Personal

Why do I spend so much damn time thinking about Twitter?

I’ve been using Twitter since 2007. In that time I’ve loved it, hated it, quit it, rejoined it, binged it, purged it, and blogged about it. I’ve even tried multiple Twitter clones. Recently mastodon.social but before that I even paid for app.net!

I was essentially off my phone for two straight weeks recently. First on vacation and then at a work conference. In that whole two weeks, I was completely off Twitter (and Mastodon). I really enjoyed staying off social media — particularly on my phone. This has me wondering if I should (again) leave Twitter altogether.

Except that Twitter is a vital source of news, information, and entertainment for me. As I mentioned, I’ve tried giving up Twitter before. Each time, those are the things that bring me back. And every time, what has driven me away is the sense that I’m wasting way too much time on it. So maybe the thing to figure out it is this: what is an acceptable amount of time to spend “wasting” on Twitter?

Another problem I’ve had with Twitter is the sheer volume of information you can access.

Can I fix this problem for myself somehow? I certainly haven’t yet. So whatever I’m going to try has to be something I haven’t tried before.

Here’s what I know doesn’t work:

  • Having no plan
  • Restricting who I follow to only people I know IRL
  • Restricting who I follow to some specific number
  • Deleting my account
  • Uninstalling the app from my phone

Here’s what I’m going to try:

  • Tweet Deck
  • Lists
  • Follow Restrictions

I’ve tried limiting how many people I follow in multiple ways before, and they are too arbitrary. It’s always too restrictive and then I give up completely and then chaos ensues and I’m back where I started. So the plan is to severely limit the number of people I follow, but to also allow myself to add anyone and everyone to lists. That way if I’m compulsively checking but I’ve restricted my timeline there’s less to see and less time wasted. But if I’m actually interested in something that’s happen (EG some big news event), or I’m “legitimately” killing time (EG sitting around an airport, or taking a break at work), then I still have access to lists of people I want to “follow” in those cases.

The Twitter iOS app handles lists very poorly, which works in my favor here. If I’m checking Twitter on my phone, I will want to avoid lists. But if there’s something happening that I really want to keep up on, I’ll want to take the time to remember how to find where my lists are in the app. This leads into why I will use TweetDeck. It’s great for lists, but is basically impossible to use on mobile platforms. In other words, if I’m killing time at work because I’m waiting on something, or I need a break, then seeing all my lists at once is fine. If I’m checking Twitter just to check it, then I’ve limited myself to what’s in my restricted timeline. Unless there’s some kind of event happening either on Twitter (big news) or for me (waiting in line at the grocery store), in which case I’ll dig into my lists on my phone.

This gets into the follow restrictions thing. I will restrict who I follow, but have no rule in place. If I start to get overwhelmed then I know it’s time to move some people to lists and start unfollowing them. Having that system in place will hopefully mean that I won’t be drinking from the firehose every time I open the app, but I also haven’t lost access to potentially interesting stuff when the time is right.

I hate that I had to come up with some sort of system to deal with this, but I definitely need a system. Giving up Twitter altogether is starting to feel like the idea of giving up internet or electricity; possible but completely impractical. But every time I go “all in” and just use Twitter without some attempt to limit myself, I fall into the same pattern: check it compulsively for no reason any time my attention span hits its limits, and then fall into a hole so deeply that I completely forget whatever I was doing for the next hour.

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