Why I am Leaving Twitter

This is a pretty simple, low-key decision for me, but for many in today’s digerati culture, it would be an unthinkable action.  It comes down to whether something benefits my life enough to do it, and whether any negatives outweigh the benefits.

I have decided to leave my twitter account.  My last tweet will be tomorrow, February 16, 2011, at 6 PM Pacific.

DISCLAIMER: While I make some statements about the uses of twitter, I am NOT saying everyone who “uses it abuses it”.  In my own life, I have found I am sensitive to some of the particular topics I highlight below.  So please don’t feel judged 🙂

I originally began tweeting in 2007, well before having a twitter account became the norm.  It arose from a pretty cool job I had with NASA (project link currently down), connecting NASA with the vibrant Silicon Valley.  I was in San Francisco meeting with people at a co-working space to discuss co-working and other current work trends.  Twitter came up, and my colleagues and I had not really heard of it so gave it a whirl.

Twitter was quickly picked up in the space community, and eventually lead to a large social media presence by NASA that has been deemed the best in the federal government.  There are tons of space geeks, including many bonafied NASA workers, who are now on twitter, many of them identifying as ‘Space Tweeps’, for which a shout out to @flyingjenny is due!  Twitter has evolved into the often primary source where I find out about space news.  It is timelier than other news notifications, provides an opportunity to get perspectives on the latest space issues, and often links to quality primary sources I would not have otherwise checked.  Plus, it is a great community builder in the oft divided space community, where centers seem to fight for funds and the geographical and cultural areas span a wide expanse.  I have personally developed some neat connections via twitter that have leapt into real life.  It is also a great way to access a community of knowledge that is better than google, and a fun way to see who might want to join for a drink on a Friday night 🙂  These are some of the reasons I have hesitated to quit twitter for so long.

So why am I quitting? One day after I tweeted something, I sat back and thought, “What was my intention in tweeting that?”

1)  More often than not, I see how Twitter is used as another extension of an online persona that may or not be true to the real life person.  Similar to reunion update pages and LinkedIn, Twitter often only shows the best of one’s life.  But more importantly, beyond that, people start believing in this artificial ego created for oneself.  Having an image.  Wanting to impress strangers.  Seeming witting.  Showing off clever and offbeat interests.  I have seen firsthand how the difference between this image and real life can be fruitless and frustrating.

2) More importantly, I question why I am doing these things.  Why do I care to share some of the things I do?  Clearly much of the point of tweeting is interaction with others, which by default places importance on those others.  Also, many times on Twitter, it is all about keeping up with the Jones.  Not interested.  Also, why do I check certain twitter accounts?  Sure, some are super informative and fun, but often times it is to get a glimpse at someone’s life, and aren’t there better ways to do that than check the twitter stream?

3) Finally:  140 characters.  Oh, the novel concept.  Some balk at the number and say how nothing valuable can be conveyed in that.  I know that lots of interesting data can successfully be conveyed on twitter– news, your friend’s movie review, knowing a friend is having a bad day, being up on the latest conference registration deadline.  But many times, tweeting is like this voice reaching out to connect with someone in the real world… and we as a community are trying to do this in 140 characters?!  Overall, this does not seem to be the ideal way for human relationships to be moderated by (and yes, it does do that more than some think).

Bottom line: A this point, Twitter is just not an added something that brings joy to my life.

Sure, I could just use twitter for professional or more general informative uses, but I can also spend that time networking in person, reading a book, reading an in-depth article, or calling a friend.

Twitter doesn’t take much time, and who am I to advocate my position to others?  While I have been a strong advocate of the benefits of twitter (my boss is now interested so he can get the latest roasts from his favorite coffee house!), I have never been one to say “OMG you HAVE to do this”.  I definitely see tons of great things about twitter and am glad for the near 4 years I have spent on it, but it has run its course in my life….(sound the violins)

I will still be on (gasp!) Facebook, since it connects me to the largest number of people that I already know.  Though it is not open like twitter, thus will not be quite the same place to meet new people, it will allow me to be more “in the moment” (as much as any technology can!), and focus what and who are already in my life, not on “getting more” and “being better” online.

For something that is only 140 characters, this sure is a long blog post!

If you know me on twitter and want to stay in touch, write me a message here on this post, dm me, or friend me on Facebook.  I also plan to update my blog more recently, which I share on Facebook and other ways.

Sayonara, Twitter!

Yours truly,

@iamjem

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