As of Monday this week, I vehemently disliked going on my Twitter account. Three days later, I’ve applied some mindfulness to Twitter, and actually enjoy checking my feed a few times a day.
In the 1990s, a British anthropologist theorized that there is a limit for the number of people with whom we can have meaningful relationships. That limit is 150 people. So why the hell was I following around 300 people on Twitter?
Last month, I wrote “Cutting Through The Noise”, reflecting on my February 2010 Media Blackout. My basic conclusion was that I needed to be more mindful about communication and consumption:
“That’s what my February Media Blackout revealed to me, that I have just “defaulted” to various ways of consuming without thinking about the why.”
This week, I began thinking about my journey on Twitter. I joined right at the crest of its popularity, in May 2009, and was initially gung-ho. I followed anyone I found remotely interesting. Then, in the past ten months, I’ve definitely become ambivalent to Twitter. I took a complete hiatus for three months, not posting at all from the beginning of my blackout in February to setting up autopost for my blog in May. With a few exceptions, I haven’t tweeted much at all aside from this autoposting.
So here we are in December, and I started to thinking about “the why” for Twitter. Why not just delete my Twitter? Why not remove it from my life? I like the connections and communications that Twitter brings. That’s why anyone is on it. So why did I start to dislike it?
I disliked it because I was following too many people. The 300 people I was following as of Monday included people/accounts I didn’t know or care about, people who’s tweets didn’t add anything into my life, and people whom I felt obligated to follow. On Tuesday, I took a knife to who I was following. And if I’m not following you anymore, it’s okay! I’m still accessible (just @ me).
To do this, I applied a simple question of value: Did seeing this person’s tweets in my timeline add any value to my life? It was a hard question to ask sometimes, but if I wanted to honestly and mindfully use Twitter, I needed to ask it. Interestingly, Twitter itself recommends this kind of mindfulness:
“If you follow too many people, there’s no way you can keep up with everyone’s updates in your timeline. If you need to communicate with someone but don’t need to see their updates everyday, you don’t have to follow them. Send them an @reply when you need to; it doesn’t require following and your update will appear in the person’s replies tab, so they can reply back.”
I now follow 77 people, and each adds some sort of value. I’m sure this number will increase, and I’ll assess as I go. Regardless, I’d highly recommend this for anyone on the fence about Twitter. How many followers do you have?