July 7, 2017 – The simplest definition of an addiction is a habit that you can’t quit, even though it poses obvious danger. How many people have lost their jobs over ill-considered tweets? How can a wry observation, unexamined and fired off during an adrenaline high, possibly be worth the risk? It’s madness.  God knows my heroes wouldn’t have gone down this road. Surely Joan Didion has confronted her share of aggravations (cucumber slices not adhering to tea sandwiches; Lynn Nesbit calling during NewsHour; latest Celine sunnies too big for tiny, exquisite face). But would she ever take to Twitter to inscribe these frustrations onto the ticker tape of the infinite? Of course not. She would either shape them into imperishable personal essays or allow them to float past her and return to the place from which they came. For a few years now, my family’s attitude toward my habit has been—depending on whom you asked—concerned, grossed out, or disappointed. My employer had given up and adopted a sort of “It’s your funeral” approach. There were days when I stared at the screen thinking, It’s only a matter of time. Could I kick the addiction without having to reach what alcoholics refer to as rock bottom? Could I save myself before the inevitable catastrophe?  

It was time for Twitter rehab.

It was to be a battle of wills between one aging, chemo-addled brain and the daisy-fresh minds of the world’s most talented coders, ultimate-Frisbee players, and ruthless businessmen. You can’t fight an addiction alone, so I engaged the assistance of one of my sons, Patrick. He is not on any social media, admires the work of the technology ethicist Tristan Harris, and is an all-around helpful and generous person. He was more than willing to change my password and not tell me what it was for 28 days.

If you don’t have Twitter, or if you’re a casual user, this saga must seem absurd. Just close your account, you’re thinking. What I’m trying to tell you is: I couldn’t.


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