A Week without Twitter

It’s been one entire week since I decided to take a significant break from Twitter and I was able to stay true to my plan of logging off completely from the service – I didn’t even get to read any public remarks or responses that people had (via Twitter) since it really didn’t matter much to me.

My commitment to myself was to hit “Publish” on that blog post and then delete all the apps from my phone and go radio silent. Now that I’m a full week through my experiment I can tell you that I’m enjoying every single moment in this “logged off” state and although I’m not 100% sure it feels like I may never come back.

The feeling was the same as when I ditched my Facebook account except it has been amplified about 10x. Here are some general top-level thoughts that I’ve had since leaving the service:

  1. Silence – The silence for the first few days was palpable and consequently I had more time to analyze my own thoughts than the thoughts of others. But there were definitely times where it felt uneasy and I found myself feeling incredibly anxious as if I needed to know something but didn’t know exactly what that something was. The silence was “deafening” at times, as they say.
  2. Habits – I’ve had to unlearn a ton of habits based on years and years of conditioning, things like tweeting random links via my RSS Reader or that I find on Youtube or even starring and saving old tweets for later consumption. I had no idea how deep and how integral Twitter was to my overall daily workflow and it’s been a pleasure and a frustration to have to build new habits without Twitter to fill in those gaps. I’ve really just begun this detox period and I still find myself “reaching” for Twitter and having to tell myself (sometimes audibly) that I no longer have an account to tweet from.
  3. Depression and Anxiety – I have a history of clinical depression and because of the changes in habit and the silence made me feel anxious and even afraid that I was missing out on something and that people were missing out on me. I felt an overwhelming cocktail of responsibility mixed with 1 part guilt, 1 part shame, and 2 parts of duty and even 1 part what-the-hell-am-I-doing-to-my-personal-brand?! The result was definitely negative as I realized how much my own identity can be wrapped up on Twitter updates and how depressing that really is. I (and you) are worth so much more than the sum and aggregate total of our tweets, those that we create and also consume. But it requires us to unplug for a moment to see this ugly truth.
  4. Peace – There were a few moments of clarity that reminded me that what I was doing was not only right but absolutely essential for where I am today. There were a few times where I felt an indescribable sense of peace and satisfaction and that I was back in the driver’s seat, so to speak, of my life. I’m not being controlled or manipulated by other people’s thoughts of me nor do I believe them to be essential to my own well-being and psychological and emotional DNA. I have had a few moments where I’ve been able to say I am more myself today. It’s hard to describe but after snorting this “drug” for so long it’s like hitting “the clear” after a long (years) fight with cocaine.
  5. Deconstruction – And construction of a new new life, not just one that involves social media. I’ve begun seeing social technology in a way that was unavailable to me previously. Since I’m effectively bereft of any major social media outlets I can view them with particular objectivity and I’m not sure I like what I see; I’m not sure I like who I had become. Being “fully present,” as many people suggest, is impossible without removing the action entirely as an option even when intentions are at their very best, at least for me. It makes little difference if I keep my iPhone in my pocket while I’m at my daughter’s soccer game when I’m thinking about snapping a picture and tweeting about it every 5 seconds – I might as well perform the action physiologically as I’m already “gone” psychologically. Now that I no longer have it as a viable part of my workflow I simply observe and exist on the sidelines, as a fully engaged human with the moment, the present.
  6. Judgment – I found myself casting judgment on those that are still the position that I left only a week ago and that’s not fair. I’m not sure what emotion or psychology that is but I’m doing my best to see it as it is – a personal decision that I made for myself, nothing more and nothing less. It’s hard, I’ll admit, to not view what I am doing as a vastly superior decision but the truth is that it isn’t (and that we all do that with ourselves when we commit to something that’s generally anti-mainstream). Without careful reflection and self-management you can quickly vilify someone else (or an entire group) without meaning to do so. With that I am reminded to simply state, for the record, that my decision is not prescriptive in any way for you, the reader, but I will challenge you to try “a break” for yourself to see how it fits.
  7. The Muse – I have had more creative ideas about future projects, ventures, and the like than I have had in a very, very long time. The reduction of noise in my life has been so colossal that I’ve found myself with more freedom to create mental images of the future. I had no idea how I had crippled my own creative process by being so incessantly involved with 140 characters every few minutes. She’s back in my life in a much more tangible way and she’s badass.

I’ll end it there at least in terms of this particular blog post as it’s nice to have 7 lessons for 7 days worth of experience (it just feels right). And, this blog post is now north of 1,000 words and that wasn’t the original plan as I have real work that needs to get done.

I’m enjoying my break from Twitter and I’m now going for a full-month without it as the next iteration of the experiment. I am excited to see what I can learn after a full 30 days.