This morning I deleted all my Twitter lists.
I’ve long been an advocate of using Twitter lists. I still agree with everything I said last year on using them to make the most of Twitter.
But, for now at least, it’s time for a change.
The Seven Digital Deadly Sins
Partly this was prompted by one video in The Guardian’s excellent seven digital deadly sins interactive essay. In the video on “gluttony” one of my favourite songwriters made a stunningly revealing comment on the effects of social media.
“The internet has changed my songwriting by taking away all the time I used to spend writing songs”
Billy Bragg tweet
This made me laugh – a kind of pained, I don’t want to admit the truth that’s staring me in the face kind of laugh. Not surprisingly, when I shared this quote on Twitter, it connected with quite a few people as well.
Of course, the time we spend online rather than on our creative tasks is an issue. But, perhaps a greater issue is what the emotional consequences of this time is, the emotional return as it were. We can’t spend every waking minute on our work, so the important question really is, how does the time we spend on things like Twitter affect the work we do (and the relationships we sustain).
My Changing Relationship With Twitter
A lot of my Twitter activity and especially my use of lists has been driven by a desire to learn and a desire to meet people. I voraciously used Twitter to find out more about creative fields and the cities I lived in (Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo since I joined Twitter) and also to meet new people, both in my professional fields and also potential friends in my locality.
But, now I’ve been in Tokyo for a year I find I’m learning less and less from following Twitter and looking for more specific and personal information to learn more about this place. And, I’m spending less time using Twitter to find information about music & photography, relying instead on subscribing to trusted blogs and news feeds which give me good quality reading I can digest, once or twice a week, at my leisure.
Moreover, Twitter has stopped being a tool for meeting new people. The age of the “tweet-up” appears to be dead. I don’t think this is specific to where I live. It feels like part of a bigger trend. In fact, I wonder if social media, at least as we knew it from 2007-2011 is dying.
In stead of this, I’m actually spending more of my time online staying in contact with the amazing people I have met over the last ten years, scheduling regular Skype calls or simply emailing, 1990s style.
My New Twitter Equation
I’m not giving up Twitter. But, I am changing the way I use it and listening a lot less from now on. I have created one, small, private list, which currently has 62 people on it (yes, it will grow, but not beyond 150). That’s all I look at when I log in, along with the replies people make to my posts.
I know some people simplify by unfollowing people on mass. But, I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to totally disconnect or send the message I’m not available. Talk to me and I’ll talk back like always (I try to respond to every reply I receive).
And, I’ll still share the same things I’ve always shared, from the mundane to the amazing. This change isn’t about giving less, it’s about giving differently. I still believe Twitter lists can work well, I’m just using Twitter in a less all-encompassing way right now.