How Twitter Took Over My Life (and what I did about it)

Posted 2013-07-02
Written by Matt Frost

I realize that the title of the post isn't entirely accurate, in fact, it's probably not accurate at all. Twitter didn't actively do anything to take over my life, I allowed to Twitter to take over my life. I'd like to think it was a gradual loss of control, but in all reality; I think I just didn't want to admit to myself that I lacked self-control. So I'm here to say it, I have lacked self-control in this area and it's the reason that at this time I can no longer have a Twitter account.

I have to admit it's a bit weird too, I'm so used to always knowing how people are doing, what they are doing and what they are working on; that not knowing all that makes me feel as though I'm missing something. I am missing something, I'm missing quick exchanges with people that I don't get to see very often, I'm missing those real time checkins that make it easy for me to know all is right with the world. Perhaps it's just a bad case of FOMO, as much as I'd like to claim 'Seriously bro, No FOMO', there's probably an aspect of that there as well. So here I am, the rest of the world, most of my tech friends and all the funny, entertaining and enlightening people that I once followed (or that followed me) and maybe even my mom are all on Twitter. I'm here twabstaining by my lonesome, but seriously don't feel bad for me...

Self-esteem

All throughout the extremely active period of my Twitter proflie (think 15k tweets in 15 months or so) how I viewed myself as a professional software developer and person was largely influenced by how things were going on Twitter. And yes, I realize how sad that statement is, and worse yet that it's the truth. So when I would get a rash of new followers, I would perk up; there was some pep in my step if you will. I was becoming increasingly popular and the world was my oyster! When people would unfollow me, I suddenly had no idea what I was talking about. I was a terrible dev and a worse person, the fact that I watched (and occasionally live-tweeted) sporting events was downright obnoxious (that's probably part true) and life would never be the same again. The times in the middle were cool, there was no reason to get excited and no reason to be down, I could just be...as long as I was careful to not tweet something that might cause someone to unfollow me, that'd be bad.

Time

There's nothing more fun that checking twitter as soon as you wake up, after breakfast, before starting work, while working, after working, before you spend time with the kids, during your time with the kids, after your time with the kids, before/during/after dinner, before taking a shower, during the shower, after the shower, before bed, getting out of bed to check it and probably a few other times that I'm forgetting about. Seriously, I couldn't go anywhere without that infernal phone being in my hand. I couldn't miss out! The conversations were moving so fast, I was meeting people at a rapid rate and wanted to make sure they all knew how cute, funny and smart I was (10 points for that reference).

My time with my kids suffered, we'd go out and do something fun and I'd be on the phone checking the tweets. My kids wanted to spend time with me and I wanted to read something about dependency injection or how awful PHP was and how stupid I was for writing it. So when I told my son the other day, "hey buddy, daddy deleted his twitter account" - he responded with "yay, now you can spend more time with us!". That felt worse than a million unfollows and at the same time, better than a million retweets of one of my famously stupid jokes (which I'm assuming feels really good, that never actually happened). Seeing him so excited gave me hope that things could be better; I could be a better, more focused dad and spend the time with my kids without the constant harassment of that stupid bird icon in the top left hand corner of my phone screen. I figured I owe it to them to try.

Crazy Train

So I'm not gonna lie, I like attention. I like being the center of attention and I like people to see what I'm saying and respond favorably. Surprisingly enough, I've done a pretty good job of not getting into vitriolic tweet-versations about controversial topics, but I want to! I want to show you all how wrong you are, you silly nincompoops! Seriously though, when I say something that gets RT'd by people that I respect, my pride swells within me, I'm a smarty-pants I tell myself. I'm starting to see how this tidal wave of emotion and thought, coming from a social network, threatens to smash all that i am into a million pieces.

You see, I try not to take myself too seriously (shocking I know) and more than I worry about stepping on other people's toes or committing some sort of heinous social (media) faux pas, I worry about how I feel about myself. Even though I don't always know who I am (in the expressive sense), I know when I'm way out of whack. When I start getting way out of whack, I go into weird phases and have to try to be someone else. There's been hipster Matt, punk rock Matt, Notorious MAT and many other personas that grow out of this insecurity that lives inside me. Putting myself in situations where I don't just take a break from trying to impress everyone with my wit and admittedly hilarious jokes really wears me down emotionally, yes I get worn down emotionally by a website...sigh.

Self-Control

This is probably the most relevant piece of the whole puzzle here though, I lack self-control. I don't like how being constantly engaged with people all day makes me feel, I don't like laying in bed and thinking of something that I think my followers (which is an obnoxious term) will laugh at or enjoy. That just doesn't make me happy, it makes me exhausted all the time and I've got enough going right now. I, generally speaking, don't live a very structured life; I'm not a huge fan of schedules despite my need for them, I just do what I do. If I happen to get stuck on Twitter for 2 hours because I'm having a conversation, so be it! I've missed meals, put off tasks that were important like laundry so I could stay in the loop; seriously who does that? Who doesn't eat so they can be on Twitter? This guy!

I've told myself that once I had a bit more discipline in this area I'd consider coming back to twitter, it would have to be different though. I would have to have large periods of the day where it wasn't anywhere near me...right now I don't feel certain that I can do that. Maybe some day I'll mature to the point where I can enjoy social media responsibly, I mean really that's all it really is, a lack of maturity and control over how I choose to spend my time. So to that end it might be fixable, maybe by that point I won't even care...here's to hoping.

Do you even tweet bro?

There are a ton of completely valid uses for twitter, so the point of this is not to paint some picture of Twitter being a complete menace to society. Nor is the purpose of this to tell you that you should quit using twitter, but maybe the things I'm saying resonate with you. I know it's only been a week, but I've yet to drop dead, lose my job or have sudden fits of sobbing (in addition to my normal fits of sobbing). I know how much I'm missing when it comes to staying involved in projects and the latest trends, I've had a lot of people that I respect tell me that I should have a read only account. I've considered that...but don't feel confident that I could have a read-only account right now.

All this being said, I think it'd be really irresponsible for me to say, "I'm quitting twitter and never coming back". I don't know if that's what I'm doing, I'm taking it all a day at a time. I might be back, I might not, I honestly have no idea. If it ever feels right to come back, I will. I have found that I enjoy the conversations I have with people much more when I'm doing more than barfing 140 characters in their general direction. So for now, it's a new adventure for me; a quieter more introspective adventure. One in which I can I step outside of the Twitter aviary (Liam taught me that word) and learn more about myself, seems like that's probably a bit more important than hoping someone else finds me funny or smart.

tldr;

Twitter dictated a lot of how I felt about myself, how I treated others and how I viewed things and I didn't like that, so I deleted my account. NBD really

Comments

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Patrick Schwisow

2013-07-02

My intention reading this was to find out why you'd made this horrible mistake, but it looks like your points are well thought out and completely reasonable. I cannot come up with any arguments that are not selfish (because I know this means I will not have as many opportunities to talk with you).

I would only ask one thing: Please keep blogging and have your blog announce the posts on Twitter. I think you're very insightful, and I don't want to miss out on that.

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Tyler

2013-07-03

Can you please perform as Notorious MAT?

This is awesome, super inspirational. Since you told me about this I've really cut back on my SM intake and have felt a lot better because of it.

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