Why I Quit Basketball Twitter (And Why I'm Back... Kind Of)

"Why did you stop tweeting about basketball?"

I've been sent this question a lot over the past year and I've never really tried to explain it, because on some level I didn't think it was something that needed an explanation, nor did I think it could be explained in 140 characters. But given that I've started tweeting about basketball again, at least on a limited basis, I figured it was time.

But first, a story.


In 2013, I took over management of the @ESPNNBA Twitter account. Most days, doing that job was pretty amazing. Some days, it sucked harder than an industrial-strength vacuum. One day in particular was as miserable as it could get. It was the day Kobe Bryant's #NBArank was revealed. Normally I stayed out of the account's mentions, but with #NBArank I had to go in and find tweets that we could embed in the story file. Because Bryant's rank was particularly controversial this season, we used one of our fancy new social media tools (from a company I'm pretty sure doesn't exist anymore) to embed even more tweets than usual. However, it wasn't the tweets we chose to embed that bothered me, it was some of the ones we didn't:

I didn't kill myself that night (obviously), but I didn't sleep either. In fact, I don't think I slept for about three nights after that, as I wondered if it was all worth it. I probably wrote three different versions of a resignation letter, and deactivated (and reactivated) my personal twitter account a half-dozen times that week. Eventually things got better, then eventually they got way worse (to the point I almost did kill myself, but that's a story for a different time), then kind of settled into something of a normal routine. But at some point I realized that "normal" wasn't anywhere near what I used to consider "normal" anymore.


I joined Twitter in 2009, which is three lifetimes ago in internet terms. In the eight years since then, I've seen a lot change. TweetDeck went from a yellow icon to a blue one (and got less powerful and less used in the process), native RTs became a thing, were immediately hated, and now are just a fact of life (to the point that manual RTs - the thing that people used before native RTs - are now hated), TwitPic died (sort of), Vine was born, Vine died (sort of), Sulia came and went, so did TwitLonger, and now apparently we can tweet 280 character tweets, even though 140 characters is probably too many for some people.

Through all this change, I increasingly felt like Twitter wasn't what it was when I joined, and not because of the changes themselves. What had once been a small community that celebrated basketball had turned into a large sprawling mess of people all yelling to be heard, often at the expense of other people without remote regard for anyone's feelings. And it wasn't just "randos" (as people like to call them). This behavior was often coming from people I knew and respected, people I'd first met through Twitter but had spent time with in real life and generally enjoyed being around (and, to be fair, sometimes it was coming from me -- I wasn't immune to getting caught up in this awful behavior).

Finally one day last summer, it all became too much. I was looking at my mentions and there was just nothing but hate and negativity in there -- a mix of people complaining about something stupid I'd tweeted, people complaining that I wasn't responding to their complaints, and people complaining that I was fat (again, to be fair, that last group of people was right, but it wasn't exactly adding anything to the conversation -- not that anything happening that day was really a "conversation"). So I decided to go cold turkey and quit tweeting about basketball. Not only that, I started going through my old tweets and deleting anything that mentioned basketball.

Eventually, I stopped tweeting for weeks at a time, and continued purging my old tweets. Had I not still needed my Twitter account for work, I would've just deleted it entirely (and there were plenty of times I considered just deleting my account and setting up a new one specifically for work). There were definitely times when I missed some of the friendships I'd made, and I even missed sharing my thoughts about basketball -- whether observations on games I was watching or weird statistical quirks I found while doing research for a story -- but every time I logged on and saw the bullshit people dealt with on a daily (or hourly, or minute-ly) basis, I felt like a return wasn't worth it.


So why am I back?

First, my job changed. One of the reasons it was relatively easy for me to disconnect from tweeting about the NBA is that I hadn't been directly involved with the NBA group for a couple years. Though I was still somewhat focused on the NBA -- including attending multiple events throughout the season -- it wasn't my job to be 100% on top of all things NBA at all times.

But this past spring, my job changed again, which was the perfect time to dip my toes back into Basketball Twitter. I used the summer as a bit of a test run, and realized that I'd probably gone a little overboard with the whole "no tweeting about basketball ever" thing. So I figured out a way I could get back into tweeting without being driven back to the brink by all the negative things about Twitter -- none of which have changed in the time I was away and all of which, quite frankly, have gotten much, much worse.

First, I moved most of my Twitter usage to TweetDeck. I have columns dedicated to individual users (like @NBAPR), and lists (like NBA players), but nothing for my main timeline or my notifications. Because literally every time I log onto my main timeline, I see nothing but arguments, frustration and utter bullshit -- yet I can't bring myself to unfollow these people, because, again, I consider so many of them to be friends.

Every once in awhile, I'll check my main timeline, either from the Twitter homepage or the app, and I'll see everyone talking about the same topic. To prevent myself a lot of unnecessary pain and drama, I ask myself a couple of questions before tweeting:

- Do I actually have anything constructive to add to this conversation, or would I be just another voice piling on?

- Can tweeting about this be a "one and done" type of thing, or by sending a tweet, am I going to end up being dragged into an hours-long back-and-forth in which everyone ends up angry with everyone else and no one changes anyone's mind?

Stopping to run this test before tweeting has preventing me from hitting the tweet button more often that not, which is almost definitely for the best.

What's also helped is not checking my mentions. Ever. On some rare instances, I'll check the replies to an individual tweet, to see if I want to start a pleasant conversation (or continue one, in the cases where I've sent a tweet intended to start conversation like a Q&A prompt), but I don't click that "Notifications" link on Twitter and I won't set up a column for them in TweetDeck.  I even put it in my Twitter bio. Really:

Also, I've stopped treating my tweets as these gems of endless wisdom that need to be preserved for all time. Back before I did my initial tweet purge, I had more than 75,000 tweets on my account. That's FAR too many. No one needs to tweet that much, especially not me. Before I started tweeting again this summer, I'd deleted all but 750 of my tweets, and I probably could've cut that number in half if I'd really wanted to. Even now, I'll frequently tweet something, then go back and delete it a day or two later, not because I'm ashamed of what I've tweeted, but because the moment has passed. Maybe this isn't how Twitter is supposed to be used, but it's the way I need to use it to be able to look at my own timeline without inducing a stress headache.

As far as tweeting about basketball itself, I'm trying to limit my contributions to two specific categories:

- Facts & Stats (no opinions, judgments, sentiment of any kind). Stuff like this:

- Things I am enjoying. This could be links to stories I liked reading, video of plays I thought were cool, or just observations like this one:

I'm sure occasionally I'll slip up and tweet something snarky or stupid or non-helpful (in fact, I already have), but I'm trying to be better about it. So at this point the TL;DR summary is this: Twitter got really negative, I didn't know how to handle it so I left, now I'm back and trying to limit my exposure to the negativity while being more positive myself.

If for some reason after reading all this, you have questions or just want to talk, or even want to tell me how fat and stupid I am (though, again, I'm well aware of these things), don't @ me. Seriously. I'm not checking the mentions. But, you can DM me. My DMs are open (as they have been for a few years now), though there's a good chance I'll regret publicizing that fact in a few days. Or, more likely, no one will know, since no one clicks on links from Twitter anymore anyway. Whoops, that was negative. My bad. I'll leave you with this: