Why I deleted twitter from my phone last year. And, don’t miss it.
Why I deleted twitter.
The democratization of knowledge and access. Such an invigorating idea. Somehow, Twitter was the platform through which all thought could be organized, archived and collated. We, as consumers, would benefit from that knowledge. The joy and audacity of being able to retweet an astronaut, while debating tech with Marc Andreessen, were spectrums of a new reality I could not live without.
“LinkedIn is for the people you know. Facebook is for the people you used to know. Twitter is for people you want to know”
Reading tweets extolling the UX of Tweetdeck or the cuteness of Tweetie were delightful, and debates that you wanted to see play out. Most importantly, being in every conversation. Agreeing, disagreeing, contributing, participating — new tech was so invigorating or so we thought. When the ‘#’ was introduced, it was revolutionary. An ability to group by topic, under a thread and available to read chronologically. Knowledge went through the roof, Level 3000.
As engineers and leaders, you inhaled blog posts from the Twitter engineers and data teams, to be used subsequently as prima facie arguments in your own corporate campaigns for change. It was the most exhilarating and mind-expanding time. Better than google for organizing and retaining content, because it was by author and interest. It was like not recalling the song, but being able to browse by musician on Spotify, and listening to all of Bob Dylan, played this case by prominent VCs and thinkers. Google couldn’t do that.
One of the most prominent sources of frustration, and passing time, especially in NYC, was quick scrolls and checks, timeline — check, mentions — check, retweets — shoot…nothing yet, in between stations. That brief 10 seconds of valuable LTE time had to be spent ensuring nothing was missed. That should have been a red flag; time otherwise spent reading, looking around, or comfortable with the brief pause in movement had to be filled. The sometimes-not-brief delays at the platform was filled the same way. And then it grew exponentially. Red lights, elevators, meetings, bathrooms, showers, travel all had to be filled with micro-hits of that bird-chirping sweetness. And presto! Twitter (and Facebook) had become mainline drugs, injectable at all times, no dealer necessary and I was addicted.
Subsequently, I discovered Dopamine labs, named fondly after one of your crucial neurotransmitters, is actually is a name of a company . What I came to realize is that many of these companies employ strategists such as this, to maximize addiction in their experiences. The more they owned your eyeballs, and your neural patterns, the more they could figure how to monetize you later.
Even without getting into the Election’16 scandal and targeting of citizens, I’m convinced that social media ultimately has not been a force for good. This includes even all the radical activism in China, Turkey, the Arab Spring and areas where connectivity and government brutality was uncovered through, and because of, twitter. In many cases, live streamed.
My personal experience with this, while not as dramatic, was indicative of the darkness that underlines these products. One spring evening a few years ago, a multiple-alarm fire broke out in close proximity on the street, and as we all rushed to the balcony, my first reaction was to reach for my phone, plug it in for extra juice, and live stream via Twitter (Periscope). The hit was profound later when various local news stations reached out to secure rights to broadcast or repost online. And that’s when it hit me. My rock-bottom.
My instinct should have been to help. To call for 911 — to help with directions or anything. Perhaps, even rushed over and helped neighbors with immediate supplies. But all I could think about was the views, the clicks, the retweets and benefiting from that visceral reaction. At this point I felt sick, and was desperate for a change. If you feel this way or worse, read on for help.
Because I benefit from the latest intellectual salvo from Umair, product updates from Steven Sinofsky or funny pics from Ricky Gervais, I wanted to find a way to keep twitter, but limit it, domesticate it, and not let it always light up my neural pathways and leave me a feral mess each night. Here’s my own formula to wean yourself off most social networks, that seems to work well. My ‘Domesticating Twitter’ in 10 steps:
- Delete all twitter apps from your phone. The conversation will go on fine without you, but it always did, and so will continue to. You’ll be fine. I’ll give you ways to rejoin from time to time. But first, select all social apps and delete them from your phone. Also delete any social apps from your computer.
- Figure out a daily window, either before or after lunch, or after a staff meeting during which you’d like to spend 10 minutes catching up. And try to make it consistent. I try to do it after my post-lunch walk.
- Catching up means logging into twitter or facebook from a browser, for a at most two-three full-page scrolls, and that’s it. Anything more is irrelevant and your input won’t matter. Replies and retweets don’t count but the total time spent does. No more than 15 minutes. I do a combined 15 minutes for twitter, fb and linkedin. That’s my one a day maintenance.
- Don’t log into twitter (or any social network) on your phone’s browser window. This is a trapdoor and functions as a very effective alternative to an app. Don’t do it. Setting up two-factor authentication serves as a deterrent.
- Limit reading fake news, fake as in it’s not really news, not as in presidential parlance, but that too, i.e. articles with clickbait headlines and content pulled from tweets. What two people said, or did not say, does not count as worthwhile news, and you’re no better off for knowing that they did, and don’t follow these posts and their links back into twitter hell.
- (Advanced level) Only log in to social from your home computer , once and only on a Sunday. This limits the rot even further, and is what I usually do, unless it’s a really slow week, although this happens very rarely these days.
- Journal. The need to share and create a log of our lives, to provide input, to be heard, seems to be very strong in all of us. Journaling provides a healthy alternative. Add a daily gratitude practice and you’ll feel even better.
- Take up a new physical interest. My favorite is Yoga. Anything movement based that you have to do for approximately an hour, gives you a deeper satisfaction during, and longer high afterward. Meditation works well too.
- (Pro level) For professional points, delete your account. I don’t feel this is strictly necessary but if your addiction is bad enough this may be the only move for you. In addition to several above.
- (Sensei level) If providing input on a thread or post, try to promise to only participate in, and create, content that is positive in its intent, and spirit. Wade clear of any dustups, and resist the need to say something controversial just to see the reaction it has. This is a juvenile instinct and is best limited. The cycle of posting negativity, and the constant need to see the reaction it has provoked only deepens the cycle and makes it harder to extract yourself. This is the hardest of all. Just make a commitment to only share learnings or positivity. Or, you won’t post today. That’s it. Be the example Twitter could have been.
That’s it. Good luck and let me know how it goes.