Twitter has become one of the world’s largest social media sites. An estimated 200 billion tweets are sent each year, or more than 6,000 per second. The Twitter web site gets more than 90 million unique monthly visitors in the US. It’s easy to mistake that data as an indication that everyone is on Twitter, and therefore you should be too. But they aren’t, and you shouldn’t, and I’ve had enough.
Microblogging in general, and Twitter in particular, have their benefits (more on that in a moment). But Twitter has become such a cesspool of trolling, bullying, and otherwise useless content that I can no longer in good conscience encourage clients or others to use the site. The drawbacks far outweigh the benefits. I’m leaving the platform, and — with some caveats — if you are on Twitter to promote your practice, there’s a good chance that you should leave, too.
In 2014, the company admitted that about 23 million of its active accounts were “bots,” or automated accounts. Sometimes these bots run in massive networks. While the number is not known, many others are fake accounts (ones set up in someone else’s name, often to impersonate or defame them). Millions more stretch the definition of “active.” Next time you’re in a roomful of people — regardless of their profession — ask how many of them have a Twitter account. Then ask how many actually tweet. You may be surprised at how few people do.
Twitter has a well-documented conduct problem, one that played a role in outside companies deciding not to buy the platform. While Twitter’s policies prohibit harassment, and the company has taken a number of steps in the past year to make it easier to report abuse, those steps do little to prevent it from happening in the first place. The company rarely actually bans users, and while you can stop specific people from being able to send messages to you there, they can just register under a different name.
Like many social media platforms, though, the main problem for therapists can be simply that it wastes your time. I’m a big believer that you should spend your marketing dollars in places your clients will go in their time of need. Who looks for a therapist on Twitter? Very few people do. Arguments about “brand awareness” don’t go very far when the people you are making aware of your brand aren’t the ones who will actually pay for your services. Twitter is, for most therapists, grossly inefficient marketing.
Delete your account, or don’t
Don’t take this the wrong way. I have no hostility toward Twitter, which can be useful for social conversation, organizing protests, and fighting oppression. Unlike those more adamantly opposed to the platform, I don’t plan to delete my account. I may still use it for fun social things like hashtagging a conference or this chat I did with AAMFT. I just won’t be posting a lot there (not that I ever did anyway). Additionally, I’m going to stop directing people to the platform. In the About the Author section on this site, I’ve deleted the link to my Twitter feed.
Twitter, as a platform, isn’t good or bad or anything. But it too easily facilitates harassment and similar experiences that are bad for users. For me, it isn’t a worthwhile place to be. And as a therapist, unless you’re the rare exception, it probably isn’t a worthwhile place for you to be either.