Twitter is Changing Your Brain

I’ve always kind of been opposed to Twitter, but then I never really used it until recently, so for the most part, my opposition was because of my assumption it was a place for sloganeering, cheap-shots, and clever little sentiments. After using Twitter for 4 months (mostly reading what other were writing), I observed some important things, some good and some bad:

  1. Argument on Twitter is like two angry dogs barking at each other, unyielding, and primarily interested in making loud noise
  2. Fact sharing on Twitter is like ripping tiny sentences out of a book expecting them to sum it all up
  3. Sentiments on Twitter are like little drops of anesthesia – they can make you feel a little better but they usually don’t help you deal with the thing causing the pain
  4. It’s a great tool to enhance personal relationships by sharing thoughts quickly, especially when you are wondering what your friends are thinking of a particular event – I’ll never forget reading Tweets after Maria Carey’s unfortunate technical difficulties at NYC New Years, 2017.
  5. It’s a great place to share resources and fact-check the present with the past
  6. It’s a fantastic gateway into the lives of international people, most notably (to me) the attack on Aleppo and the work of the White Helmets

Like most things, it’s so much good right next to so much bad. Twitter is a beehive of impulse when used the wrong way. Among all the other types of social media, at least in the circles I meander, Twitter’s digest was the least informative, and the biggest waste of time item per item. However its weakness can also be a strength, giving you access to practically anyone you want. This is not an attack against Twitter users. This is a polite suggestion that the problem with Twitter is that we probably don’t know how it’s affecting us. So let me examine it with you.

What Twitter Can Do to You

When you use Twitter notifications, you begin to drool at every vibration of your phone, like Pavlov’s dogs. These ghost vibrations can keep your brain on alert, even when you are trying to rest, measurably increasing your stress and isolation from real people.

Further, when you use Twitter to seek out that which you already know, to confirm it or otherwise entrench yourself in it, you slowly close yourself off from the world, filling your mind only with those things you want to hear.

When you seek inspiration from Twitter, you are looking only to appease those little nagging feelings you have in order to forget them and move along without addressing their root cause. This creates the illusion we are “getting better” while the issue remains unexamined.

Twitter does not bring out the best in us because we generally prefer to be fooled rather than do the hard work of facing the truth. The internet has opened us to one another, allowing us to have thoughtful conversation and do real research, but instead, we use it to send hurried, 140-character-sized attempts at human interaction. We have at our disposal a superior form of interaction (thoughtful conversation with plenty of time to think in between responses), but we prefer the cheap stuff.

Admittedly there are ways around this. You could string tweets together. You could share great quotes along with a follow-up link. You can share updates and accomplishments with those who support you. The list goes on – but the goods and bads of Twitter are not what this post is about.

Twitter and Your Soul

This all ties back to the human soul because when it comes to who you are, truth is paramount. Your inability to distinguish the truth from untruth depends on where you seek it. Don’t restrict your source to a short number of characters from a list of people you decide. It’s impossible to talk in terms of what the internet is “meant for,” but surely information is at our disposal more than ever before and the internet should be a place to discover and not disguise the truth. Social Media can very easily be a disguise.

A funny scene came to mind when I imaged people actually interacting Twitter style. It would be like walking through New York City but only talking to the people going the opposite direction. It could be funny. You might hear some interesting things. It would be diverse. But is it the best way to use the short amount of time you have on this planet?

It could be. Here are some ways you can use Twitter to your advantage as a person with a soul and not get sucked into the vortex of mind-bending, instantaneous, impetuous connectivity.

Tips for Soulful Tweeting

1. Turn off all your notifications immediately

To some people, this is the point of Twitter, and to those, this will be the hardest advice to stomach. I don’t have to prove to you that Twitter is shortening your attention span. Just take a quick self-inventory about how many times per day you check your phone, how much time you spend thinking about each Tweet you read, and how many responses you send that both require considerable thought and fit comfortably into the message size. If you’re striking out on all accounts here, it’s time to make a change.

Turning off your notifications will give you back some of your precious time, allow you to read when you choose and give your mind a break from all the beehive.

2. Restrict your feed

I firmly believe we need to hear these words: We don’t have to “get caught up.” We won’t “miss out” if we’re not processing 100 Tweets per day. We don’t need to attract followers by following hundreds of strangers in hopes they will follow us back and then read whatever drivel they might be spewing as part of our daily routine. A healthy diet isn’t just about food. It applies to anything you put in your body. So take 15 minutes now to save yourself hours of brain-pollution by taking control of your Twitter experience.

3. Participate in information sharing

To think that you should have an avenue for sharing whatever pops into your mind is ridiculous. We are taught as children to think before we speak and but it seems we forget by the time we are adults, or perhaps we never truly learn. Instead of throwing up tiny pieces of very large puzzles, why not place a well-packaged quote from a credibly cited article instead of pretending your 140 characters are about to sway the minds of the masses.

If you are a professional, it should be easy to search and find a community of other professionals who share resources specific to your industry and tips to help you excel at what you do. Often, Twitter is a place where the professional world hits the personal pavement, and the insights you can gain just might help you climb from good to great at your job.

4. Ask yourself whether it’s worth it

In the end, the biggest impact you will have is probably in your personal relationships. When it comes to the soul in space, it is imperative you proactively control your technology before it controls you. Is Twitter enhancing your life experience or drawing you into an unreality? It is building your relationships or tearing them down? It is expanding your understanding of the world, or is it narrowing it? Answering these questions could save you from an unintentional brain-change and a path that will lead only to loneliness and a false sense of connectedness. Take a break for a week and see what it does for you.

Whatever you do, do it soon because if you’re like me, your attention span is waning as it is.


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