Reflecting on My Twitter Sabbatical, 1 Week In

I ceased tweeting seven days ago with a simple message.

I don’t miss it. I don’t miss reading what people are reading. I don’t miss watching what people are watching. I don’t miss being an online voyeur into other people’s lives. I don’t miss the retweets, and the retweets of the retweets. I don’t miss 10 people trending the same topic, and 10 more people echoing the trend 10 hours later because they just logged onto Twitter and felt like sharing what they just learned. I don’t miss the chatter. I don’t miss the noise. I don’t miss much.

I don’t know what that means. Maybe it’s too soon to reflect.

My blog post on taking a break received little fanfare around the web, far less than prior Twitter actions I’d announced in the past. In the days after sharing my reasons in April 2009 for Twitter purging, I observed ricocheting reflections from Heather Padgett, Mike Langford, Scott Horvath, Liz Hover, Todd Jordan, Neal Wiser.

Not that I expected fanfare. Maybe I changed my Twitter strategies too often for people to care anymore. I emailed a group of folks who I knew followed my tweets and I shared a link to my action. Some people emailed back that they appreciated the message and were considering similar measures, having also grown tired of the noise filtering into their streams from people they followed. Over 80% of the people I emailed didn’t respond; I don’t know what that means.

Twitter usage is changing. Social networking usage is changing. An early adopter, I drank the Kool-Aid and recognized the benefits. I continue to offer advice to organizations why this or that tool is best, and suggest reasons for adopting it in the workplace. But from a personal side? From someone who drank the juice? When I look back over the past week and notice my productivity skyrocketed, it’s clear as day that my tweeting was unproductive before.

While I credit the tool for helping me secure speaking presentations and networking opportunities, I do not miss at all the social conversations for the people who I would converse with on Twitter I can separately converse with by email, Skype, Google Talk, Facebook, LinkedIn, you name it. Granted, those tools are not as real-time as Twitter; but with a 50 million global user base, the world is not on Twitter so why should I feel any different? I don’t care to know everything someone is up to, nor do I care anymore to share my updates multiple times a day. What if everyone could only send three tweets every day? When and if I return to tweeting, perhaps I’ll do just that: quality over quantity, enhancement over noise.

I’m not saying goodbye to Twitter, but I won’t be sending another tweet any time soon because, frankly, it doesn’t do anything for me anymore.

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Comments

  1. says

    Ari – like I said before, it’s great to you’re calling your own game (game over?).

    I too find it very difficult sometimes to focus on work that needs to get done because of Twitter – no wait – because of my urge to “check” Twitter. Twitter is powerful in many ways, but it’s not so powerful that it wastes my time. Only I have that power.

    On the personal side, I do get a lot from Twitter. I’ve met so many new friends because of it (like Danny, Ria Sharon, Ted Villa…). Heck, I might have not met Joe Waters, who lives 5 minutes from me, if it wasn’t for Twitter.
    .-= New from John Haydon: How To Get More Comments With Social Media (Day 12) =-.

  2. says

    Well, Ari, you are starting a trend – and that’s perfectly fine. :-)

    I personally feel people should use Twitter as they please. I too can find days where I don’t check Twitter. I just get the twenty tweets from the RSS-feed, and when there’s nothing new, that’s just fine…

    True Twitter Power lies in always being fully “on” when you are in social media forums. When the plug is out, that’s just it. You can always check whether people begin to miss your tweets. When that happens, you have brought value to people. If not, well, then you’re probably right.

    I believe Twitter could do more to announce their checked profiles since spammers ARE destroying the positive effect of Twitter. When you get an announcement – by mail – that someone follow you, they only tell how many followers the user has. Nothing about how many tweets they have made. Countless times you see users called “johnsomething009″, and it’s just a spammer who needs a cheap backlink to some useless MLM-project this man/woman is running at the moment.

    When Twitter decides to clean up their user base is the moment when Twitter can, again, become a safe place to share information. To be effective you need real figures instead of auto-follows and spammers.

    Keep up the good work, and enjoy the break. :-)
    .-= New from Henrik Blunck: Article Databases — Not Half Bad =-.

  3. says

    You know what? I think this whole debacle is being overthought. No-one said you had to use Twitter ALL THE TIME. So what? You’re changing your user habits. My Twitter usage goes up and down too. You’re allowed to do what you want. One of my firm beliefs is that there are no rules here. And anyone else reading your article should remember that it’s ok to relax.
    .-= New from Liz Hover: My dog’s blog gets nominated for Canadian Weblog Award =-.

  4. says

    Maybe you should remove the Re-Tweet button at the bottom of your posts too?

    I often get frustrated with the “noise” and spam on Twitter, it is just as easy unfollow as it is to follow. Personally, I have tried many social networking sites, and by far, Twitter still provides me with the most interaction and networking abilities. It is also in the top 4 at all times for traffic to my site, through re-tweets.

    I am still a believer in it’s ability…… sorry, didn’t re-tweet this article :-)
    .-= New from Keith@Need Information: Add Multiple Feeds to Facebook Fan Page =-.

  5. says

    Ari – Your reasons for getting off Twitter for a while are the exact reasons why I have not had any inclination to use Foursquare or Gowalla. I just don’t need to know where people are minute of the day at every restaurant, bar, library, etc. – even if they are my good friends and they are only right down the road from me. I just don’t want to or need to know. And yeah, I know some may scoff at this reason because it’s the same one that a lot of people gave about Twitter (and still do give) when it first came out “Why would I want to know what other people are thinking right now?” but in many ways, it’s a valid point. I just don’t want to know.

    Filtering through all of noise on Twitter is becoming a massive problem, no doubt about that. One of the things I try very hard to help me with this is to take every weekend off from Twitter, and really, from most forms of social media. The weekend is my time to re-engage with the rest of the real world, and kind of go back to a little simpler time. It may not work for everyone, but it helps me manage everything.

    Something I just realized that I think is kind of interesting: Even though you’re off Twitter now for a while, your blog still asks commenters for their Twitter IDs. Not trying to be a smartass by pointing that out; just thought it was interesting given this post.

    Best of luck in however you decide to use Twitter in the future!

    • Ari Herzog says

      I initially asked for Twitter IDs more for you than for me, presuming you would like to tweet each other.

      I just removed the plugin, by the way…

  6. Ari Herzog says

    John: Urge or no urge, you agree that Twitter causes you unproductivity. And therein lies the rub; either you loosen the noose and follow your urge less or you tighten the noose and take a break. Like Liz comments below, there are no rules.

    Henrik: If you go into your settings and uncheck the email notifier, you won’t know (nor likely care anymore) who is following you. I’ve always thought that it doesn’t matter who follows me; they’re like a fan and who am I to say so and so can’t be a fan? What I have done recently is blocked certain followers if they had names or tweeting styles that wannabe followers checking who is following me might be turned off by.

    Gordie: Where in China art thou?

    Liz: Indeed.

    Keiths 1 & 2: You think I should remove the form option to ask for a Twitter ID? I’ve thought about that lately. What do other people think?

    Glen: Too much information. Share that with your Friendster friends.

    • says

      Actually, I was talking about the re-tweet button, wondering what the use of it is if you are not using twitter anymore, I see this article has been re-tweeted 3x as of this comment, and I guess I would wonder how you feel about that “noise” :-)
      .-= New from Keith@Need Information: Blogger Luv =-.

      • Ari Herzog says

        I don’t use Mixx or Furl or Bebo, but if someone wanted to share a blog post of mine on one of those three sites, why should I prevent them? Ditto Twitter.

  7. Jennifer Wilbur says

    Hey Ari,

    Some people ebb and flow in usage (me), and others are on 24/7 (I don’t know how or why they do it). If cold turkey is your remedy, then why not? Life is about balance, and if Twitter is making you unproductive, and you’re not enjoy or seeing benefit in it, you did the right thing.

    If you come back, I’ll see you there (occasionally). If not, I’ll find you elsewhere. Good luck with this and all you’re doing.

    -Jen

    • Ari Herzog says

      I prefer hot turkey over cold turkey, unless as part of a salad or sandwich; but thanks.

  8. says

    The great thing about Twitter is that it can be used in many different ways for many different things. I don’t think there is a Twitter police out there to lock you up if you decide not to tweet as much. I am starting to feel the way you feel about Twitter somewhat and thinking it may prevent you from being as productive but I guess you have to weigh the pros and cons and adjust your Twitter strategy accordingly. Good luck!
    .-= New from Dan @ Tampa Homes For Sale: Tampa 2010 Real Estate Forecast =-.

  9. says

    There are really two things at play here, and it didn’t occur to me til I read your post.

    “Using” twitter is two different actions: posting and reading. I suspect you could cease one and not the other, to different impact.
    .-= New from Andrea Hill: Why Should I Fan Your Brand? =-.

  10. says

    Ari, interesting that you feel this way. The other day I asked for some help on Twitter and only a hand full of the 646 people following me even replied.

    In fact not many of my followers even acknowledge I exist.

    I often wonder why they are following me if they don’t care what I have to say.

    Ps: If you emailed me I would have replied. :)
    .-= New from Rose @ Rose DesRochers: Google patent and ranking =-.

    • Ari Herzog says

      Surely you grasp, Rose, that 70% of new Twitter users become inactive within 30 days, and that 50% or more of those users are so-called spammers? Thus, it’s fair to presume the 646 of your followers, unless you’ve manually blocked any, are closer to 25% of that number in reality.

      Also, keeping in mind people read tweets with different applications, let alone from around the world at different frequencies, it’s unsurprising few responded to your help request. Maybe use hashtags next time?

  11. Stacy Lukasavitz says

    I’ll admit, Ari — when I read your email saying that you were “quitting” or “taking a break” from Twitter, my first thought was “There he goes again… he’ll change his mind again soon enough” because yes, you have changed your Twitter “strategy” quite a bit. It’s not that I didn’t care, but I thought you were just Ari being Ari.

    Further thinking about it and reading you, though, I understand your reasons and applaud you for doing so. If that’s what you think you need to do, then go on with your bad self. I know that personally, I always enjoyed interacting with you on Twitter and when you started your strategy experimentation last year it was a little frustrating but I applaud your chutzpah for giving different things a go and trying to figure out what’s best for you. And I still do.

    Frankly, I know I’m an addict, and at least I know the first step is admitting it. I’ve had so many awesome things happen in my life because of Twitter to “quit cold turkey,” I feel, would be giving up some potentially great opportunities. Yet at the same time, I’m aware that it does slow down my productivity some and your hiatus is inspirational enough to make me consider following your lead … I just don’t know if I’ve got the self-discipline that you do!
    .-= New from Stacy Lukasavitz: Social media is way too smurfy these days. =-.

    • Ari Herzog says

      I must admit that my strategies in 2009 were in fact tactics. Purging followers, reciprocity, etc. are tactics.

      Taking a break from Twitter is not a tactic; this is a strategy. I expect this to be the first of many macro-scale actions in 2010 as I shift how I use social media. The “what” may remain the same, but the “how” is changing for me. Like Jeremiah Owyang’s month-long break last year which I attribute, I suspect I’ll return to the tweeting world albeit more from Andrea’s perspective as a listener and spectator, and less as a content creator.

  12. says

    Hi Ari,

    I received your email and couldn’t remember where we had met or conversed! (Sorry about that…)

    Nevertheless, I wish you the best in your current Twitter break. I did the same a couple of months ago due to illness. However, I have resumed because the publicity I send out (via Twitter, my blog and http://www.KGW.com enables me to go to movies and theater in Portland, Oregon. I’m 70 years old and spent fifty years in media. I am not heard on any radio station now, but I keep the moniker “Radio_Lady” because I used it on political websites from 2004 to 2008. Now, I am retired but still active. I don’t HAVE to blog or use any of the social media, but admit I am fascinated by what is going on.

    Twitter is fun for me! It doesn’t cost money and it keeps my mind active. I converse with many interesting people and have a debate or two — now and then — about POLITICS. I get a kick out of the fact that none of my children or grandchildren are on Twitter! What’s wrong with them? Why don’t they keep up with the modern world? (Sarcasm icon goes here!) I’m a thoroughly modern Millie (although my name isn’t Millie at all)!

    Best of luck with your business and website.

    Cordially,

    Ellen Kimball
    Portland, OR
    Tweet me @Radio_Lady
    .-= New from Ellen Kimball: XANADU straight from Broadway to Portland’s Keller Auditorium =-.

  13. says

    I really should take a break from Twitter, it is very time consuming.

    Then something good comes along today, after reading this blog post, about sending ten bucks to the Red Cross. I found out about it on Twitter, RT’d it and sent the text to give my $10. I won’t re-post the Red Cross Tweet here, but I will not Tweet again today. So, if you want to RT, or want to donate to Haiti, check out my last Tweet at http://Twitter.com/MattPellerin.

    Thanks for the email today, and the food for thought regarding Twitter Ari.
    .-= New from Matt Pellerin @ PV Homes: Paradise Valley Market Statistics – November 2009 =-.

    • Ari Herzog says

      Thanks for mentioning Haiti and the Red Cross. It’s important to note the pass-through to Haitian relief only occurs by texting the Red Cross; donating on their website will be more general, per Jillian York’s latest news.

  14. L Castellucci says

    And here I am just starting to give Twitter a try again. I still find the noise to signal ration intimidating and simply don’t spend all my time online, which always seemed to me to be the only way to get anything out of Twitter. Mind you, I’ve never been a social media power user. I think I just don’t instinctively have the sorting/filtering/streaming mindset that makes these things useful.

  15. says

    I think, in terms of getting responses, the only way Twitter would be highly effective is if you personally knew everyone you followed, and those people were all in a tight group that only followed a small amount of people. I think it’s the lack of response that causes a lot of the disillusionment on Twitter, because people think “I have thousands of friends, it should be easy to get at least hundreds of responses” but that is rarely the case.

    I am interested to see if and how your perspective changes about Twitter in time… whether you will find a way to make usage of it more rewarding, or if it becomes more rewarding to just permanently abandon it and focus on other avenues of social media or simply blogging.

    Thanks for the update!
    .-= New from Kikolani @ Blogging Tips: How Blog Commenting Has Made a Difference =-.

    • Ari Herzog says

      I think I know how I will use Twitter differently, but it’s too soon to say for sure. I also would betray my own branding by abandoning it; whether I use Twitter to the extent I use Facebook, or to the extent I use Plaxo, though, is to be determined.

    • Ari Herzog says

      As I think more about the Twitter experience, if I am following X, there is a reason behind that follow. But if X tweets 30 times a day, does X expect I will read everything, and if not, then why tweet so much? If X tweeted thrice daily, and kept to that regimen, then I’d know what’s important. I’d also be more apt to follow more people.

  16. says

    Saw your comment on my post…interesting take, Ari. See, I’m three days in and I miss Twitter desperately! I find myself digging for news I’d usually catch there, and filling out my online social life with places I’d otherwise never consider chatting (Yelp Talk boards, for instance). Today, I was in a Russian grocery and saw something funny, so I took a picture with my iPhone…but I had nowhere to send it. And those @replies that have shown up during my time off are “burning a hole in my pocket” so to speak (wow, what a stupid analogy!)

    I think that says more about the difference in the way you and I use Twitter than anything though.

    • Ari Herzog says

      Like Andrea commented earlier, there’s a difference between not using Twitter and not sending tweets. While I’ve stopped sending tweets, I’m clicking over to the site and perusing tweets no more than five minutes per day. I’m also adding folks to this or that Twitter list who I figure I’d enjoy learning from down the road.

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