Twitter: 5 Reasons to Leave, 5 to Return and 5 Ways to Find Some Balance

December 21, 2009

If you know me, you may have noticed that I haven’t tweeted much in the past few months. What started out as just a small break, ended up as an extended Twitter vacation.

 The whole thing became crystal clear one day when I made the following observation:

Only 1 hour of Twitter per day is 365 hours PER YEAR. Just imagine what you could do in 365 hours…you could:

  • Learn Chinese
  • Write a novel
  • Get into the best shape of your life… and SO much more.

Well, I was probably spending a bit more than 7 hours a week on Twitter, perhaps quite a bit more, and that was a depressing thought. So, I decided I needed to make a change.

At first, friends who use Twitter basically thought I was crazy…as in “why the heck would you want to do THAT?”  Friends who don’t use Twitter were simply smug, as in “See, I knew that Twitter thing was stupid and you’d stop doing it eventually.

Actually, getting off Twitter was an excellent way to reclaim my brainspace. After nearly two years of tweeting, my brain was so full of Twitter-related minutia, that I just needed to clear it all out.  While it sounds like a lot of tweets to the nonuser, at only 3000 tweets over two years, I certainly don’t qualify as a heavy Twitter addict (you probably need about 5k per year to get into that category).  However, at a certain point, Twitter was encroaching onto too many aspects of my life and drowning out other valuable thoughts. 

Further, tweets aren’t the only measure of how much one uses Twitter or how much brainspace it takes up. I use Twitter as a great information source, so a lot of my Twitter time is spent reading all the articles that others are tweeting. Also, just managing Twitter can be demanding.  Keeping up with followers, reading profiles, reading tweets, sending and responding to DM’s, checking @replies, trying out the latest tools…it all takes time. 

So, I did what I needed to do and made a clean break. As I said, it wasn’t necessarily intended to be a long term thing. However, after a few days off Twitter, I decided maybe I needed a few more. Then a few more. That became a few weeks more…and well, the rest is history. 

So you’re probably wondering “what was it like?”

At first, it was strange to be off Twitter in a formal capacity…my brain was still forming thoughts in 140 characters. I’d think of a tweet and then realize it had nowhere to go.  If I had a few minutes of extra time, I had to control my impulse to check Twitter. I experienced some negative emotions (anxiety, isolation, sadness) which essentially boiled down to one key thought “what am I missing?”  I felt out of the loop.

However, at a certain point, maybe after the first 5 to 10 days, these feelings were replaced by positive emotions: happiness, freedom, peace of mind.  No longer was I thinking about Twitter when doing other activities. That was a nice change. Also, I reclaimed a decent amount of time in my week which I put to good use. By the end of the first month, I had a perfectly clean house, all my bills were paid, I was back at the gym and I had learned how to sew. I also was able to sit and read quietly, watch a movie or television show from start to finish, go to lunch without checking my phone and have a conversation without thinking about tweeting. It was a relief.

5 Benefits of being off Twitter…

  1. You’re free of the “noise”…when you’re really off Twitter, your brain has time to relax, resulting in enhanced creativity and the ability to focus.  And, with all of that extra “noise” gone, you’d be amazed at how well you can sleep. No more middle of the night thoughts about that tweet you want to remember for tomorrow.
  2. You’re more productive – when you’re off Twitter you can make space in your day for other things – things you probably used to do more of — like seeing your friends, talking on the phone, going to the gym, participating in your favorite hobby or activity.
  3. You’re less anxious – you’re not constantly wondering if you missed anything, you’re not thinking about your next tweet, you’re not wondering why someone stopped following you…or thinking about your follower count.
  4. You’re more polite and you can actually LISTEN. If you’re using Twitter while you’re out with a friend, you’re not being a good friend. Get off twitter, put your phone away and have a real conversation, you’ll be glad you did.
  5. You’ll be more interesting. Seriously, people who aren’t on Twitter could care less about it. They don’t want to hear about how you gained 500 new followers by using Mr. Tweet.

5 Reasons to Get Back on Twitter…

Of course, being off Twitter for awhile also has a few drawbacks. And so, at a certain point, I started to miss some of the benefits:

  1. You’re well informed – if Twitter is good for anything, it’s sharing information. From the latest news to special interest articles, Twitter is a great resource for just about anything.
  2. You’ve got a presence – looking for a job or next consulting gig? When you’re online and active, you’re on people’s radar. Not on Twitter = out of sight, out of mind.
  3. You’re part of a community – if you’re on Twitter, especially for business, chances are you know a lot of tweeps in real life, which makes it easy to walk into any conference or networking event.
  4. You can continue to grow your network…while you were away, everyone else was meeting new people, adding followers and creating new relationships…stay away for too long and you might just become irrelevant and your network will shrink.
  5. It’s fun…Well, it IS.

 

So, what’s the moral of the story? Balance.

5 Ways to find your Twitter Equilibrium…

  1. Don’t let Twitter get you side tracked. Stick with your plans for the day and save Twitter for later.
  2. Set a defined amount of time aside for Twitter. Set an alarm if you have to. But when the time’s up, walk away.
  3. Take an “offline” class of any kind that takes you away from the computer and allows you to create something tangible – pottery, jewelry making, etc. creating and working with your hands is therapeutic and probably helps repair some of the damage that all this social media is doing to our brains (NOTE: this is just my opinion…I’m NOT a doctor nor have I done any research on this topic). 
  4. Close your browser or Twitter client. Don’t have Twitter open all day. Seriously, can you really work effectively when you are distracted by Twitter?
  5. Keep Twitter to yourself…when you’re out and about, focus on who you are talking to. Put away the iPhone and Blackberry and get back to the basics. No one wants to have a conversation with a person who is tweeting while they are talking.

A few months later, while I check Twitter now and again and even tweet occasionally, I’m not quite “back” yet.  I’ll plan to see you back on Twitter in a more serious capacity after the first of the year. In the meantime, what would YOU recommend to help you find your Twitter equilibrium?

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7 Responses to “Twitter: 5 Reasons to Leave, 5 to Return and 5 Ways to Find Some Balance”

  1. Rachel Levy Says:

    Nice post. I definitely agree with #4 in finding equilibrium. I shut down Tweetdeck off and on throughout the day. I use Twitter Gadget (a FF plugin) to tweet small things I think of, because it keeps me from getting sucked in each time I do!

  2. Pamela Rosenthal Says:

    @rachel Thanks for the useful comment about Twitter Gadget, I’ll have to check it out.

  3. David Eckoff Says:

    One of the best blog posts I’ve read in 2009. Bravo!

    This part was especially brilliant:

    “Only 1 hour of Twitter per day is 365 hours PER YEAR. Just imagine what you could do in 365 hours…you could… Get into the best shape of your life… and SO much more.”

    This is so true!

    My advice to anyone who starts their day with Twitter – and doesn’t seem to find time to exercise:

    Start your day with exercise, and get your workout in first.

    And only after you do that, do Twitter, email, etc.

    Do that consistently in 2010, and by the end of 2010, you could be in the best shape of your life!

    Nice article, Pam! One of my favorite of 2009!


  4. Great post, Pamela! I don’t comment on blogs too often but wanted to weigh in on this. I spend quite a bit of time on Twitter – but it is filling space that was occupied by a combination of other less efficient components of my job, or by other hobbies/interests that I now fluctuate between. I’m still working out “equilibrium strategies” as you recommend though.

    The other thing I’ll mention is that is has also been suggested that Twitter can increase your happiness in life, e.g. check out blogs/books such as this one:

    http://j.mp/83Wpv6

    Now this other end of the spectrum – I don’t fully agree with everything listed here – but it gives you a sense as to some major positives. I like the quote “Twitter is a good servant but a bad master”. For me, the learning aspect is huge. It’s more than just “staying well-informed”; an important aspect of my job as an Architect at IBM is understanding technology, industry trends, etc. So learning about social media, new technologies and business trends both adds to my overall happiness and serves a critical job component at the same time.

  5. Joe Mrozinski Says:

    Excellent post. I feel the same way . I’m basically new to twitter . Wanting to see what the buzz was all about . I dont tweet much either . I’d rather be out experiencing life than ‘living’ it in front of some computer or web page. I’m not on twitter to sell or promote . Just to make new friends & learn new things . Twitter is an excellent servant but should never become a master .

  6. Pamela Rosenthal Says:

    @david – thanks so much for your comments. :-) I really appreciate them! Glad you liked the post.

    @eric – I’ll definitely check out that book. It’s interesting to hear that Twitter can increase happiness. In the past I had heard that Internet use (in general) actually makes people less happy.

    @Joe – keeping the balance is a definite. Thanks for stopping by!


  7. [...] Twitter: 5 Reasons to Leave, 5 to Return and 5 Ways to Find Some Balance « Social Media Obsession a… i'm not leaving, but it's an interesting thought exercise (tags: pamelarosenthal twitter continuous-partial-attention attention) [...]


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