It started late last week when I saw Robert Tracinski, a writer for The Federalist, was going on a month-long Twitter hiatus. The Federalist posted his article this morning entitled "Was Social Media A Mistake". Last night, I saw two of my favorite follows, @ewerickson and @bethanyshondark were going to cease most engagement with the platform. Their explanations were similar in spirit. Erick said it was no longer edifying. Bethany said "...there's just little value add for me here anymore." and "There's only so much I care to be called a sh!thead and a bad mother." Robert's beef seemed more economic, but he also wanted to be able to better control the content he was consuming.
These are producers on Twitter with many more followers than I will ever have. I can understand their explanations.They, like most of us, have better things to do than battle with obstinate people on social media and be constantly angered at things that may or may not matter. Seeing these three people I like and follow pull back caused me, certainly a consumer on the platform, to ask some questions of my own.
- Why am I on Twitter again? The short answer is, "To get news and ideas." There is a lot information I can get, from sports to terrorist attack to what stupid things people are doing (thank you @AwardsDarwin). The ideas I encounter are obviously of varying quality, but I've been exposed to a lot of solid ones. I don't have a lot of friends with active Twitter accounts, so for me, this platform is much less social.
- Am I wasting time on Twitter? The short answer is, "Duh! Lot's of it." I have a lot of other things I need to be thinking about and the time I waste on Twitter isn't just the actual time I spend scrolling through the app. It's the way it distracts me from other things I need to be thinking about, sometimes long after I've put the phone down. My crawlspace needs to be cleaned out and a new vapor barrier put down. My oldest starts Kindergarten in August and I want to start Geo-caching with him this summer. My marriage takes constant work the be a healthy thriving relationship. How much time have I spent in Scripture reading and prayer this week?
- Is Twitter allowing me to be more thoughtful and analytical? The short answer is, "Absolutely not." I really think Twitter can be like eating too fast. When I eat too fast, I don't have time to digest my food so I eat too much and when I finally quit, I'm bloated, miserable, and wondering why I did it again. Likewise, when I step up to the Twitter buffet, I consume too much without giving any time to process what I'm reading and when I finally quit, I'm distracted, behind, and wondering why I did it again. The end result of that kind of news consumption is me being a know it all who will only ever talk about things and never be thoughtful or focused enough to go do something meaningful.
- Can I be informed and exposed to ideas from varying sources without scrolling through Twitter? The short answer is, "I think so." Tracinski, in his Federalist article this morning stated he is going back to checking a roster of blogs and news sites. Not a bad idea even if it's a little old school. Despite a lot of quality news and analysis going behind paywalls, there is still a lot of good, free content to be had. If I can be just a little more organized about my consumption, then I think can be pretty well informed. Why let Twitter determine what I see? Don't forget there are these long format things called books too.
- What am I going to do now? The short answer is, "I'm going to follow the lead of some wise folks and put Twitter down for a trial period of a month." All other social media will be transferred from the bottom right corner of my home screen to the folder where I keep apps I don't use very often. Out of site, out of mind. If this experiment has any interesting results, I'll write about them here.
Look, folks. There has to be a better way than Twitter. The only way to know, though, is to try something different and see how it works out for you.