I wanted to write about my Twitter vacation because I wanted to think about the interaction between Twitter and my blogging activity (and I’m someone who needs to write in order to think). In an earlier post, I described how, after a few years of blogging, I’d come to think of my posts as falling into two categories. One I called hey-look-at-this posts — short, quick references to interesting things I’d recently read. The other type was longer and, ideally, was more reflective and — dare I say — substantive.
I felt that writing quick posts was distracting me from writing longer ones. It occurred to me (this was in 2011) that I could simply tweet the items that interested me rather than blog them. What I hadn’t anticipated was that, once I started tweeting frequently, I practically stopped blogging. After a few months, I felt a need to explain my absence and wrote a post called On sabbatical. I assume my decline in blogging was due to both the time I spent on Twitter and Twitter’s ability to satisfy my desire to communicate.
The Magic Link
I know social media, email, and just being online are distracting time-sinks. What I’m about to say may sound like I’m from another planet, but for a long time I didn’t really have a problem with those distractions. Perhaps that’s because of an experience I had in 1994, when I was beta testing a digital device called the Magic Link, a commercially unsuccessful precursor to the Palm Pilot. Since I was responsible for stress testing, I needed to generate a high volume of text messages and be available to receive and respond to messages throughout the day, including nights and weekends. (In those days, BTW, you did this by connecting to a phone line and using a modem).
As someone who values lengthy periods of uninterrupted solitude, this made a strong impression on me. I didn’t like always being connected. This may be why I didn’t develop the habit of continually checking email, Facebook, blogs, and the news. At least I didn’t develop that habit until I started doing Twitter every day. I may have known abstractly that there was too much information and too little time, but it was only with Twitter that the reality became concrete.
While I was on Twitter vacation, I was reading less online (especially blogs), but I was still reading the print magazines I get from the library once a week. As usual, I found things that I would normally have shared on Twitter. I decided to create a type of blog post called Reading Notes, where I could briefly link to an article and maybe include a quotation and a brief comment. This sounds a lot like reverting to hey-look-at-this posts, I know. It did seem, though, that I had more to say these days than I did when I started blogging in 2008. In fact, some of the items I thought I could mention briefly turned out to need a post of their own.
So now, instead of Twitter eating into my time and keeping me from the more substantial topics I want to read and write about, it’s beginning to look like these Reading Notes posts will be the culprit. Ah well. I seem destined to struggle with finding a happy medium.
And those “substantial” topics are …
My incomplete and ever-expanding list of “substantial” topics, BTW, would include: sleep, nutritionism, biohealth, death and aging, alienation, the impact of the automation of work, big data, privacy, self-help, academics from working class backgrounds, personal branding, neoliberalism’s influence on social media, print vs. digital reading and writing, inequality and the social determinants of health, and the negative aspects of for-profit medicine.
Oh, and the impact of digital technology and web 2.0 on how we spend our time. I’m about to read Pressed for Time: The Acceleration of Life in Digital Capitalism, The Tyranny of E-mail: The Four-Thousand-Year Journey to Your Inbox, and 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep.
The return to Twitter
As for my Twitter vacation, going cold turkey was much easier than I’d thought it would be. I felt a great sense of relief, actually. What brings me back is the people I’ve met there. Supposedly, Facebook is where we go to socialize and Twitter is where we go to explore our distinctive interests. But when you find people who share your interests, you can’t help but admire and grow fond of them. By nature, I’m a “happy loner,” but I’d enjoyed interacting with the people I met on Twitter. It seemed wrong simply to abandon them. And maybe, just maybe, I’m more sociable and less solitary than I always assume I am.
Image source: Blog do Aroni
Judy Wajcman (2015), Pressed for Time: The Acceleration of Life in Digital Capitalism
John Freeman (2009), The Tyranny of E-mail: The Four-Thousand-Year Journey to Your Inbox
Jonathan Crary (2013), 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep