There’s a ringing sound as I write this. There’s a ringing sound when I write anything, It reverberates like tinnitus. Several years ago, I started using an app from Twitter called Tweetdeck to track my likes and retweets—they call tools like this social media dashboards, but they’re better understood as the vital signs for an internet dopamine junkie. One of the options in the app is to hear a shrill, school alarm bell sound anytime anyone interacts with one of your tweets. Out of curiosity, I enabled the feature. The first ring startled. The second one went down a little easier. The third ring calmed. And after that, I needed the fourth ring. When the alarm bells went off in quick succession, it felt good, like a song I wanted stuck in my head. So, that day, I decided to leave the feature on for a little while.

That was about a decade ago. Since then, anytime someone responds to me, mentions me, retweets me, likes one of my tweets, shares anything related to my newsletter NextDraft, or links to any of my other writing online, I hear the ring. And I experience a positive response each time. Ring, response. Ring, response. It’s like someone forgot to pick up after Pavlov’s dog.

The bell has sounded so often, and has become such a pervasive source of background music in my house, that no one in my family ever even mentions it. It would be more noticeable if my laptop were open and there was no ringing. Every now and then, during a quiet, dry spell, one of my kids will hold a finger under my nose to make sure I’m still breathing.

I was there before the vowels. I was there when a podcast search engine called Odeo spun off a side project that became Twttr. I was one of the first users. I eventually became one of the most serious addicts. Like other addictions, it’s been fun at times. But as my tolerance built, I needed more and more of the dopamine to get even a small buzz. And the anger and distractions associated with the service have long been eclipsing the fun. When news of Elon Musk’s bid for Twitter broke, I shared my concerns over the potential deal. In the days since, those concerns have merged with the ones associated with myself and the toll my social media drug of choice has taken on me, in terms of lost time, lost focus, and ultimately, lost joy. So as Elon Musk, another person who is deeply addicted to the service, takes Twitter private, I think I’ll do the same with the thoughts I’d ordinarily Tweet. I’ll still use Twitter to source news. And I’ll retweet news stories and posts I want to help amplify. But that’s it. At least that’s my plan (even though it’s like saying I’m going to spend a lot of time at Studio 54, but never snort coke). There’s a chance I’ll start tweeting again in a few months, a few weeks, or even a few minutes. But I haven’t done it for about an hour, and I feel pretty ok so far. (It’s a few minutes later and I’m proofing this section. Maybe I’ll just Tweet less? 🙂

+ The intro to this section is from my book, Please Scream Inside Your Heart: Breaking News and Nervous Breakdowns in the Year That Wouldn’t End. As much as anything, the book provides a look at how our relationship with tech and media got out of hand.