I got to say: I love Twitter. Ever since I started using it, I’ve followed more and more Twitter users and thanks to them I’ve been informed on many of my interests. When Hubble shoots an incredible picture, I saw it first. When someone tweets a link to a blogpost about how Oracle’s automatic sample size works in dbms_stats, I skimmed through the blogpost as soon as I can. When there is some kind of incredible news, I know it sooner than people who don’t use Twitter. I love it. I love information. I’m addicted to information. And as usual with addictions, it’s not really healthy.
But what harm could Twitter do? Well, Nicolas Carr’s book “The Shallows” has something to say about that and other uses of Internet: it changes our brain. Really. He pleas that the rapid, distracted sampling of small bits of information from many sources is basically making us stupid. Rapid, distracted sampling small bits of information? That very much sounds like Twitter. What Nicolas Carr says is that the longer we do this and if we don’t have a balanced “diet” of short messages and longer reading, we lose the ability to read and think deeply. And if I remember the book well, he has the “brain scans” to back it up.
Characteristically I didn’t read this book. I listened to the audiobook in my car. I do read books, but usually very slowly. Unless there is a topic that really, really interests me a lot or I need the information somehow to solve my problems. But otherwise some books take me months to finish.
Two weeks ago I was in bed sick with my trusty iPad and because I had nothing better to do, I did read a lot of Twitterfeed. “Hey, why not?”, I thought, “I’m sick. I don’t have an agenda today. I can read Flipbook (my app to read Twitter) and Pulse (my RSS feed app) as much as I want”. So a second day of illness passed. And a thirth, until I was kind of sick of checking things. The iPad games I played in between didn’t help much to broaden my mind either, I have to admit.
But it got me thinking. How much blogging have I been doing since I started using Twitter and other social meda? I used to write about once a week for Astrostart.nl about spaceflight and astronomy. Granted, my commuting time was a lot shorter then. That certainly helps. But even so, I feel I’m less productive ever since. I used to prepare a lot more crazy projects in my free time. I worked on an Oracle tuning audio book for my collegues once. I made a Youtube video about security awareness, however crappy. I had a feeling I was doing less in recent times. Maybe it had even affected my willingness to read stuff on my job.
So I’ve started an experiment. One and a half weeks ago I stopped checking Twitter and other “fun” feeds. Just stopped completely. I just felt I had to set a clear boundary for myself. I could have told myself to check Twitter 50% less often, but how on Earth was I going to measure that? So I just stopped. (In retrospective I could have stopped following a lot of feeds, but to save me from the hassle of having to make choices, doing no Twitter still is probably a better idea).
I also use my Lift app to keep track of my progress. Lift is kind of a social media thing, but I use it only once a day and only for a short time. I’m on a 10 day streak of “No Twitter” now. (Also a 12 day streak of pushups, but I digress).
Do I miss the extra information Twitter and other “fun” feeds provided me with? Certainly. Every day I think about the cool information I might be missing. Especially work related topics. Will it affect my work if I miss these pieces of information? Frankly.. only slightly.
I may be imagining things, but my mind seems clearer at times. I seem to get more productive at home. This totally not scientific, but let’s see where this goes. At least I wrote this blogpost. One blogpost is better than none.
(BTW. I’m automatically letting WordPress put this on Twitter. Oh the irony. But hey, where would there be people who might be interested in this? I guess on Twitter. Should this count this as a discontinuation of my Lift “No Twitter” streak? I think I let this one slide, because I’m still not checking it. I do however check in my “Write for 30 minutes” habit. I’m wiley like that sometimes. Now you know why I chose not to read Twitter at all)