No Twitter Challenge — Done

31 Jan 2022

It’s the end of January, and hence the end of the No Twitter Challenge. How did it go?

The first thing to say is that I did indeed stick to it (my version of it) for the entire month. After having removed the app from the suggestions on my iPhone home screen, I was quickly fell out of the habit of reaching for it whenever I had a moment. The nearest I came to cracking was notifications; I’d left this on so I could still see DMs and replies, but if you don’t look at it for a while Twitter gets needy. It starts popping up notifications about posts it thinks you’d like in order to tempt you back. Tellingly, none of the ones it tried even came close to doing so.

The thing that surprised me was how little I missed it. I did miss the personal interactions with people, usually those I know in real life, that happen from time to time, but a bit of distance made me realise that these are relatively rare sunbeams through a massive cloud of passive, low-value background noise. There’s certainly value to be had on Twitter, but the amount of effort it takes to extract it has become onerous. It no longer seems like a good way to spend time, at least in the way I was using it.

So what did I do with all the time freed up by taking a break? Sadly, there’s not much to tell on this front — for various reasons, the Twitter fast coincided with a particularly busy time both at home and at work, so even with less time on social media I didn’t have an opportunity to take up cabinetmaking or learn the oboe. I’ve managed to post on here a little more than I would otherwise have (although this may have been due to the twentieth anniversary putting it into my mind), and I’ve read more. Instead of dropping into Twitter, I’d open the Kindle app and read a page or two, or catch up on my RSS feeds.

I’ve also, like it seems everyone else, started playing Wordle. That game is notable for how little it demands your time — one brief puzzle and then it’s No Wordle For You until the next day. This is the complete antithesis of Twitter, and indeed most of the modern app and media landscape, which are consciously and insidiously designed to monopolise a much of your attention as possible, whether you want them to or not. Wordle, being simple and not requiring much in the way of resources to run, has the luxury of not needing to make money1, but it offers an interesting contrast to the business model that seems to dominate technology at the moment.

In conclusion, I’m glad I did the challenge. It allowed me some space to reconsider my use of, and relationship to, the main social media platform that I use, both what I get out of it and what that costs. I’m not going to start preaching about any particular approach to this or any other service on the basis of my experience, but I am going to make some more permanent changes to my own behaviour. While I’m not going to make my absence from Twitter permanent, I am going to vastly reduce the time I devote to it. Hopefully this will force me to become more efficient at finding the good stuff, but at the very least it will limit the down side. The key thing is to be mindful of my time, and how I choose to spend it. Twitter is only one facet of this, but it’s a start.

  1. Update: Mere hours after I posted this, Wordle was acquired by the New York Times for a “seven-figure sum”. They’ve yet to say anything about changes to the gane, but they’ll presumably be looking to recoup their investement somehow. [back]

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