At its low points, Twitter has been a space to spread disinformation, a feed for doomscrolling, an outlet to intensify your anxiety. At its best, it has brought people together, created communities, launched careers, given voice to the previously voiceless, and galvanized movements. As Twitter continues to sputter, Willy Staley offers an insightful examination of what the birdsite has done to the brains of the Extremely Online, and what exactly people have been doing on it for the last decade and a half.

It’s hard to look back on nearly a decade and a half of posting without feeling something like regret. Not regret that I’ve harmed my reputation with countless people who don’t know me, and some who do — though there is that. Not regret that I’ve experienced all the psychic damage described herein — though there is that too. And not even regret that I could have been doing something more productive with my time — of course there’s that, but whatever. What’s disconcerting is how easy it was to pass all the hours this way. The world just sort of falls away when you’re looking at the feed. For all the time I spent, I didn’t even really put that much into it.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.