Mid December, I decided to take a break from reading my Twitter updates. It wasn’t prompted by a big life event, and I really didn’t have any particular goals in mind. I just wanted to see what role Twitter plays in my life, and to break the habit of checking my Twitter updates every so often. I feel like I’ve had enough, maybe it is time to resume (or not), but not without sharing a couple of insights from that period.
1. Buffer is a great app: For the period I didn’t read tweets, I still “tweeted” using Buffer. See I’m an information junkie, and any information junkie knows this: half the fun in gathering so much information is sharing it. With Buffer, I was able to put out nuggets of useful stuff I collected from conversations and from reading, without having to break my hiatus.
Even if you are not on a Twitter break, I would recommend you use Buffer to schedule useful information that you would like to share on Twitter and Facebook. It keeps your account active, and to a large extent helps you dictate what kind of information you would like to share and the time you would like to share it. If you’re like me, you are familiar with brilliant tweets that come to you at 2am, and you know most of your intended audience is asleep then. Buffer it!
2. The world doesn’t care as much as you think it does: If I follow you on Twitter, this is likely to offend you, but please be generous enough not to get offended. I realized that we (your Twitter friends), don’t really care about you as much as you think we do. Why is this an issue? We share a lot of ourselves on Twitter, sometimes more than we even share with our close friends and family, and there’s some sort of kinship in doing this.
The day I got off Twitter, I stopped caring about my Twitter friends who aren’t my friends in real life. I didn’t care that you were feeling nauseated, or you got dumped, or (sorry) your daughter took her first step. I didn’t feel the need to check on you, I didn’t miss you as a person. This realization has got me re-thinking what I share on Twitter, and how I use the tool. Of course, I doubt anyone missed my mundane updates either.
As the wise one (Sunny Bindra) once told me: Twitter is a tool, not a replacement to life (paraphrased).
3. Twitter forces you to participate in other people’s lives: Because of point 2 above, you get exposed to a lot of detail about other people’s lives, and no matter how stoic you are, this tends to affect your mood at the very least, and your life outlook with time.
To be honest, I enjoyed the break from everyone’s life, and the fact that I could choose whose life I wanted to participate in by calling or sending them a text. To be fair, I maintained my Facebook presence, but it wasn’t as overwhelming because my Facebook friends are my very close friends and family, whose lives I actually want to participate in.
Even as I cut my break short, I haven’t quite worked out how to be on Twitter but avoid forcing other people to participate in my life and vice versa, but I believe I will find a way to.
4. A managed social media presence helps you to be more “present”: For the period I have been on my phone less, and for that reason I have managed to be more present and to interact with people more deeply than I did before. Being away has also helped my running, my meditating and surprisingly, my reading. While before most of my activities would be punctuated by Twitter updates, now my life flows more smoothly.
5. I don’t care about Obama or news: This was a tough realization. I love Obama and what he represents (a story of hope), but being away from Twitter made me realize I am not as crazy about the guy as I imagine, and that is ok. I missed his inauguration ceremony, I haven’t downloaded as many cute pictures of him and Michelle to my phone of late, not because they’re any less cuter, but I have been busy. Busy having a life.
6. With nowhere to rant, I had fewer peeves: A lot of us use Twitter to air our frustrations about various things (from traffic jams, power outages, to nagging foot pain). I realized that since I didn’t have anywhere to air my peeves, I was actually less peeved. Things bothered me less over this time. I guess the theory that ranting works is flawed in my case.
So that’s it. Those are my 6 insights from my Twitter break. Have you ever taken a social media break (especially the addicts)? What did you learn from it, and how did you retain those lessons once you got back online?