Bird Brain: Why I'm limiting Twitter

<p>The iPhone has deflated my brain. &nbsp;Over the last couple years, it has become increasingly harder for me to be mentally present in life&rsquo;s best moments. &nbsp;It&rsquo;s as though my internal thinking has shifted, and perhaps you feel the same way. &nbsp;I am less contemplative and increasingly narcissistic. &nbsp;&ldquo;How would I phrase this in a tweet?&rdquo; &ldquo;This scene would look great under an Instagram filter!&rdquo; &ldquo;Have any of my friends checked in here before?&rdquo; &ldquo;How would my followers react if they read this?&rdquo; &nbsp;Questions like these rob me from contemplating the daily gems of life.</p><p>I read once (or twice?) that the average lifespan of a tweet is two minutes. &nbsp;The chances of someone reading it after that are pretty stinking low. &nbsp;Also of note, some of my best friends aren&rsquo;t even on Twitter! &nbsp;Now, as a finite person with only so much relational fuel in my tank, I wonder if my face-to-face relationships would benefit if I didn&rsquo;t pour so much mental energy into Twitter. &nbsp;What if instead of posting a pic of my <a href="">three year-old daughter in pig-tails eating ice cream</a>, I just sat and gazed at her all the more? &nbsp;Later, when I tell a friend about the adorable moment, I&rsquo;d hopefully have an extra sparkle in my eye that only a proud father could have.</p>

I’m mostly picking on Twitter right now, but it’s not the only culprit.  Almost every red light, grocery store line, and run to the bathroom involves checking my RSS feeds.  If that turns up empty, I’ll hop to Mail, Ego, or even fire up a quick game.  None of these things are intrinsically or morally bad, but I’m afraid my tech-hobby is turning into an addiction.  The iPhone and its social networking apps are imposing on my ability to have deep relationships with the people right in front of me.  And it’s not too difficult to find scientific studies and even books claiming that despite technology’s promise to bring people together, it often devolves that which most makes us human: meaningful relationships and artful thinking.

So now what?  I remember when I was in high-school youth group some of my friends piled up their “secular” music, doused it in lighter fluid, and lit the match.  That was never really my style, especially since I thought Dave Matthews had so much to say.  (Get it?)  In regards to this Twitter-brain I have, I won’t be running around my house, hammering Apple logos.  Nor will I be deactivating any social networks.  I have a different plan, and I’d love to hear what you think.  What if I conformed my iPhone, MacBook, and iPad into app-dedicated gadgets?  Let me show you what I mean by that.

First, my iPhone.  When I walk in the door at home, the iPhone is getting docked in the office and staying there.  I won’t be carrying it around in my pocket.  In addition to this, I’ll be scaling back Twitter clients.  Twitter App is deleted and replaced with Chirpy: a DM only client.  I prefer DM to text messaging and don't want to completely discard it it.  Feed readers and Instapaper are gone.  I also turned off my personal email accounts (Gmail and MobileMe) and most other push notifications.  My work email is still on, but set to check every 30 min.  If something is urgent, call me.  If you don’t have my phone number, it’s probably not urgent.  Oh, and here is the last thing regarding my phone.  Someone said the definition of cool is hanging out with a person and not seeing their phone.  I want to be cool.

As for my productivity machine, my Mac; Twitter and Reeder are gone from it as well.  Mail is set to check for new mail every hour.  If all goes well, this will reduce the amount of red badges and hopping that normally characterizes my dock.

If you pay attention to my blog, you know that I'm not exactly BFF with my iPad.  That’s about to change.  It will become my dedicated, time-wasting device.  Twitter, Reeder, and Instapaper are all welcome here.  I hope that by physically restricting these apps to the iPad, I’ll have less temptation when carrying around my iPhone or working on my Mac.  An ideal day for me will conclude by putting the kids to sleep, grabbing a Sam Adams & iPad, and stretching out on the couch.

My wife has gone even further.  She removed email completely from her iPhone and only checks it on the Mac at night, when the kids are sleeping and she actually has the time to respond.  The result has been more productivity and energy throughout the day.  Maybe someday I can be like Molly.

I’m curious if any of you have similar feelings about Twitter et al.  What actions have you taken to maintain a healthy balance between the web and home?  Or do you think I’m being a luddite?  Part of the reason I’m posting these thoughts is because I would love to have your feedback.  Jot a comment or shoot me an email if I’ve stirred up any feelings.


Rick Stawarz

Minneapolis, MN

I am an Apple Certified Support Professional with over a decade of experience supporting families, schools, and businesses. Tech has always captured my imagination, but it's not my only passion. I'm an ordained Anglican minister;  Aeropress is a daily ritual of mine; I've driven across Mongolia; and I'm the father of three girls. I hope to provide for you a balanced and realistic perspective into the practicality of technology.