How to Say No to Twitter – My Week Away from Tweet Crack

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:

  1. Compulsion to tweet
  2. Compulsion to check email
  3. Compulsion to do anything Web-related
  4. Mood (on a ten-point scale)
  5. Stress level
  6. General state of mind
  7. A box to comment on what I was doing right at that moment.
  8. Are tasks that are due right now complete?
  9. Other than filling out this form, have you been online since last survey?
  10. If you were online, what was it to do?
  11. Number of minutes online since last survey.
  12. 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. đŸ™‚

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.

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Twitter, Heroin and Time-Warping

Heroin bottle

Image via Wikipedia

Do you Twitter? Does Twitter distract you from your goals, endpoints and purposes? When using Twitter, do you lose your sense of time? Do you feel brain-drained from too much tweeting or not enough? Simple question: Are you addicted to Twitter?

Being fully engaged in any activity and feeling a sense of well-being or losing your sense of time doesn’t mean that you’re addicted. You simply could be in a state of optimal psychology referred to as Flow, a state of mind in which your skills increasingly match the challenges you face.

Whenever we experience pleasure – whether from a complement or a warm emotion or an achievement – our brains generate a remarkable cascade of bio-chemical reactions. The sense of euphoria, no matter how short or long, reinforces our desire to re-create the experience. Blogging, for example, can be a healthy release if done right.

Chemically-induced pleasures, such as those produced by drugs like heroin, easily create life-long cycles of addiction. Heroin is evil: and yet millions of good people lose themselves to it’s near-instant addiction.

Authentic experiences that require focused effort usually don’t result in addiction. Constantly refining your blogging skills, for example, can produce a euphoric state of flow without the side effect of addiction. When a behavior that doesn’t require much investment of effort but creates a chemical high, the behavior can easily transform from a healthy activity into an addiction.

Research has shown conclusively that email can be addictive. It stands to reason, then, that Twitter too can become the object of an addiction. So, how do you know if you’ve crossed from simply being a focused Twitterer in Flow into being addicted to Twitter?

An old and fairly reliable test of addiction is a clinical tool: CAGE. There are other tools which doctors and nurses use in assessing addiction, but CAGE is popular and simple. CAGE is an acronym for the following four questions:

  1. Cut down – Do you ever feel that you should cut down your tweeting?
  2. Annoyed – If someone asked you to cut down tweeting, would you get annoyed?
  3. Guilty – Have you ever felt guilty about your use of Twitter?
  4. Eye opener – Do you HAVE to tweet shortly after getting out of bed (or before)?

Now, I admit, it may sound laughable to think of Twitter as producing an unhealthy addiction. Social media addiction has received a fair amount of attention. JW Saas has an amusing blog about the problem, with an entertaining focus on Twitter. The fact is, however, our brains are wired – in varied ways – to become easily addicted to almost anything.

I predict that as we all adopt new social media tools while our world becomes increasingly reliant to electrons for our fundamental need to connect with on another, that we will all run greater risks for addictive behaviors. If you sincerely believe in the power of social media strategies to change the world for the better, then you should consider the risk of our addiction to these tools to be an important part of our ongoing social media conversation.

Why should we be afraid to discuss this? If we value the truth then fear of the truth is never a rational fear.

I love to use Twitter. Lately it’s become a sort of Social RSS for me: I can connect with good people, exchange ideas and experiences and follow leads to a disparate pool of useful or entertaining information.

Still, I find myself every now and again in a time warp: in short, I lose time and I lose focus on my goals. They aren’t major disruptions, just an interesting phenomenon. Fortunately, I always assess where I am, close up shop and return to my work and life.

If you enjoy Twitter wouldn’t you want to know that your enjoyment is real and not an addiction? There’s a lot of Twitter-heroin and time-warping in those 140 characters, isn’t there?

What about you? Do you find Twitter addictive? Can you honestly ask yourself the CAGE questions? What do you do to check your tweeting routines? Does this post help you? Or am I totally off-base and Twitter has no potential to cause any harm?

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Social Media Will Own Your Mind If You…

Do you own or rent your mind? How much equity do you have in your peace of mind? If you’re not careful, social media will own [your] mind and then rent out the space to people you’ll never even meet. If you mindlessly engage in social media, it’s easy to lose track of time, and time is life. Offered here: four pillars to maintain equity in your own mind.

The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.
William James

1. ASK: WILL ANYBODY DIE IF I DON’T SIGN UP?

It’s OK to ignore these tools. Perhaps your income depends on them. Well that’s fine, don’t listen to me then. Keep on signing up for as long as your bank account grows. It’s good for the economy.

But if you want peace of mind, you’re going to have to know what to ignore. Not every social media tool is necessary. Besides, as long as guys like Robert Scoble are around, you can be pretty sure that someone else is performing reliable testing.

Claim your name on the latest social medium before someone else does if you wish, just to be safe. But don’t go nuts thinking that the world’s fate rests on the next biggest thing. The Titanic was the next biggest thing.

2. KNOW THAT 3.2 HOURS PER DAY IS YOUR MAXIMUM 20%

Assuming that you sleep 8 hours everyday, that leaves 16 hours of potential productivity. 20% of that is 3.2 hours.

But if you consider your productive time to be closer to 8 hours, then your 20% is just 1.6 hours. So if you work between 8 and 16 hours, you have a maximum of 3.2 hours to get your best in. If that time is spent the wrong way, then 80% of your day is that much more wasted.

According to my rough calculations, then, most of us have about one and a half hours to focus on how to achieve 80% of our work. If you believe 80% of your productivity comes from social media, break your time up into three half-hour sessions. Try it for a week and evaluate your results. Refine accordingly.

3. MINDFULNESS IN ACTION

For your 20% to really pay off, you are going to need to be as mindfully engaged in your activity as possible.

  • Take note of your breathing
  • Be aware of what exactly you’re accomplishing with every online social transaction
  • Use an alarm clock to stop what you’re doing and meditate on your 20%

If you find yourself overwhelmed by it all, admit that you have a problem. It’s OK; you’re not alone. Talk to your closest friends, go for a walk, get a milkshake or schedule a session with a competent therapist. Forget stigma; think oil change. Your mental health is the most profitable asset you’ll ever have.

4. PERSONAL INTERACTION

Take time to know who are the most important one to three people in your network. They don’t need to be A-listers. In fact, they aught to be people you’ve met, people whom you know and trust.

Engage these contacts. Meet them at least once a week. Tweet up if it makes you happy. Do something old-school: hand-write them thank-you notes for being there for you or buy something cheap but fun.

Questions for Commenters:

  • What do you do to ensure you’re not renting your mind to the social media Borg?
  • How do you measure the effect of social media on your own peace of mind?
  • Are these four pillars useful?

Image: Etringita’s Photostream