Sunday, 20 January 2013

Why I Love Twitter, and Why I Have To Leave

I'm not big on the whole 'family position' branch of psychology, but if you buy into it, my position as the youngest kid might help explain my obsessive desire for ATTENTION! That's probably why I love twitter so much.

If I've got something funny (or even just mildly funny, or just stupid) to say, and I send it to a friend on a text message, they probably won't message me back right away.  People are busy, and we're always in the middle of something else.  But when you post it on Twitter, anyone who's NOT doing anything might respond to it right away.

You poke the bear.  It pokes you back.  You poke the bear.  It pokes you back.  It's called positive reinforcement.  You get a good response when you do a certain behaviour, so it solidifies that behaviour in your mind.

Who knows?  Maybe I even got kinda good at it.  People interact with me regularly, and are entertained enough to retweet or favourite or respond.

But then something happened.  How do I explain it?

Many (maybe most) of my twitter interactions are with women.  Call it a demographic thing (are there more of a specific gender on twitter?), or maybe it was an unintentional consequence of the way I tweet and interact.

Add to that the fact that I have a tendency to disengage if I get stressed out.  Guess what it looks like:

If I have a stressful day, I check out and go interact/joke with a bunch of lovely women on Twitter.  I'm not saying that's what was happening.  I'm saying that's what it LOOKED LIKE.

And you know what?  In a relationship, we need to feel SAFE to have a bad day.  You shouldn't have to feel like your spouse is having all their fun without you involved.  It feels like you're getting phased out.

See, Twitter is this funny thing.  In my last blog post I wrote about our underlying motivations. I don't know why the person I'm interacting with is on Twitter.  Or why they're interacting with me.  Twitter is half real and half fake.  And that makes it more dangerous than if it was all one or all the other.  Because my 'persona' interacts with someone else's.  And maybe it comes off as flirtatious, or maybe it's just really...nice.  But the person behind that other persona may be in a lonely place.  And maybe the interaction with me is fulfilling a need that they should really be getting filled in real life, by the people in front of them who they're ignoring.  This isn't the case for everyone, of course.  The point is, I can't tell when it IS the case.

But here's what I know:  When I discover that I've been doing something that goes against some of my most important principles: loving my wife and making her feel cherished, and being PRESENT for my family, things are going to start to change.  And I don't want to be a stumbling block for anyone else either.

There's no person or group of people I blame for this other than myself.  It's just a shift I saw happen as I shifted my account from a professional one to a personal one.  And I wish I could be a model of self restraint and phase out the negative behaviour, but I've tried that for a while.  And I know my limitations.  And self restraint?  Yeah....

I realize that I'm doing this at a great cost.  Every day I see ways that Twitter could add value - DM'ing my coffee order to @CoolBeansBus, putting out a request for volunteers for a non-profit work bee, or posting a really uplifting story are all examples from the last day alone of all the value that I'll be leaving behind.  Call me a fool, but there's nothing I would not leave behind for the sake of the most important relationships in my life. 

So, you still know how to reach me.  I still work where I work.  I still blog.  I'm still on Facebook (less addicting/appealing).  And you can DM me or comment below if you want contact information - I'll be happy to stay in contact if we established working relationships on twitter.

And maybe one day I'll be back again.  And maybe not.  For now, I need to find healthier ways to get the attention I crave, and stop trying to make myself a celebrity one follower at a time.


  1. I shared this post on Twitter, and got more retweets and favourites than just about any previous tweets.

    If everyone's that happy to see me go, maybe I was doing twitter wrong after all...


  2. I got a great comment on my facebook page when I shared this post. From a very thoughtful guy I respect. @livingmartyrs said:
    "A man's got to know his limitations.

    Just to be clear, it isn't just Twitter: every interaction in life is half real and half fake. Every single one."

    Maybe Twitter is a good illustration of what happens every day. I'm gonna think about that one for a while...

  3. I've been on the internet since before it was the internet.
    I used to spend a lot of time on usenet groups, then forums, and I noticed that quite often the friendly joking and talking would begin to be a bit ambiguous. Eventually there would be lots of flirting, and back then a weird thing where people would write actions out using asterisks to indicate an action. I.E. *blush*
    Now it's hashtags, but the same deal.

    It weirds me out. I totally get why you'd get dodgy about that, because it's something that's dodgy.

    Personally, I avoid that behaviour and people that behave that way (With a few exceptions, generally people who also understand that it's not real and who I believe have no real emotional feeling behind any of it at all), but not for the same reasons you do - I just find it unnerving and strange.

    If I wanted intimacy, I'd prefer it in real life, privately, one on one and meaningful, instead of publicly in a semi-meaningless way on an online site/socal media.

    I guess I would ask why you can't just not participate in any of this behaviour if it's a bad influence? Although if can't control it I understand, sort of like an alcoholic has to avoid alcohol because if you're an alcoholic, you CAN'T just "not drink", it doesn't work that way. And that's a real thing that I believe, that sometimes you don't have willpower and all you can do is outsmart your desires.

    1. That was me that posted that btw... I don't know why my name went all funny.

  4. Hi Damien. Must've signed in with your credit card. The alcohol is a good comparison. If you stop yourself while you're still on the heavy side of moderate, you may be able to control it. However, sometimes a full stop is an easier way to change a behaviour. It gives perspective to the underlying motivations, and creates time in your day to develop new (potentially healthier) behaviours.

  5. Reading blogs backwards. Bah. So disregard my question on one of your newer blogs.

    I completely understand now. A few years ago I left facebook. I was off for 2 years. Much for the same reasons as you left twitter. I used to interact as a half fake half real person. Often I was a loudmouth. Anyhoo. I am now back on social media as a more mature person.

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. I was wondering where you had gone. I didn't do much Twitter during the holidays and once I started to get back into it, I wasn't seeing you on there at all and wasn't sure why. Now I know.
    Our society gets many things wrong. One of those things is the value of marriage relationships. It sounds like you are valuing yours and sacrificing something good for something that is better. kudos to you!