January 6, 2017

Around a year ago, I deleted my Twitter account. I didn’t completely delete everything, but I removed all my tweets, removed the app from my phone, and basically stopped accessing the website. It might have been one of the nicest decisions I’ve made as a grown-up.

I have a personal theory about social media. It’s completely based on whatever I find on the internet, so it’s 100% accurate. But I like to believe that the more active you are on social media, the more your brain struggles to keep up with whatever you throw at it. The cognitive load is simply too much for the amount of time you spend in front of a screen.

I think humans are exceptionally good at adapting to whatever is around. Our brains are terrific at conditioning themselves to whatever we expose them to. Twitter happens to be a platform where information is spread in phrases not more than 140 characters long. Daily (or in worse cases, hourly) consumption of Twitter would then mean that we’re telling our brain - “here’s something for you to read, but since it’s not longer than 140 characters, adjust your attention span accordingly”.

Discussions on Twitter tend to be in the form of tweet threads, which for the most part are OK. But it’s difficult to get into a normal discussion on the platform because of its short-form nature. It feels more like having an argument of witty comebacks instead of having a debate. The 140 character limit is simply not enough to allow for enough information.

All this isn’t to say that there aren’t valid use cases for Twitter. But if I remember correctly, the whole pitch for Twitter in the beginning was to “tell the world what you’re up to, within 140 characters”. So if you keep that in mind, Twitter today is being used for use cases which it simply wasn’t meant for.

Like I said, it’s a theory. It seems to fit how I work, but it may or may not fit to how others work. In my case, I did notice that my attention span increased a few weeks after I quit Twitter. It’s still not at a level where I’d like it to be, but that’s probably because I still haven’t deleted Facebook. But that’s something for a different post.