A little over a week ago I decided to take a break from Twitter and to heavily reduce my use of the Web in general. It’s becoming apparent to me that those of us who work heavily with the Web need to pay attention to how this Seventh Kingdom of Life influences how we work and play and connect. Here’s what I did and the insights I gained from a week away from Twitter.
Overall the experience was refreshing and gave me perspective on work-flows and presence of mind.
(Ironically, my blog was h*cked and Google removed me from its index during my break. Yesterday I ported my blog over to WordPress.com so my readers are protected. My database was affected. (I’ll post more details later.) So that’s why my blog has a new look. I just found some (painful) humor in timing: it sure is illuminating how much power Google can have: 75% of my online “brand” equity wiped out with the push of a button.)
CLOSING THE WINDOW
Starting last Monday I turned off notifications from Twitter. Except for a few direct messages with someone who I needed to moderate #RNchat last week and a few goodbyes to close friends, Twitter was off for me. No clients open. No visits to Twitter.com, Twitter Search or my RSS feeds for keywords. Lesson one: keep your monitoring to a minimum.
Cutting from the Web wasn’t as much as a challenge as dealing with email. What I discovered was email had heavily weighted down my productivity. I initially thought that Twitter was the productivity sink, but it’s been email. In fact, I think my productivity would be enhanced if 99% of my communications routed through Twitter. Why? Because Twitter has a shut-up valve: the 140 character limit. Twitter shunts business to essential need. You still need to establish an efficient work-flow with Twitter, but it’s a lot easier to manage than email (at least for me).
The problem with email isn’t a technological one – email’s actually a great technology & one that will be with us for a long time. It’s a social problem – no offense, but some people still don’t understand how to use email effectively. The biggest mistake I think people make with email is thinking that it’s a collaboration tool. It’s an anti-collaboration tool.
FIGHTING TECH WITH TECH – GOOGLE DOCS AS HEALTH TRACKER
In order to ensure compliance with my “digital cleanse” or brain defragmentation, I created a form using Google Docs which I used to capture what I was doing at various points during the day. I took some inspiration from Experience Sampling Method (ESM) and set 4 times during the day that I would complete the form. The form included these items to track:
- Compulsion to tweet
- Compulsion to check email
- Compulsion to do anything Web-related
- Mood (on a ten-point scale)
- Stress level
- General state of mind
- A box to comment on what I was doing right at that moment.
- Are tasks that are due right now complete?
- Other than filling out this form, have you been online since last survey?
- If you were online, what was it to do?
- Number of minutes online since last survey.
- A text box for general comments.
I created a short-link for the form and added the link to my calender and had that notification texted to me (which was the only one I allowed myself to use). The nice thing with this technique is that it allowed me to collect information within seconds and it kept me true to my goal of staying away from the Web.
My use of the Web was very limited. I permitted myself one to two 15 minutes bursts of connection with people who matter. After all, connecting with each other (deeply and meaningfully) is perhaps the greatest opportunity the Web offers us. But investing in friendship is a long-term endurance. If you’re relying on only a few media like Twitter, you’re giving up one of the most important things in life.
SAYING NO TO TWITTER
How to say no to Twitter? Simple: just don’t use Twitter. 🙂
What I found out though, is what a fundamental and simple communication tool Twitter is, depending on how you use it. For me, Twitter is a convenient and multi-purpose Swiss Army knife of communications. It’s certainly a seduction, and its increasing ubiquity makes it harder to turn it off, but I don’t think that’s the answer. Moderation and monitoring the answer.
Should you do it? It’s up to you. I recommend it. You’ll gain an appreciation for Twitter’s role in our lives.
Right now, I plan to use Twitter as an important communications tool. But I’ve also decided that Technology is far more than just tools and our relationship with it something we must understand and appreciate and monitor very deeply. More on that in future posts.
One thing is for sure: I know now who my real friends on Twitter are now. Who pays attention and who cares. It’s a small number – but it’s the only number I care for.