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 but before that I even paid for!

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.


3 x $200+ Cell Phone Bills

“Only a moron would spend $80 to $100 dollars per month just for cell service,” I thought to myself. “There must be a cheaper option!”

“I have a lot of sensitive personal data on my phone. I need to enable full disk encryption on my Android.”

These two things by themselves are totally innocuous. But together they ended up costing me over $600 in bills over the course of only 3 months.
Continue reading


Keeping a Commonplace Book

My commonplace book on display using a Chromecast

A few months ago I started keeping a commonplace book. Well, sort of. A long time ago, I started keeping a commonplace book, I just didn’t know that’s what it was called. Ryan Holiday has done a much better job than I could ever do of explaining what a commonplace book is and why it’s worth keeping. The commonplace book itself isn’t necessarily the point of this post, but I’m doing (what I think are) some interesting things with mine that I thought were worth mentioning. But if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you should stop reading this now, and come back to it after reading the link above.

Continue reading


Year of Code

I set a goal for myself at the beginning of 2014 to contribute to an open source project I didn’t start, and get my contribution accepted by the developers. As the year went on, I cataloged it in a special section of my blog. Now that the year is over, I’m moving it to a regular post. I’m pretty sure that this is not up to date, since I’ve barely touched my blog in about a year. For example I know I contributed to the Selenium project, and I think that was still in 2014, but it’s not listed anywhere here. At any rate, aside from this paragraph, I moved the thing whole sale from its own page into a regular blog entry.

Continue reading

Book Reviews, Reviews

Reading Challenge 2014

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Charles has
read 56 books toward his goal of 52 books.
56 of 52 (108%)

Partly inspired by Ryan Holiday’s “This is How I Work” on, I challenged myself to read consume (audiobooks count) 52 books in 2014, and review all of them.

I’ve been using Goodreads for years, and only after I decided to do this did I realize that they already allow users to track goals. You can see the Goodreads widget above tracking my progress.