I am writing the first part of this post on January 31 because it’s all fresh in my mind. I’m going to assume that by the time I end my self-imposed ban on Twitter in late February, I’ll wonder why I enacted the ban in the first place.
Let’s all admit it: we’ve all spent too much time refreshing or watching the data-push flow for minutes and hours while we sit aimlessly at the computer. I know a lot of my evenings are spent working on blog posts, editing photos, and checking the same cycle of websites over and over again in the hopes that something new will capture my attention: Facebook, Twitter, photography forum, repeat. It’s gotten to the point where I feel like I need to think in 140 characters or less, so that I can update my status with something witty or relatable.
But do you really need to know that I love eating peanut butter sandwiches at 8pm? Or that my cat is sick (yet again)? Or that I oppose SOPA/PIPA yet again; here is another article for me to retweet to express the vehemency of my views!?
We people, people who own our own businesses, people who relish every success and blot out the negative, pat ourselves on the back — out loud. Self-congratulating oneself is fine; it’s just… all of us have our ebbs and flows. My good day is not your good day, and your good day can be one of my bad days, and things can become very narrow: I’m happy for you but I want to be happy for me, too. There’s an article that’s been making the rounds that Facebook (but let’s be real: much of social media can have this effect) is making us miserable because we are constantly comparing ourselves to others.
Don’t get me wrong — I love Twitter. It’s like the water cooler of independent business owners. Pop on, ask a question, get a response back from eight different people — it’s great. But it’s also a terrible place where you can feel surrounded by people having conversations yet feel so alone and ostracized (without anyone really meaning to keep you out of the loop).
So I decided to just cut it out of my life for a month. Will my brain stop thinking in 140-character phrases? Will focusing on myself and my business, my relationships around me and my own health, feel richer when I’m not comparing it to other people’s triumphs? Will I come back in a month feeling invigorated and detached, and not as addicted?
Also, why now?
- I don’t get a lot of traffic from Twitter. I use Twitter for networking with peers (mostly other photographers). My target audience is not on Twitter, so I was curious to see if removing my presence from Twitter would have any effect on my stats at all.
- It’s low season for me right now (meaning no weddings). All the content I’ll be sharing will be a mix of personal posts, recaps, and maybe one or two engagement or portrait sessions. My wedding season starts back up in March, so I should be raring to go when that happens. The people who want to continue to visit my blog and see what I’m up to will do so in other ways (either by subscribing to my fan page on Facebook or already have me in their Google Reader).
- There is a big photography conference happening in February and 60% of the chatter right about now is about that big event, and I am not able to go, so this is my way of opting out.
- Maybe an inactive Twitter will lose some spam account followers.
- Why not now?
Some thoughts as the experiment went on:
Day 1: Something totally awesome happened and I itched to tweet about it so that others could agree about how awesome it was. Instead, I had to wait to come home and make a Facebook status about it. (I refuse to have Facebook on my phone.)
Day 3: I see now that I am replacing Twitter with Facebook. I’m looking at Facebook more often. Is this good or bad? I looked at Facebook a lot already (in the evenings) but now I’m checking it more often in the daytime. We’ll see if this turns ugly…
Day 7: I broke the ban so I could tweet how excited I was to meet Meg at the book tour stop. I miss Twitter but I also feel more focused without it. Still, it’s a bit sad not being a part of a lot of the conversations happening there daily. I feel less social.
Day 13: What a weird day. I went from thinking, “Life without Twitter is so incredibly liberating!” to feeling lonely and hopping on because no one on my Facebook feed was discussing Smash.
Day 14: I’m checking in every now and then. It seems as though if I can’t keep myself 100% away, I will inevitably be drawn in. At least Twitter is no longer on my phone.
Day 16: DMing is more efficient than emailing sometimes. Especially when you’re too lazy to look up the recipient’s email address. Bah.
Day 24: I think I’ll end the ban early.
Now it is February 29 and I’m writing the second part of this post. Being off of Twitter was pretty freeing. As the days went on it was less of a compulsion to go check it, and more of an interest to see what was happening with other people. I broke the ban several days early because I didn’t really care about making the point anymore.
* * *
- My web traffic was not affected.
- Like I figured, the people who were interested in my life continued to read my blog despite the fact that I wasn’t tweeting links.
- While I did want to opt out of the conversation surrounding the photography conference, a lot of chatter leaked over onto Facebook. It is what it is.
- I didn’t lose spam followers. In fact, I gained about 10 followers during my absence. I don’t know why or how. And a lot of them are real accounts.
I’m back on now (have been for a few days) and will now answer the questions I posed to myself a month ago.
Will my brain stop thinking in 140-character phrases? Yes, mostly! This was a pleasant surprise. However, by the time I decided to use Twitter again, the same creeping, truncated thoughts popped up almost immediately. I think, unless I cut Twitter out completely, this will be one of those things that will never go away.
Will focusing on myself and my business, my relationships around me and my own health, feel richer when I’m not comparing it to other people’s triumphs? It was nice focusing on my own business (well, still is!) and rather than “catching up” on all the things happening to other people I know, I decided to just read more — books, that is. A lot of Jane Austen.
Will I come back in a month feeling invigorated and detached, and not as addicted? It’s fine. I don’t leave the window open all day. I pop in, look around, read the last 10 or so tweets in my feed, and then pop off again. Maybe my absence or lack of engagement in other conversations is noticed; maybe it isn’t. We’ll see how it goes :)