Restoring My Twitter Mojo

Two people I have come to like and greatly admire for different reasons have decided to leave Twitter recently. They both gave very eloquent reasons for leaving and I respect their wishes entirely although I am extremely sad to see them go. They have helped me through very difficult times in ways which they will never understand and I’ll always be grateful to them. I consider them real friends in every sense of the word. However Twitter has an immediacy of communication akin to a real life conversation (albeit in dialogue of 140 characters) which can never be replaced by other forms of contact. It feels like a friend has announced that they are moving to Australia. You’re pleased for them and you will always be friends but somehow there is a weakening of the ties and the feeling that somehow you’ve been left behind even if that’s not the intention.

Inevitably, as a result of their actions, I began to question my own relationship with Twitter and Facebook and how I use them. Facebook is easy for me. I hate using it. It is a visual migraine. I find the adverts and the games annoying, the constant changes in privacy functionality  incredibly irritating and there is a natural limit to how many pictures of my friend’s children I can bear, as much as I love children (some people seriously overdo it!). I’m sure people can find my posts equally dreary. However it is by far the best (only?) tool I have for keeping in touch with many of my friends who I would inevitably have lost contact with over the years as they moved around the world and overall  I get some benefit from it. Last year I was able to share the sad loss of my friend and instructor Eric with all my ski buddies scattered around the world. I’ve reconnected with old school friends lost in time and those people I have met through work or travel for a brief period and wished that they lived round the corner. I dip in and out of Facebook. If anyone really needs me, they’ll message me. It’s not perfect but it will do.

Twitter is much harder for me. I got onto Twitter and found a strong community of short story and flash fiction writers, picked up a whole bunch of friends from a podcast, found out what was happening locally and built up some followers too. It provides a platform for publicising my (spasmodic) output of flash fiction and it keeps me connected to people when I am alone. However I have begun to feel the same pressures that my two friends felt and that, rather than being an asset, Twitter is destroying the headspace I need in order to be creative, productive and happy.

There are many problems in the world and if like me, you believe that life isn’t just about winning at the expense of others, then there are a lot of causes that are worthy of support. Inequality and the demonisation and exploitation of the vulnerable would sum up most of them. However I am beginning to become overwhelmed by these. Yet I feel to ignore them is dangerous.  The economic circumstances of the 1920s and 30s gave rise to a cruel and terrible period in our history and we are sailing in similar waters today. If we switch ourselves off and say nothing, then we run the risk of history repeating itself. Silence becomes mistaken for agreement and ultimately our voices are extinguished. Twitter gives us all a voice. However I need personally to come to terms with the fact that I cannot fight every battle and perceived injustice.

I like to read what the people I follow say and have some kind of meaningful relationship with them but  recently I have started to become drowned in the thoughts of other people. Is this the fault of Twitter or myself and what should I do? Do I leave like my friends or is there someway I can go back to a more balanced use with which I am more comfortable?

I’m going to make some painful choices. I’ve decided to unfollow a lot of the campaigns and media outlets I’ve been following. One Twitter buddy shares very similar viewpoints so I’m just going to see her retweets and that’ll be it. I’ll comment on the ones I feel most strongly about but I’m hoping there will be a balance between being heard and in touch whilst not being overwhelmed with sadness and indignation. I have also decided to cut back following writers, publishers etc to a manageable number and not to follow back new writers automatically unless I have a particular interest in their work. I’ve always felt the need to be courteous to fellow writers but I’m annoyed by an ever growing number of writers who just plug their wares (See Some Authors Who Tweet Are Twits ). and I’d sooner follow and be followed by 300 people which I can interact in some meaningful way than follow and be followed by 10000 anonymous faces.

Now here’s the hard bit. I also need to unfollow some of my own followers and this will be much harder. I’ve tried using lists but found this hasn’t worked well for me. You might not care less or you may be greatly offended. If it’s the later I apologise sincerely and if you unfollow me as a result, I’ll understand fully but I hope that the above outlines my reasoning and I genuinely mean it when I say ‘it’s not you, it’s me.’  I feel I have some sort of connection with everyone but I need a timeline that moves at a more sedate pace not a constant scroll of consciousness. I’ve also installed ‘Anti-social’ which blocks my access to various sites whilst I’m working in order to be more productive. I may not be around as much but I’m hoping that all these changes will help me to get a better balance and stay positive.

I’d be interested to know what other people feel on this subject. Are you feeling the strain or is Twitter still working well for you?


Update: I’ve not cut down to under 250 follows and redefined my lists. It feels far more manageable. The trick will be to keep it down.


About Peter Domican
Marketer and change professional. Writer and photographer.

9 Responses to Restoring My Twitter Mojo

  1. Mike Clarke says:

    I’ve been deliberately conservative (small c) with who I follow and it’s still more than enough to keep up with.

    I tend to interact in conversation mode mostly on Twitter. I suspect most of my tweets disappear into the ether with little, if any, consequence.

    Due to a crappy Android App on my phone, my mobile access to Twitter has stopped working and, while this was a big annoyance to start with, I’m now missing it less.

  2. Rebecca Emin says:

    That “anti social” sounds like a great idea. I have been feeling exactly the same re Twitter lately. I hope you feel better for getting organised.

  3. Claire King says:

    Hi Pete,
    I empathise with what you say. 6 months ago I found I wasn’t getting as much out of twitter as I was 2 years ago. I’d followed too many people back automatically and the close rapport I’d struck with some of the earlier people I’d met was being diluted. Lists never worked for me either, I did try. So I cut back. I used twitcleaner to help me do that, maybe it’ll help you too. And now I’m more discriminating about who I follow back, although I do try to reply to any @ messages.
    I don’t like facebook, for much the same reasons as you. Actually, whilst the games and ads really get on my nerves, if I could keep it just to my real life chums and the pics of their kids, pets, holidays etc that would be great.
    All that said, I like what social media brings me in terms of sociability. I think I’ve found a good balance where it doesn’t interfere with my writing, family etc, and hey, got back in touch with you that way 😉

  4. Billy TwoRivers says:

    Brilliant piece, Pete. I too have felt a genuine sadness over the departure of two or three people on here recently. Similar to you, it gave me food for thought & as a result I have made a conscious decision to cut down the amount of time I spend on here.
    Twitter has fascinated me. I never imagined that I would form bonds with total strangers when I signed up to this nonsense 12 months ago. Quite understandably, the rules of normal social etiquette do not apply on here, therefore when people who you regularly speak to disappear without any explanation, it seems an odd thing to deal with.
    I still thorougly enjoy the twitter experience & would not want to walk away but I have realised that I was spending far too much time on here & getting far too consumed by this wonderful yet “unreal” community.

    • I think that’s an interesting point you’ve made. i think disappearing suddenly is quite disconcerting for those remaining and you’re left wondering whether all is well with them. I think it’s better to tweet something so at least anyone who is concerned knows what’s going on. In the cases above, I was in touch with both of the people via their blog but it’s worrying when people just go suddenly and there’s no way of contacting them.
      I really love Twitter but I think I was being overwhelmed a bit and just not enjoying my time on there.

  5. Thanks Claire – Like you, I’d lost a bit of direction on what I was doing on Twitter. Perhaps it’s because Twitter has grown so much or maybe we’ve moved on too?

    I’ve tried Twitcleaner but it tends to suggest people who don’t follow others back (I’m not offended but it calls them ‘snobs’) or haven’t tweeted for a while (they’re not the problem either). I’ve had a good cull, just going down my list and got down to 250 without too much debate and too much handwringing. I’m going to stick at around that level for a while and see what difference it makes. If not, I’ll need to have another go.
    I’m also tidying up Facebook and removing duplicates in Facebook and Twitter, choosing one out of the two e.g. Wimbledon (tennis) is great on Facebook but on Twitter, it’s less appealing.

  6. m says:
    August 24, 2012 at 8:49 pm (Edit)
    Hi Pete, I’ve spotted a few people cutting back recently, and I’m going through a ‘quiet patch’ on tweets (school hols, work, personal busy-ness). I feel strongly that Twitter is like money, speech, paper etc — there as a tool to be what you want it to be. I’m a Twitter tart, I’ll follow large numbers, but when I’m busy-busy, I’ll actively track my ‘Hootsuite’ lists which largely comprise people who have engaged me in conversation.
    (As for marketing DMs, want to hear my secret? I went about two years on Twitter without realising I had DMs. When I found the page, I had about 300!) I know, I’m a Twitter slacker. But yes, when a random stranger pops up with a tweet full of links and ‘Buy my book’, it’s a bit like walking into a café and some random, pop-up weirdo shouting, ‘Oi, Buy Me A Coffee!’
    Reminds me of visiting Peckham as a student, I only went there once. A man ran up the platform, bit my friend’s shoulder, and galloped off

    • I’ve reposted your comment as it was on another page. I totally agree on the ‘buy my book’ business and I tend to get rid of those people fairly quickly. Even with lists I was finding that I was getting overwhelmed and distracted so I’m down to about 250 now and with lists and a locked account, it feels much more in control. If I was more of an established author I might need to rethink this but somehow I think that’s a long way off.

  7. Pete Denton says:

    Twitter can easily become a beast can’t it. It does get to a stage where you follow too many people to be able to keep up with. I keep thinking of streamlining but never seem to get around to it. At least you can create lists of your friends and strip out the others that way.

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