Just over ten years ago I quit smoking. I had tried for many years but the thing I realized is that you can only quit when you know it is time to quit. Like a lot of smokers I had tried to quit with the aid of nicotine gum or patches, but it never really took until one day I thought: I really don’t want to be a smoker anymore.
Of course it was still hard. I had to figure out some things to do that worked for me to help me quit (eating, eating, eating). It was a lot of work but I finally managed to quit for good sometime in October of 2002.
On Friday morning I was making my son’s lunch for school. Something that usually takes me no more than 10 minutes had taken almost 20. I realized I was taking breaks and following an interesting conversation on Twitter instead of doing what I needed to be doing.
When I snapped out of it and went back to getting my son ready for school I thought it’d be a fun experiment to skip Twitter the rest of the day. That night I shared with some friends what I had done and some said they had thought about doing this too. It felt good finding other things to do that day so I thought of extending it through the weekend.
The weekend was a little tougher. I ended up getting stuck indoors with a bad case of pollen allergies and every time I reached for my phone to check in on Twitter I was able to catch myself. A few times I actually loaded the app only to realize what I was doing and close it. It’s not as destructive as smoking, but it sure feels a lot like the same sort of addiction.
I would call myself a very heavy user of Twitter. I just looked and I’ve marked 33,621 tweets as “favorites”. I have only tweeted 9,252 times (in seven years that’s 3.9 tweets per day) and I would bet a full 80% of those are actually replies/mentions. I read Twitter a lot, but I don’t tweet nearly as much as some heavy users. I just love to read it and converse with people. I have been doing this since November of 2006 so taking a break meant I had some extra time on my hands I haven’t had in a while.
This weekend didn’t feel like I was missing anything. I found other things to do. I watched Down By Law and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai which lead to my reading Rashōmon. I spent a couple hours on Sunday just drawing. A few hours with Ridiculous Fishing and an hour or so with The Cave.
Back in 2002 after I’d quit smoking a funny thing happened: I got a terrible case of tendonitis in my hands and wrists. I knew people who had it and I figured it was just something that happens to people who type for a living until my doctor suggested it might have to do with quitting smoking. I used to take breaks pretty regularly to go smoke which gave myself a rest. But now I would work straight through. Four hour stretches without a break was just too much for my wrists and fingers.
So on Sunday night when some friends were talking about new games they were playing and looking forward to, I realized I’d cut out out my way of keeping track of new releases, news of the world, and news of tech. I wasn’t just missing out on what my friends are doing, I’d cut myself off from many other things I am interested in.
So this morning I bought a digital subscription to the NY Times. I added a couple more feeds to my newsreader for tech and game news. I still have to figure out what to do about missing out hearing what my friends are doing. I might look into some kind of Twitter summary service. Perhaps a very small Twitter list.
I don’t know if I am off Twitter for good. I still haven’t read it though I did tweet a link to something this weekend and replied to some people who replied to me. I might pare down who I follow to just friends and only check-in when I actually have free time and there isn’t anything else to do. I don’t know.
In the end it’s just fun to break shit every once in a while and see what happens. Cutting Twitter out for an extended period is definitely going to break some shit. I can’t wait to see what happens.