Ignoring the formerlies

First, I promise everything I write about here won’t be about Twitter. It’s front of mind now because this service has been a part of my life for almost 16 years, and as it’s publicly imploding, I’m only now realizing how significant a part of my day-to-day life it’s been during that time.

Twitter has opened lots of doors for me. When you have a substantial number of followers, people tend to answer your messages. I had a moderately popular account as a tech journalist/editor of Maximum PC before the first “real” famous people found the site. But once the number of people following me crossed beyond the population of my hometown (~50k people, IIRC) I stopped paying attention to follower count. Frankly, the idea that so many people cared what I had to say became overwhelming, so I stopped posting the more personal things those people had presumably followed me for and shifted to a more professional tone, that was just focused on the work. This was probably a mistake if I cared about growth, but it ended up being good for my mental health.

For much the same reason, I’ve spent most of my adult life ignoring my “formerlies” in favor of focusing on the now and the future. By formerlies, I mean those little bits people put in their bios to remind you that you should be impressed with them. “Former editor of Maximum PC. Founding editor of Tested. Former editor at Ars Technica.” etc. In my youth, I did this because it lent focus to the new projects–if I’m doing work, it should be the best work I’ve ever done, and should receive focus because of that. If you think that sounds like hustle culture bullshit, you’re not wrong.

With Tested and Maximum PC came a fun and fairly comfortable level of Internet fame. Aside from meeting an occasional Tested fan at the grocery store or at events where Tested viewers were likely to congregate (Maker Faire, PAX, and the like), I remained anonymous. After I left Tested and started FOO VR, I had to come to terms with the idea that that notoriety was going to wane.

(In reality, that didn’t last too long. The constant nonsense from the other Will Smiths meant that after I left Tested, my Twitter continued to grow as more people signed up for the site. I don’t get recognized in the grocery store very often anymore though, which is fine by me.)

That’s when I realized that even though my avoidance of formerlies originally came from a bad place (hustle culture), it still produced good outcomes. It made it easier for me to make a clean mental break between past roles and whatever I was working on in the present. There’s probably a famous quote about the past being a prison, but if there isn’t, you can quote me.

The point of all of this is that sometime in the last few days, I realized that the Twitter part of my life, with all of the good and bad that that entailed, looks like it’s going to get added to the formerlies list sooner rather than later.

It turns out, I’m OK with that. Having a quarter of a million followers on Twitter has made me really lazy. Why make a newsletter or start a blog when I could post a tweet that tens of thousands of people would see?

I’m excited about the opportunity to start fresh, ideally without a daily barrage of slap jokes.

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