research that extended beyond my own networks and beyond traditional academic journal articles. As someone who has always thought research and teaching should be more connected and informed by one another, it has been a gift not only to be able to be in contact with a variety of educators who have been generous in participating in my research studies, but also to share preliminary and developed results of my research in a way that supports access.

Twitter was an incredibly special place for me. It was a place where I didn’t have to create a forced separation between the personal and professional. I felt, for a long time, safe enough to just be myself in front of whoever cared to listen, to work through ideas, and to say what I thought. Because, as a person, an educator, and a scholar, the lines between personal and professional often blur, it seemed like the “just right fit” for a professional social networking space.

Twitter doesn’t feel like a safe space anymore. It doesn’t feel like a just right home anymore. It doesn’t feel like community. Although many people I love and feel deep affinity towards are continuing to post on Twitter, we often feel like passing ships in the night. Twitter makes me feel more tired than joyful and I am thinking too much about what I post and who will see it.

So, it’s time to break up, or at least to get some distance, as I figure out if and how to construct a new virtual home space.

I’m moving most of my professional posts to Linked In, although I will be less likely to share blogs there. Linked In has always felt a bit too professional (or perhaps formal) for the personal and doesn’t have the same space for engagement and vulnerability. Facebook will still be my predominant personal social media tool although I tend to shy away from “friends” I haven’t met in real life. I’ll still occasionally come back to Twitter to say hi and post some professional updates and even an occasional random thought, just much, much less.

This is a hard transition for me, but it is a period of transitions, and I am grateful to be choosing to walk away instead of feeling pushed out of this space. I am grateful for many things this space has afforded me, only a fraction of which I’ve talked about here. But mostly, in this moment, I am grateful for one less thing to balance in the midst of a time of much transition.

Thanks to all of my tweeps for the beautiful memories and interactions. I will long cherish you, and them, and what this space has been for me.