The bluebird of Twitterlessness

 It's Day 6 without Twitter. All is calm. All is a'ight.

I've enjoyed using Twitter since 2007, back when normal people thought it was silly. My engagement ramped up when a certain twice-impeached former would-be dictator occupied the White House, the same time as those who had scratched their heads for 10 years signed up, and Twitter exploded.

I watched from the country next door as the country of my birth waved its Confederate battle flag, murdered its Black citizens, had its highest court packed with right-wing extremists, and almost lost its democracy. I went in even harder when COVID hit. We also had a provincial election, and then a U.S. presidential and congressional election. For lots of reasons, it was important for me to try to keep up with several streams of news and views.

For a while, I had been feeling that I might be consuming more media than was really good for me. I started wondering how much time I spent using Twitter, and what I might do with the time if I stayed off Twitter. It reached a critical point for me when I was reading Hunt, Gather, Parent (but that's a whole other story) and felt that I needed to stop consuming, to be thoughtful, and to consider what might need to change in my life.

The main thing I did more of without Twitter was read books. I finished Hunt, Gather, Parent, and then zipped through a novel for my local book club. I'm a fairly slow reader. I can't get rid of the reading-aloud voice in my head. But I feel as though this recent reading was rather effortless. I also found that I enjoy reading more. I had always though retirement would be good for reading, but until now, not so much.

I've written more as well, but otherwise I haven't added a specific activity other than reading. Reducing my media consumption is not magic. I would be spending time working in and enjoying my garden anyway. I haven't adding any extra cooking. I haven't played music! (Hmmmm.)

I noticed, though, that I was getting to things more quickly than I used to. I got dressed earlier, was out in the garden earlier. I even did some household chores that weren't particularly fun with much less procrastinating than usual.

An adult diagnosis of ADHD is hard to obtain, so let's just say that I have ADHD symptoms and have had them for as long as I can remember. Now, correlation does not equal causality, but since I got off Twitter, my symptoms have decreased noticeably.

Most obvious for me is distractibility. Why did it never occur to me that Twitter was the apotheosis of distraction? It was working as designed: drawing me away from whatever I was doing or trying to do, keeping me engaged, winding me up, and keeping me coming back for more.

Less distraction means better focus. Improved focus might be why reading feels easier. It helps in getting me through my day more like a functioning adult. My anxiety is lower. I'm feeling more relaxed than I have been for a while.

I had thought, or told myself, that Twitter was a net positive experience for me, that the good I got out of it and the satisfaction I got from using it outweighed any negative effects, which I have always known were there. I now know that even if the negative effects are few, they definitely weigh in my life more than the many positive effects.

This is not a controlled experiment, of course. Life is full of variables. I had my first vaccine jab several weeks ago, and although I haven't changed my behaviour and likely won't change much before jab #2, I'm probably a little more at ease and feel a little less endangered. Hunt, Gather, Parent curiously gave me, a non-parent, many things to consider.

There was a knock-on effect as well. Without Twitter, I spent much less time looking at my phone, and sat at my laptop only to do actual work and not just use to Twitter and let that turn into surfing aimlessly. Even my light use of Facebook got lighter. Mostly I watch for birthdays.

I haven't been off Twitter entirely. I respond to direct messages. But lately, I've been trimming my following list a bit at a time and then checking to see if my timeline seems more manageable. People in my city stay on the list. Twitter is a curiously good connection among people here whom I might not encounter otherwise. And I keep accounts I wouldn't want to be without, so far.

I need to know what's going on in the world. I need to keep myself open and learning. I need to stay in touch with neighbours. I also need to manage my anxiety level. I don't expect zero anxiety. I don't want to live in a bubble. But I can't let my need to stay connected have a negative effect on my well-being.

Somehow, I need to get what I want and mostly avoid what I don't want. I need the news and views and connections, but not full throttle. I'm not sure yet how I can make that happen.

(I shall now hypocritically post a link to this post on Twitter and Facebook.)

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