For various reasons, I never joined Facebook. First of all, I was never very curious about what my old acquaintances from high school were doing, and I didn’t feel I needed yet another thing to “check” constantly, furthering the destructive cycle of internet addiction. I also didn’t like the lack of control I had over what got shared and with whom — much better to stick to the platform of blogging from that perspective. As the pressure to join grew, I tried to make an end-run around the phenomenon by joining up with the next big thing: Twitter. Over time, I became a prolific Twitterer and recently reached over 1000 followers.
And so it seemed like a good time to ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” I’m not really getting into contact with people I wasn’t already in contact with through blogging — I strictly limit the number of people I follow, because the flow of tweets can quickly become a massive flood. I don’t think there’s any sense in which I’m advancing my career or even promoting my work in a way that surpasses what the blog was already capable of. Thus the two canonical uses of social media, networking and self-promotion, don’t seem to be operative for me. (I leave to one side the possibility of carrying on “debates” via Twitter, as every one I’ve witnessed has been singularly unedifying.)
What I enjoy most about Twitter is the wit involved. I like throwing out pithy witticisms, and I like reading a stream of posts punctuated by them. Almost every morning, I laugh out loud at something and share it with The Girlfriend. Much has been made of the question of why academics should use social media, and I think that the discipline of short posts would probably be good for most academics’ writing — at the very least, it could lead to more memorable conference presentations that are easier to follow.
Yet I find that Twitter has cannibalized my blogging to a large extent. I fire off little remarks and don’t give them time to congeal into anything more substantial. There are cases where I’ve been on a roll with a series of tweets and decide to turn them into a lengthier post, but I still think that on net, Twitter has resulted in less longer-form blogging — and I think that’s problematic for my writing overall. It’s one thing to get more practice in brevity, but it’s quite another to let brevity take the place of longer, more developed thoughts.
Hence I’m planning on fasting from Twitter for a week, just to see how it feels. I imagine I’ll return to it in some form, but I need greater clarity on what I want to use the format for. The purpose of this post is in part to make a public statement that will help me to hold myself accountable, but I think these issues are probably worth thinking through for a lot of us here.