Paul Brown

Failure to Learn

Minimizing Twitter

Life has changed a lot for me recently, this being the best example of that. I’ve thought a lot about what is actually important to me, and how I spend my time. Even though I wouldn’t consider myself a heavy user of Twitter, for a while I’ve realized that I should probably cut back on the time I spend consuming this stream of consciousness from the internet.

Going to China helped, because internet was so spotty there, and because for those first two weeks we had our daughter, I obviously had significantly more important things to do than stick my face into a screen. Then we got home, where the internet was actually usable, and I realized I didn’t want to model that behavior to my child. In addition to that, though, I was finding my mind continuously distracted by my Twitter stream.

So I “quit”. I put that in quotes because I do still check it, but in a vastly different way now. I deleted my Twitter clients for a few days and didn’t check it at all. This was extremely refreshing.

In an effort to stay connected, though, I created a Twitter list of the people whose tweets I definitely want to see. Right now it’s only 22 people who are either close friends in real life, or people whose tweets are infrequent and have a high signal-to-noise ratio.

I’m not knocking the high volume twitterers – these users post a lot of good content. I just don’t need that distracting me all day every day. When I really do have time to just sit back and relax, I’ll intentionally go look at those users’ streams and skim through.

All in all, I’m extremely happy with this decision, and I don’t see myself turning back. My mind stays much more focused on my tasks, and I’m able to spend more quality time with my wife and daughter.

A final sidenote: It was satisfyingly coincidental hearing Marco discuss his withdrawal from Twitter on last week’s Accidental Tech Podcast:

Twitter is a tricky balance between whether it makes your life better or worse overall, and I’ve been questioning what the value of it is for me recently, and whether it is a net gain or a net loss.”

If you listen to their full discussion, he explains it further, and his reasons for pulling back are more related to the constant negativity on the internet, which is understandable. I’m not enough of a Twitter-celebrity to see a lot of that, nor do I seek it out, of course. We’ve seen enough damage done to people recently on the internet, and we could all benefit from rediscovering our priorities away from social networks, whether it’s to avoid the negativity or just to spend more time with those close to us.