It has been over two months and I feel better.
@hyfen pong— Andrey 🦃 Petrov (@shazow) April 20, 2007
My first tweet.
I haven’t tweeted in over two months.
This is very unusual for me. I’ve been an avid tweeter since 2007. Writing tweets has become a part of my identity to the point where most my bios mention that I’m a tweet ghostwriter—composing and editing tweets for friends is one of my favourite things to do.
Sometimes I worry the NSA might be spying on me through my desktop's webcam. Then I remember it's Linux and even I can't get it to work.— Andrey 🦃 Petrov (@shazow) February 23, 2014
My most popular tweet.
I stopped reading and posting to Twitter for my mental health, but it’s not just about Twitter.
Modern life is a minefield of addiction. I’m not talking about substance addiction, but behavioural addiction. News with clickbait titles, discussions filled with polarizing trolls, mobile games with clever viral loops, social media with a never-ending stream of dopamine hits.
Do you ever spend an hour just reading news? New tabs sprouting faster than we can close them. Just when we get close, we’re back to where we started—checking Twitter again, or Reddit, or Hacker News, or Slack. A few moments passed, so there is plenty of fodder for some fresh tabs to work through.
Do you ever feel justified being inside the feedback cycle? It feels like learning, but do we ever learn anything? It feels like engaging, or is it fluff? Are we even paying attention? Or are we coasting on autopilot with a machete through a never-ending forest of tightly-packed tidbits because that’s what we’ve trained ourselves?
Doing something about it
I started meditating daily exactly one year ago. I’ve been using Headspace, but my year subscription is about to run out and I’ll probably move onto something else.
Eventually, I noticed something: Meditation calmed my mind. Duh. But I noticed something else: Reading social media and news would make my mind more turbulent. After catching up on my Twitter feed, I would be become distractible and unmotivated. I noticed that my willpower would diminish and I would get depressed, falling further into the cycle of feeding on news because it’s the only thing that felt easy enough to do.
For a while, I used meditation as a counterbalance to binging on the hail of micro dopamine hits. It helped, but it was not enough.
For the past year, I looked for things in my life that trigger me into negative behaviour. Things that make me less than the kind of person I aspire to be. Removing them has been difficult, and I’ve found that the best way for me has been to pick one thing at a time and quit it cold turkey. Once my lifestyle adapted to its absence, I could move on to the next thing.
Most recently, I’ve been focusing on quitting reading discussions which draw me into petty arguments and quitting news sources that are infinitely abundant. This means quitting some Slacks, not reading the Reddit front page, and not reading Twitter.
It has been two months. I’ve been more productive and my mood has been more stable, but I still feel the temptation to fall back into that cycle. I need to be careful.
Since I eliminated Twitter, I started writing more long-form content again. I want to encourage myself to do more of that and I want to share my posts with my followers, so I’m going to try a new set of rules for myself:
- I’m not going to read my Twitter feed.
- I’m going to avoid replying on Twitter (or on social media in general) and instead try to have more private conversations instead. Please DM me when possible.
- I am only going to post on my Twitter to share long-form content.
For people I’m following, I’m trying to subscribe to your blogs and newsletters whenever possible.
If you’d like to catch up, share something cool with me, or just miss my tweets: Send me a message and we can chat!