I've retired my Twitter account.
As you may be aware, I left San Diego CityBeat three weeks ago to take a job with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that stands up for civil liberties in the increasingly digital world. Moving forward with this column, I'll have to walk the editorial line between commentator and professional advocate for Internet freedom. As part of the transition, I locked down @davemaass after more than 27,000 tweets. That was the old me.
On my way out the door, the City of San Diego did something pretty peculiar. And I do mean the "City" with a capital C; the entire City Council and the mayor signed a proclamation declaring Feb. 13, 2013, my last day as a staffer, "Dave Maass Day."
"WHEREAS, we will never know how Dave ever finished writing articles between his extensive tweets, and look forward to the unveiling of the long awaited and non-combative brand 'Maassive'..." the proclamation says.
You know how when there's a bitter custody dispute between two parents, one parent might exact revenge on the other by loading the kid up with sugar and caffeine before handing him over for visitation? That's kind of what San Diego did to San Francisco. It's going to take awhile for my ego to deflate.
There are two things already humbling me. First of all, as I switch to @Maassive, I've gone from almost 3,000 "followers" to zero, and it's slow going building them back up. My old followers either didn't get the memo about the switch, don't give a hippo sphincter about my new account or were spam-bots to begin with. The other factor is hindsight.
On Dec. 12, Twitter—in case you've been in cryogenic containment these last seven years, that's the microblogging site where you can post only 140 characters at a time—began offering users the ability to download an archive of their tweets, both as an html file with a handy interface and as a spreadsheet. It's cool, but it's also like being knocked into a dunk tank of embarrassment.
Yes, I was a bit of a troll on Twitter. Shortly after I arrived in San Diego, I decided the best strategy—or at least a strategy—for making a splash would be to begin controversially stoking flame wars on Twitter (I initially pissed off every photojournalist in the city when I suggested that they should be the first culled in any San Diego Union-Tribune layoff plan). Clearly my gambit worked. I have a day named after me.
The downside is that, scrolling through the archive, I'm now faced with all the obnoxious little barbs I tossed out: the Chernobyl-class meltdowns over disappointing interactions with PR people, my petty aggravation with the Metropolitan Transit System buses—it's a record of my fuckheadedness that will likely remain online in one capacity or another in perpetuity.
Tweeters in San Diego may remember me best as a troll, but the proclamation reminds me it wasn't all bad, saying that I almost made "thoughtful and amusing tweets a profession." I remember being the first member of the media, and for awhile the only one, tweeting emergency updates during the Easter earthquake in 2010. I posted hundreds of live tweets and photos during the Occupy San Diego protest. And I met my girlfriend of more than three years through direct messages on Twitter. So there.
I'll miss the San Diego Twittersphere, but I'm not going to try to re-create it in San Francisco. Perhaps it's because it's a more social city, in the physical-world sense, or because now I'll be tweeting with an agenda, but I just no longer feel the appeal for that style of oppositional engagement. Or maybe it's because Twitter in San Diego has become an echo chamber, a tight-knit club where a handful of local commentators are able to wield a disproportionate amount of influence over media coverage simply by being vocal.
But soon, someone will step into my shoes (and I don't mean @jeffhammett, CityBeat's former arts editor Kinsee Morlan's husband, who was recently accused of replacing me as KPBS's chief antagonist). To my successor, and to anyone else looking to dive into San Diego's Twitter scene, I offer this far-from-exhaustive #FF list (in no particular order):
@democrab, @loteck, @vosdscott, @omarpassons, @meanestbossever, @thisbrokenwheel, @lemonverbena_, @rachellaing, @jedsundwall, @debbie858, @sara_h, @augmentedballot, @smiff, @mitchwagner, @rdotinga, @groksurf, @andy_keatts, @sduncovered, @clairetrageser, @danwho, @darkstitch, @rickywhy, @dillonliam, @jumpthesnark, @tonymanolatos, @echo5juliet, @karmiclife, @mattable, @wendynbcsd, @missalexbell, @adrianarancibia, @ryantrabuco, @willrk787, @prprosandiego, @ebruvold, @pkruegernbcsd, @aboynamedart, @sddialedin, @a1designguy, @lucasoconnor, @blockgreg and, of course, the CityBeat crew, whom you can find here.