(I know I'll be tweeting this when I'm done, which makes it kind of entertaining. And, Anne Petersen's piece on their results from logging off for half a month prompted me to get this out of my head. Their piece is more thought-out than this, so you should go read that.)
Over the last few months and weeks especially I've been observing my usage of Twitter. (It dovetails with apps and the web in general but, Twitter is a leading example.) And no surprise, I'm a heavy user. But there are consequences with this: my time and attention.
It's funny because a few years back I had a friend who was really into their iPhone. I'd see them check it all the time – literally any free moment, the phone came out. It struck me as incredible; how could someone do that? I found that I slowly morphed into them. My free moments evaporated and were replaced with a check of a mention or the like.
I already made a few adjustments. I had stopped keeping Tweetbot open on my home and work Macs a while back, noticing that it meant a lot to make Twitter a deliberate action versus just another stream that was happening always. And I changed up my phone notifications a long time ago; it really is just for 3 avenues now and that's it. And a long time ago I figured out that treating email as an attention-shaming device (i.e., “Here's a message! RESPOND NOW OR THAT PERSON WILL THINK BADLY OF YOU”) wasn't working for me, and wasn't needed.
But to take it a step further, I realized in an email to a friend yesterday: why don't I treat Twitter the same way as I treat email?
- With personal email, I work on it at the top and bottom of the day, and intermittently assess if there's anything important during the rest of the day (it's a pinned tab on my browser, but has no notifications and very little power for me);
- I don't consider email to be a to do list, but when people like a Tweet or reply to it, I want to respond quickly and clear out any notification bubbles;
- I fell into the trap of mistaking always-on availability for something else, a big sign for me of a lack of separation.
There are times when I am just in a groove with Twitter or email, but that's strictly coincidental: I'm replying back and forth with folks because that's my designated break to use the medium. Happens. Sometimes, I don't reply at all or keep up on things.
And, I wouldn't be lying if I said this was also due to the incredible stream of terrible news that Twitter affords a person: all the news, all the time, very few controls to manage it (even with a third-party client). It was simply too much for me to take in and process and sit with, and it made me constantly anxious.
So, trying it. Clustered, designated Twitter times. I also removed Tweetbot from my iPhone's dock and put it on the very last screen, sitting alongside all the stuff I really don't care about. Small changes. We'll see how they go.