Danielle Henderson is a writer who’s written about pop culture, race, class, gender, and more for Vulture, Cosmopolitan, The Guardian, and other publications. Henderson is a culture editor at Fusion and a former editor and staff writer for Rookie. She also created the popular website Feminist Ryan Gosling, which was released as a book in 2012. This week I asked Henderson to expand on three of her favorite tweets, and we talked about journaling, scheduling, and if Twitter’s more fun when it’s commenting on good stuff or bad stuff.
“Which Sex and the City character are y–” “MAGDA.”— Danielle Henderson (@knottyyarn) May 24, 2015
Henderson: Most of my tweets are just conversations I’m having with myself. I guess talking to myself is part of my creative process, but it also makes me feel a little unhinged, so Twitter is sort of where some of my interior thoughts go now. A socially acceptable way to sound a little nuts every once in a while, in the company of others.
How is your approach while writing tweets different from your approach while writing other kinds of pieces?
I don’t think about crafting tweets at all—I just write whatever is on my mind in the moment—but I put a lot of time into editing and fine tuning all of the other writing I do. I’ve never had a drafts folder. When I first joined Twitter it was just a continuation of conversations I was having with friends in other places (blogs, Facebook) and I never really deviated from my original, conversational approach.
Do you keep any kind of journal (or similar logging of your interior thoughts), and has using Twitter changed that for you at all?
I write a major to-do list every day, and it sort of acts like my journal; I just write down a lot of notes associated with what errands I have to run or work I have to do that day. I tape concert tickets and receipts and stuff inside. I kept traditional journals for a while and it always seemed like it took more effort than I had to sit down and review everything that happened throughout the day. Lists work better for me, and it’s easier to remember TV shows I want to watch, books I want to read, stuff like that. I used to think I would use Twitter for that sort of personal archive, but that’s not practical at all.
I invented a drink called the Grown Ass Woman: 3 fingers o’whiskey 2 ice cubes 1/2 pajammy jams (tops or bottoms) 1 night of canceled plans — Danielle Henderson (@knottyyarn) July 13, 2015
I don’t draft tweets; I usually just swoop in and explain what’s happening in the moment. I like it when people just tell you about parts of their day, when people are funny without being performative or it feels like you’re hanging out. I’ve been limiting my time on Twitter to 30 minutes a day lately, so I’ve been keeping it to funny observations.
What made you decide to limit your time on Twitter?
The more time I spent on Twitter, the more I felt like I was turning into the worst version of myself. I made snide comments and ganged up on things I didn’t really care about just because it was the way to join a conversation. I just felt like I was being bombarded by negativity; not just horrible shit happening in the world, but subtweeting, fighting, stuff like that. It was really weird to me that I’d read 20 opinions about something before I had time to formulate my own, just because I was scrolling through my feed. Twitter is useful as a tool of social change in so many ways, and I’m not denigrating the importance of that, I just personally can’t handle using it that way. I just want to make fart jokes with my friends.
It was also just a huge time suck for me. I could be on it for an hour, easily, and then complain that I didn’t have time to read books anymore. Instead of dipping in all day, I just check Twitter for 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night, sometimes for a few minutes in the afternoon. Never more than an hour a day. I miss the immediate conversations that happen naturally, but I feel a lot better and I have more time to myself. It’s part of a schedule overhaul I gave myself last month; I work from home, and it’s so easy for me to fall into little pits of laziness. My bed is right fucking there, all day! I’m a little more regimented now, and a lot more productive.
How else has the way you use Twitter changed over time?
I used to feel compelled to follow people out of kindness, but that just turns your feed into a fucking mess. I sort of have a rule now that I only follow people if getting a DM from them wouldn’t freak me out. I’ve also stopped making Twitter my primary source for news.
Her own mama outed her. HER OWN MAMA! That is the blackest thing that ever happened to her. #RachelDolezal— Danielle Henderson (@knottyyarn) June 12, 2015
I’ve really pulled back on talking about intense things on Twitter, but the Rachel Dolezal situation made me so hyper! I couldn’t stop laughing. It was probably the best Twitter has ever been, even though the this woman co-opted black identity is so maddening. I rarely feel like part of the crowd, any crowd, but that entire night was so fire. It’s like we were all on the same, hilarious page for a few hours.
How do you think Twitter when it’s talking about bad/upsetting things compares to Twitter talking about good things? Do you think one or the other is inherently funnier or more fun to chime in on?
Do you remember when people used to be really excited to be the first commenter on a blog or website, and they would enthusiastically post “First”? Like, they weren’t adding to the conversation, just staking their claim? When things are bad, Twitter feels like a room full of “First!” commenters, clamoring to be the loudest or most visible. I always visualize a bunch of people in a room, yelling at the ceiling. You can hear each other because, you know, someone is shouting right next to your head, but you’re definitely not talking to each other. When things are good, it’s like a party! Even if you’re not talking about pleasant things, it feels like everyone stops taking themselves so seriously. The night the Rachel Dolezal news broke was the most hyper night of my Twitter life; everyone was SO FUNNY, and the story was so unbelievable. There were many weeks of more serious conversations to follow, but that night it was just a bunch of people being absurd about a totally absurd piece of news. It was glorious.
Jenny Nelson lives and writes in Brooklyn and works at Funny Or Die.