I recently started using Twitter. I fully expected to hate it with a burning passion, never post updates other than automatic links to blog posts, and look down on any of my readers who used a tool that more than any other is emblematic of The TL;DR Generation.
Since then, I’ve come to a new conclusion. Twitter doesn’t suck, but most of the people who use it do. They think of Twitter as 2011’s glorified and public instant messaging service. It’s a Facebook wall writ large. They update their twitter feeds dozens if not hundreds of times per day, 99% of the time with trivial conversations between their @friends. For them, Twitter encourages all of the worst traits of my generation: Narcissism, constant distraction, and baseless self-esteem (It takes a pretty special-feeling snowflake to think that the world is interested in your every 140-character thought).
When I first dipped my toes into the world of Twitter, many moons ago, this was my first impression. I ran screaming in the opposite direction.
But today, I’m reversing my earlier judgement. Twitter is proving to be a useful tool in my life, despite the idiocy that permeates so much of it. If you haven’t already, here are a few rules to follow to maximize the value and minimize the stupid in your Twitter feed.
1) Don’t Feel Obligated To Tweet
Most Twitter users should only be using it as a means of collecting informtation, not putting it out. I am a Professional Internet Celebrity (Tongue: 75% in cheek), so I update my feed with thoughts, links, and automatic updates that alert readers when I have a new post up. I don’t have much of a following yet, but I would like to. (Follow me, bitches).
But if you have no aspirations to internet fame, Twitter’s value-added to your life is that it allows you to follow a variety of interesting people, see what they’re reading, and hopefully learn something useful. Unless you are consciously trying to build a following for a specific purpose, your urge to tweet is fueled by – what exactly?
2) Check Your Feed Infrequently
Twitter can easily become a constant source of distraction, if you let it. But you don’t want to waste your time checking your feed 10x per day on your SmartPhone. Will there ever be a situation where a tweet landed in your feed, and needed to be read right that instant? Probably not.
Go on an Information Diet, and batch your feed-checking to one session per day. The world won’t come to an end, and you’ll have more hours and focus in your days.
3) Ruthlessly purge the stupidity from your Following list
Twitter only clogs your mind and life with retards if you allow it to. The vast majority Twitter users offer no value. Their feeds exist to provide (psychological) value to their lives, not yours. The more people you follow – both on Twitter, and in a broader sense – the less attention you can give to each. If you notice someone habitually clogging up your feed with bad jokes, generic details about their life, and links you instantly regret clicking, Unfollow that shit. I don’t care if it’s your best friend, your childhood hero, or your own kid. Carry the Unfollow Cannon in your back pocket whenever you log in, and keep it on a hair trigger.
4) Follow me
And follow the people I follow. I’ve already done you the favour of selecting a classy group for you to lose your Twitter virginity to in a 40-person gang-bang. Dive on in.