I was using facebook and twitter a lot. I felt guilty for using them so often because it was eating up time I could be using to actually accomplish something. I felt anxiety because the continuous partial attention may be ruining my ability to think. I’d considered quitting twitter, but I hadn’t made any decisions. Then, I did something I hadn’t really done in a while: Reflected on life, evaluated what was happening, and proposed a change.
While using them, I was deep in the grips of loss aversion. I can’t quit! I’ll lose communication channels! I need to stay updated! I’ll miss out on information! So, I needed to take a step back and evaluate the pros and cons. I needed to figure out if the benefits outweighed the negatives. I also needed to specifically categorize what I’d be losing out on. Fear is aided by vagueness. My loss aversion could be conquered by clinical, analytical precision.
When I evaluated twitter, I decided that I could quit. Twitter wasn’t improving my joke writing, or my writing in general. (Aside: Maybe if I had found twitter before webcomics, I would be exclusively a writer because I can’t draw well.) It actually reduced the domain of jokes I could make because I wasn’t writing dialogue anymore. There are cool links on twitter, but I don’t need them when I already read the blogs of the people I follow. In fact, this wasn’t really a benefit because I felt that I needed to cut information intake so I could produce more. Twitter’s mostly empty calories, anyway. (Example: What’s the point of reading cool little tidbits from Smashing Magazine on web programming, if I’m not spending enough time doing actual web programming? Moreover, reading code would probably be a better use of time.) There were jokes, but I read web comics anyway, so I didn’t need them; I get enough laughs. Roger Ebert has become annoying by constantly hawking Amazon wares. That left a few people who I follow personally: Lloyd and Erin. The rest of the people don’t update enough to be that much of a loss. Most of Lloyd’s updates are pictures, and I confess that I don’t often click on pictures on twitter.
I actually talked to Erin about how much she updates (I was talking to Stevie about twitter at their apartment) and she only said once a day. When I told her that I was thinking about quitting Twitter, she said, “But how will I ever know about your fantasy football team?” I thought that might be reason enough to quit; that is, I don’t need to bore people with that stuff.
So, I wouldn’t lose that much by quitting twitter. I could still engage with everyone I needed to through other channels.
What would I gain? I think the phrase “addition by subtraction” is helpful. More time. More attention. It’s one less thing to pay attention to, and one less thing to distract me. Less empty calories, which I could replace with better reading. My writing would probably get better too.
Since this post has gone on longer than I thought, I’ll try to wrap up and I’ll write about facebook another time.
I decided that quitting Twitter was a net gain. So, right now I’m taking a vacation from twitter. I think I’ll do it for three weeks, but I doubt I’ll want to go back after that.
I still click on the link, but I don’t sign in (more on the addiction later, too). I tell myself. Would you rather browse twitter all day? Or would you rather read Marcus Aurelius? I tell myself I’d rather read Marcus, but I’m still not there yet. I’ll read a few pages and get distracted. Still, this is a start.
If you’re reading this, leave me a little note about Twitter. Do you use Twitter? How often? Is having it a net gain or net loss? Do you think your time browsing twitter is okay, or would you rather read a classic book? Is that a false dichotomy?