Twitter Zeitgeist

My Twitter fast continues. I’ve looked at it for less than 15 minutes each for the last two days. As I tweeted yesterday:

I thought that I would miss Twitter like an addict craving a fix. Instead it felt more like having a hypnotist cure a nervous tic overnight.

Garrick van Buren forwarded me a link to this guy’s Twitter skepticism. What’s interesting that his issues and mine seem to be equal and opposite. He thinks people use @replies when they should use more direct messages. I prefer to have everything public unless there is a compelling reason to take it private. He doesn’t like the abandonment of the “What are you doing” conceit, and I think that is the most boring frigging thing ever. If he got his way, I’d abandon Twitter in a heartbeat. The service he describes holds even less value than Twitter currently holds for me.

I’ve grown weary of the way Twitter leaves a kind of jangly feeling, like having three cups of coffee too many. There is always something coming in and more behind that. I see lots of people saying things like “I’m turning off Twitter for a while, I need to get things done.” Twitter is cute but it’s hard to get things done and pay attention to it. If you don’t pay attention to it constantly, you lose a lot of the power of it. It’s a conundrum and one I am having a hard time finding a reasonable balance with.

And just because I don’t feel like writing a full post to encapsulate this link, I will admit that my Twitter contrarianism could be just as misguided as this Robin Hobb rant about blogging, in which she does her level best to sound like Harlan Ellison on the subject. I’m a little chagrined how much her piece has in common with mine, in that she thinks blogging kills writing and (at least for me) twittering seems to kill my blogging. The only part that resonates with me is the idea that one activity can subtract the urgency and energy to do the other. I’ve decided that I like the value blogging creates for me, which is different than the value of twittering. Each to his or her own.

3 Replies to “Twitter Zeitgeist”

  1. I think we all have our levels of interruptibility versus productivity, as well as of internet (or any) addiction. Part of getting along in the world includes figuring out how to manage these levels for yourself. Long ago I found that anything IRC-ish or IM-ish is an instant productivity killer for me – it just takes me too long to go back and re-establish my work context. That “jangly feeling” can be much worse that too much caffeine. I also have to be careful with my blog-reading and podcast listening time, for similar reasons. Perhaps it’s part of my own level of Asperger’s, but each person has their own balance to manage.

    I think there’s a similar issue with Robin’s comment, which looks ironically like many blogs I read. There are blogs that merely comment on other blogs or bits of life or show cute pictures, and some that have some writing depth. The writer needs to define their own balance. The criticizers need to allow that, and, one would hope, go off and lead by example.

    There is good writing on the web, and there are useful reasons for IM/IRC/Twitter. All in balance.

  2. Dave-

    Thanks for your commentary on my post and Twitter — overall there’s been a lot of good conversation. I don’t disagree with you regarding the dullness of a service that’s strict to Twitter’s Question too. I dig your post and I’m glad you chimed in on mine via pingback.

  3. You seemed to strike a chord, Dave. There’s a little Twitter “pushback” going around. I agree with both you and Cory D. regarding the “continuous partial attention” issue. It’s way too easy for me to fall out of the flow of coding, get utility work done, etc. when interrupts occur. That’s why I’ve never been a huge fan of IMs; I like them a lot if they’re used judiciously, but it’s super easy for them become distracting.

    Twitter had become the same way for me, but flipping it to no-IM helps a great deal. I also subscribed to my own (and friends) status RSS feed; I can now quickly catch up in Google Reader.

    I still like the service, and I’m still using it, but I’ve pulled back a bit. Works a lot better for me this way. I catch up in RSS with everyone, and can jump on via the web if I’m in the mood to chat back and forth. IM still works well to let me push out status, I just don’t get notifications through it.

    My coding and blogging output has already measurably improved. Definitely a good call for me. One’s mileage may vary, of course.

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