What My Tweetless Week Says About Society & Social Media
I had seen the light.
It was blinking. And it was calling my name. It wanted me to click. It wanted to show me the new tweets I had waiting for me.
I had to resist.
At 10:30 pm last Monday night, I began a voluntary six-day vacation from Twitter dubbed a "Tweetcation." When I announced my plans, many of my followers weighed in. Would I be able to make it? How could I abandon them?
I didn't know the answer—to both of those questions.
Why was I doing this? Well, I felt I needed a cleansing. My obsession with technology, my unsatiable appetite for information and my job as a reporter had led me to Twitter in March 2009. Over the next two years, Twitter became a part of me. Twitter never left my side. It was my ritual.
Every night before I went to sleep, I did my one last check. Within ten minutes of my waking every morning, I did the catch up, scanning everything I missed while I was sleeping.
When I started Twitter more than two years ago, I began with about five tweets a day. I eventually built up to an average of 40 a day. The big events, the Super Bowl and the NCAA men's basketball tournament, were "gateway" events. I would fire off over 100 tweets.
The next day, I'd be eager to do even more.
So why was I hooked on Twitter?
The adrenaline junkie that I am craved the instant satisfaction of getting retweets, mentions and seeing my work reach the Twitter home page.
Sure, this was called social media, but it could have easily been labeled "unsocial media." I was social with my 75,000 followers, but I was filing under-the-table tweets while having dinner with my wife. I felt I needed to know what it was like to resist the urge to "publish"
every great idea that popped into my brain.
My name is Darren Rovell and I'm a Twitterholic.
Full disclosure: My "tweethab" was strategically planned. While a sports business reporter doesn't have any dead periods, I didn't think I'd miss anything over the next six days.
Baseball had been underway, the NFL labor battle would surely rage on and the Kentucky Derby was next month.
Unlike a standard rehab, I knew I couldn't, nor should I, leave Twitter permanently. It has made me a better reporter and has expanded my reach. But I needed to hit the reset button. I needed to train myself to stay away.
So how did I do?
Not too well.
You see, I quickly realized that I had trained my brain to be a brain on Twitter. Everywhere I looked was a possible Twitpic I could have passed on to my followers.
As for the lack of news? It made me realize, more than ever before, that there's never a lack of news.
While I was gone, this happened:
Great opening games of the NBA playoffs, EA announced robust sales of its Tiger Woods game, Kobe Bryant uttered a derogatory slur and got fined $100K for it, the NBA announced its best selling jerseys, Barry Bonds was found guilty of something, Nike launched its Lebron 8, Adidas launched its lightest basketball shoe, the NBA Board of Governors extended the Sacramento Kings deadline for a possible Anaheim move, Lenny Dykstra got thrown in jail for bankruptcy fraud, the largest online poker sites were shut down, Joey Chestnut won an asparagus eating contest after losing a wing eating contest, my beloved Northwestern announced a home and home football series with Notre Dame and Purdue's new version of its Boiler Pete mascot was unveiled and shelved.
That's to say nothing of the pictures my followers sent to me of empty stadiums, concession items and supermarket soda displays that I love to pass on.
I felt like a guy who strangely just decided to stop talking to his friends. My followers were sending me tweets telling me to end the experiment. Translation? What I was doing wasn't fair to them.
This "test" wasn't all about me. It was about you too. Sure we have varying levels of "addiction," but for the most part, we all have been sucked into a technological hole.
The percentage of virtual communication we have every day has trumped that of personal
communication. We get excited by the red blinking light or the buzz that says we have new e-mail or new Tweets waiting for us.
We have trained ourselves like dogs to respond to it with excitement, as if a new bowl of fresh food had just arrived. A few generations from now, humans might be born with mobile devices on their hands.
A year ago, I probably would have argued that you can take a voluntary break like I did. For those who engage in social media as much as I do, I learned that you actually can't do that. You can take breaks, but you can't have extended periods of radio silence.
I have seen the light. And, you know what, I'm clicking on it.
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