Coming Back to Twitter

Why did I disappear?

When I wrote the first post in my new Focus series, My New Focus, I stated that I had decided to quit Twitter for the time being. I didn't do this because Twitter was annoying me or because I had lost value in the service, quite the opposite. I felt like I took in too much information every day, and that Twitter was a big part of the reason I felt overwhelmed.

It was close to the end of the semester when I made this decision, and it couldn't have come at a better time. Those last few weeks of this semester at school were very stressful (as they always are), and not spending extra brain power on Twitter was a good decision.

This was not entirely my idea however. Many of the people I follow online have decided to cut down on the amount of information they introduce to their brains every day by cutting sources of information (such as Twitter) out of their life. What got me started on this journey of cutting back on the amount of information I let into my brain every day was C.G.P. Grey's article Dialing Down, where he details why he has been feeling so overwhelmed of late:

"I have less to do. Why do I still feel overwhelmed? Why is it taking me longer to get less done?"

I paused and listened and found another kind of background noise in my brain that had been increasing, ever so slowly, since I became self-employed a few years ago.

For lack of a better term, I’ll call it 'The Internet' but it's a broader than that: it’s the rise of all the digital vectors of information delivery pointed at me.

[...] so many articles to read, so many comment threads to jump in, so many podcasts to listen to, so many videos to watch.

This article is where he also states one of the most resounding things I've read lately:

[...] I find my mind fragmented.

I full-heartedly agree with this statement. Between school, spending time with family and friends, applying for jobs, and working on apps at Cosmic Owl Studios, I haven't felt like I have time for much else. And yet I had let the Internet and its vectors overtake much of my life so that it was hard for me to keep track of everything and spend the appropriate amount of time and focus on what I truly cared about.

So I decided to quit Twitter cold turkey style1, I wouldn't check it until I felt like I could afford it. I decided to do more than just quit checking Twitter though. I cut down on the amount of video games I was playing and decided to replace that time with reading. I started reading more of the news and reading more books than I had been before. While this isn't necessarily cutting down on the amount of information I consume daily, it was a way for me to focus more directly on the important things in my life.

During my month-long Twitter hiatus I discovered a more focused and relaxed mind than I had experienced in a while. I felt less pressured to do things in my free time, and I was okay with letting my mind be bored every now and then. I didn't check my phone as much, and sometimes I wouldn't look at it for whole afternoons at a time.

While my experience was not all tied to quitting Twitter for a period of time, I feel like it was an important step for me to take. I was able to let go of something I had thought for a long time to be vital to me. I was able to spend more of my brain focused on more important tasks and it felt like I was able to stretch and relax.

Coming back

Through this experience, I was able to determine what Twitter meant to me. I realized that while I put a lot of value in the service, sometimes it can be overwhelming to me.

I realized that I love being a part of a worldwide conversation. I realized that I love hearing other people's opinions, and staying in the tech news circle (and being able to comment on said circle) was enjoyable.

I decided that the only way I was going to be able to come back to Twitter was to change my usage of the service, so I took several steps in order to achieve this goal.

  • I unfollowed several people that post too many times per day. While I may like their tweets, my timeline being full of tweets continuously was the main reason I felt overwhelmed by the service.

  • I moved many of the "joke" accounts to a list that I can check when I want to. That way those tweets (which I may not care to see all the time) are still available to me, but do not interfere with my main use of Twitter.

  • I only check Twitter at certain times during the day, and only for certain amounts of time. I don't have any predetermined times when I will open Tweetbot, but I have set rules for myself. I do not check Twitter when I'm spending time with friends and family, I'm just bored and looking for something to do, or when I am working. By setting these rules for myself I have changed how I view the service and how I use it.

Final Thoughts

Changing the usage of a service like Twitter isn't a new idea, but it is one that has changed how I view the use of services and how I divide my time.

In Shawn Blanc's two part series about margin (Part 1, and Part 2), he writes:

Without margin in our finances, we fall deeper in debt every time the car breaks down. Without margin in our schedule, we have no time to rest, recharge, or serve others. And without margin for our thoughts, we lack creative energy to make progress on our most important work.

Creating margin is very important to me, and changing how I use services like Twitter, email, and other Internet distractions allows me to create a margin around the important things in life. This lets me put more of myself into my work, my friendships, and myself.

Learning how to use Twitter in a healthier way isn't the final solution to my focus goals, but it is certainly a wonderful first step.

  1. Great... now I'm hungry 

Read “Instagram Screensaver” next

Nathan Ansel

Nathan Ansel

Nathan is an iOS Developer that has a passion for making beautiful, well developed apps. He loves Swift, fitness, and playing video games. He can be found on twitter at nathan3o4.