Sometimes your friends can be wrong about your love life. Sex and the City et al would have us believe that your closest same-gender comrades are possessed of an infallible objectivity when it comes to your romantic entanglements, but in the real world they do get it wrong occasionally. In fact, about a year into our relationship when things were becoming particularly dramatic (as they often do when one is 22) both my boyfriend and I were warned off one another. It was touch and go for a bit - were we on? were we off? - many tears were shed and frantic texts exchanged between myself and my best girlfriends, and I'm sure a fair few eyes were rolled when I wasn't present. A few of his oldest pals have also confessed to me (when inebriated) that during this time they were not at all convinced we were a good match either, such was our propensity to halt a pub crawl by having a huge drunken row over nothing at all.
But ultimately, they were wrong. Slash we grew up a lot. Five years later we're still together, no longer ruining nights out, living together, and can laugh about the borderline emo tendencies of our younger relationship/selves.
But my situation is, I think, an outlier. Most of the time if your friends tell you a love affair feels dodgy they turn out to be totally right. I remember taking one of my all time besties away to Paris for a weekend essentially to feed her steak and cocktails and tell her that if she married the guy she was living with I would - as her friend - have to absent myself from her wedding and suffer the consequences of that, so desperate was I not to see her spend her life with someone who didn't appreciate her. Sounds crazy (was a bit crazy) but good friends tell you the hard stuff y'know?
That said, while my mates were wide of the mark when it comes to my boyfriend, they were totally right about my longstanding unhealthy love affair with twitter. Like many a previous relationship, for a long time I could not hear a bad word against it as a platform, despite the fact that it was widely and uniformly reviled by both public figures and people I actually know.
A good friend of mine would often point out that I was the only person he knew who actually 'really used' twitter for more than moaning to Topshop about a missed delivery. But, as a person who is keen on memes and generally averse to fakery and bullsh*t of all descriptions, I continued to choose twitter over instagram and other platforms more often than not. It offered a kind of wordy salvation from butt selfies, blatant airbrushing and tedious hyper-manicured just-sitting-in-a-cafe-with-my-pro-photographer influencer shots. Here was the promised land of genuinely funny political commentary, as yet unsullied by detox tea! It felt good. Where instagram was saccharine sweet, glossy and unfulfilling, twitter had a some bite, edge and meat to it.
But, alas. It couldn't last. I am aware that I have stretched the twitter-as-romantic-partner analogy well past breaking point, but I'll just say that, several years in, insofar as anyone can have a 'honeymoon period' with a social platform, mine was over with twitter. I've seen bloggers and celebrities alike (Grace Victory springs to mind) take a step back from the platform with increasing frequency and, as of 2018, I am really starting to see why.
I don't know if it's their algorithm, or their particularly pronounced failure to deal with harassment and hate speech, or my own decisions to follow politically vocal users, but whatever mood fluctuations occur while scrolling, my overwhelming feeling upon closing the app is always one of fiery, hopeless, outlet-less anger.
At first, the anger felt useful. It felt like the constant stream of (well-founded) outrage and (totally understandable) frustration against racist politicians to unethical businesses to celebrity hairstyles - a stream which the very architecture of the app beckoned me to wade into in every idle moment - was taking us somewhere better. The violent and furious agreement among thousands that This Thing Is Shit felt like a step on the path to a better place. But now, as much as I would like to think that contributing to political debate and bolstering the voices of those I find interesting or useful through likes and retweets is helping in some way, when I take a step back from it I have to admit that if it is having any impact, it's a tiny, teeny, pretty meaningless one. Even more embarrassingly, it's probably more closely linked to my own desire to perform my social conscience than to actually help in any practical way. Solidarity is a useful tool in activism and social change but it's a means to an end. Twitter's addictive algorithm, however, makes it the end. As if non-stop increasingly hyperbolic reactionary groupthink were a social good in itself.
And after deleting the twitter app from my phone and going cold turkey for a few weeks, the whole thing looks less like a social revolution and more like a great big bunch of people shouting into the void. A great mass of human effort gathered around the edges of an attention-sapping black hole which offers up only poorly targeted ads in return for all the raw emotion it elicits. It's astonishing how absorbent we are of others' ups and downs, how quickly we take on the mantle of other's sadness and frustration, and how pointless it is to get swept up in it all if you're not doing anything to change the situation beyond endlessly punching 'retweet'.
Or maybe I'm going too far. There is no doubt a lot of good that has come from the unfettered ability to self-publicise - an ability which a free twitter account has offered to people usually well and truly shut out of mainstream media editorial teams. (I mean people who are not rich and not white, just to be clear). But the good that has been had could be greater if Twitter handled itself more responsibly.
I don't know what will happen to Twitter or where it will go from here, but I know that in 2018 I will be limiting my time on the app considerably, using it to promote blog posts and not much else. And I'll be looking for talks I can attend and places to donate to to actually help progress the causes I care about in the real world. If I need humour and realness and rawness and fun I have insta-stories (which has somehow thus far avoided recreating the over-polished personality vacuum of the main feeds). I hate to say it but I think my friends were right about this one. Me and Twitter are breaking up.