inessential by Brent Simmons

On Taking Breaks

Marco was recently in a fight on the internet. I missed it and don’t know what it was about. I have no interest in being a spectator in these kinds of things — and if they were to happen to me (they don’t) I’d stop using my Twitter account.

Because that’s the thing — though it may have been started by a blog post, it all happens on Twitter.

Even though I follow people I like and respect, there’s no way around seeing some of the crap that happens on Twitter. Even if you don’t use Twitter at all, you will have seen articles about people being harrassed and threatened. You will have noticed the pure toxic sludge that pours through the service. (A hypothetical “Dawn of the Idiocracy” prequel would feature Twitter prominently.)

And it’s worse than any blog comments system, because if you use it, anybody can put something in front of your face whether you want it or not.

Twitter is also wonderful, and I get so much value out of it. But it’s like 51% good and 49% bad.

I don’t see it getting any better. Hopefully it can hold the line at just-barely-worth-it. (But the recent changes to the timeline make that a little less likely.)

So here’s what I do: I think of Twitter as part of my workplace. When I’m done for the night, my iPhone and laptop stay in my office. I’ll often pick up my iPad and do some reading — but there are no Twitter apps on my iPad and I don’t go to on my iPad.

Some other things: Sheila and I eat all our meals together, but we don’t take out our phones while eating. We don’t take out our phones while going for our nightly walk.

In other words: if we’re hanging out, we’re hanging out with each other rather than with ourselves and the entire Twitter world. That world can go away for a while — it’ll still be there later, and it will still be the same stuff it is every single day.

Twitter is addicting in the same way slot machines are. You get small bits of pleasure at random intervals, and it doesn’t really change. So you keep pulling the lever or pushing the button.

And it’s cheap, too — 140 characters can’t compare to the grown-up pleasure of a good conversation with a real person.

So I just leave it alone more. And I’m fine. Better than fine.