No tweets for Lent

Twitter’s great.  I said as much in this Prezi, so let’s not bother with the specifics of why right now, eh?  Except to mention how I’ve met some truly excellent people because of Twitter, and my life would be far less rich without them.  Sniff.

Tai chi

These were my people. For three years.

But me and Twitter, we’d had our three year anniversary.  And I’ve empirical evidence that three years is as long as I usually love anything.  ANYTHING.  Pottery class, three years. Tai chi, three years. Jiu jitsu, three years.  Choir, three years.  Egyptian Arabic lessons, three years.  Husband, three years.

You get the picture.

Me and Twitter, we were doomed.  We needed a break from each other.  Enter Lent and a perfect opportunity to fast from the daily thoughts of 340 people.  Well, mostly.  Some of them I knew I’d still see during Lent and many of them are Facebook friends, but you get the picture.

Gone for Lent

I went for Lent.

And I should get to the point.

What did I my Twitter-less Lent teach me?  Did I learn I was truly addicted and spend the entire six weeks mumbling incoherent sentences of precisely 140 characters?  Or did I forget all about it and joyfully gambol, lamb-like, through fields of daffodils instead?

The withdrawal

I was twitchy for the first week, constantly fiddling with my phone.  And it was a full month before I stopped conjuring pithy remarks in my mind every time something amusingly mundane happened.  More alarming was how others reacted.  A handful of people not on Twitter almost reeled in shock at my announcement.  Evidently for them, Twitter partly defines me, which couldn’t have brought home more emphatically how it was time to cut back on my online interaction.  Of those on Twitter, some expressed, throughout Lent, that they regretted my departure, which was nothing other than touching.  Yep.  These were the people who, if I’d’ve died during Lent, would’ve come to my funeral.  Or would, at least, have tweeted about how they wish they could’ve come to my funeral.  Or maybe thought about tweeting about how they wish they could’ve come to my funeral and then just TwitPic’ed a photo of a nice flower* instead.

The benefits

Oh dear goodness, I had SO much more time.  Some of which I used to sleep.  Bloody Twitter had stolen my sleep.  Bloody Twitter had also stolen most of the space in my brain.  My brain had been full of nonsense about vague acquaintances, when it should’ve been partly full with my family’s news.  And partly empty.  Boy, was my head quieter.  Less spin-y. Less crazy, I-can’t-breathe, overwhelming, what-am-I-doing-next-today, look-at-this-cute-picture-of-a-cat, iPad3-is-out-let’s-all-buy-it-now.  Which meant I could concentrate better…  I properly listened when people talked… and the previously baffling plotlines of Lewis re-runs suddenly made sense, because I was there, in the moment, not distracted by 340 people.  Plus I relaxed more because hundreds of (admittedly lovely) lbrarians weren’t chatting about work in my living room after 6pm.

The downsides

I missed the camaraderie of Twitter.  I quickly remembered that, though I have plenty of hobbies and non-Twitter-friends and make efforts to go out, pre-Twitter I spent a lot of time alone with my thoughts.  And there were moments that would’ve felt so much more poignant had I shouted about them to 1,320 or so people.  Such as Wales winning the rugby Grand Slam, or TEDxCardiff 2012 or a rather curious police incident outside my house one Friday evening.

But I’m fairly resilient, and mostly coped without the banter and the broadcast.

John Donne

This is John Donne. He wasn't an island either.

More difficult was the anxiety I felt over losing touch, both personally and professionally.  I felt I’d chosen to not go to a fabulous party and had spent the entire evening thinking about what was happening at the fabulous party.  Or I’d skipped a meeting and all the big decisions about stuff that I cared about were being made at that meeting.

I’m a woman, not an island, see?

The outcome

So, it’s Easter and I’m back to using Twitter. Because there were people I truly missed.  And because it would be professionally foolhardy to stay away.  My forthcoming week illustrates this perfectly… I’m off to Glasgow for the LILAC conference, a librarian shindig to do with teaching and that, where I’ll get some excellent librarian-chum hugs and read tweets about newfangled pedagogical theories from the sessions I can’t attend.

But my six tweet-free weeks have taught me I need to modify how I use it.  More looking at the world instead of my phone.  No more post-midnight tweeting.  No more Twitter in lieu of finding something more constructive to do.  More Tweetdeck columns to organise those I follow and, hopefully, reduce some of the noise.  And maybe some unfollows.  But, er, not YOU obviously.

To those who sent me lovely (and professionally advantageous) messages during Lent, I thank you for thrusting temptation in my way.  I wobbled occasionally, reading some tweets, favouriting a handful and sending three direct messages, but I did no public tweeting.  I ate obscene amounts of chocolate instead.  Though didn’t joyfully gambol amidst daffodils.  No, not even once.

* those who know me will realise I’d prefer a photo of a potato or some bubblewrap

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2 thoughts on “No tweets for Lent

  1. Interesting thoughts Sarah (and having done a whole 8 days without social media last year I recognise a fair amount of this). I think I’ve found a nice balance with social media/twitter these days where I largely ignore it at weekends, mainline in during office hours and some week day evenings….still seem to have a stupidly high tweets/day average…

    Also having know you in the flesh three years, I assume we’re never talking again now… 😉

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