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.

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