Shea wrote a fantastic piece about the five stages of “getting” Twitter last week, which included denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance. But for some of us, there’s another stage that hits us after we’ve accepted and finally “got” Twitter – obsession.
Twitter is like a drug, in many ways: it gives your brain a short-term thrill that you look for over, and over again. It alters your behavior as you seek the pleasure hits a retweet gives you. And it sometimes negatively impacts other areas of your life.
Without help, you might become a total Twitter addict – believe me, I’ve seen it happen.
Are you addicted to Twitter?
Many people think of addiction as being substance-based, but there are many “soft addictions” or behavioral addictions that can be just as damaging on a person’s life.
While a Twitter addiction isn’t yet DSM recognized, it is part of the umbrella category “Internet addiction”, and it can be a very real thing to some people.
How do you know if you’re addicted to Twitter? Here are some signs:
- Each new follow gives you a bigger sense of self-worth (which usually only lasts for a short while before you need another follower, and another, and another to feel good again)
- You spend most of your time composing tweets in your head or on your smartphone – so much so that it affects the conversations you have with those around you
- Getting a thrill when someone retweets you is normal, but you might be addicted if you refresh ad infinitum to see the next retweet the second it hits your @mention stream
- You’re logged on to Twitter all the time, check it during time you should be spending with family and friends, and often ignore your responsibilities in favor of tweeting
- Using Twitter has negatively impacted some aspect of your life, such as your relationships or your work
If you can relate to any of the above, there’s a good chance you have at least a mild addiction to Twitter. But this addiction, thankfully, is one that can easily be fought with a bit of willpower and some strategizing.
How to fight a Twitter addiction
First, you’ve got to be able to start disengaging from Twitter, one step at a time.
Understand that just because you’re not logged in to see the next trending topic, doesn’t mean you’ll be completely out of the loop. You can check in – rather than being logged in at all times – to Twitter once or twice a day and still be a proficient user.
To start your path to recovery, try cutting down the time you spend on Twitter by one third each day. If you regularly spend 2 hours in the morning browsing news links and monitoring your @mentions and another hour in the evening retweeting, try eliminating one of those hours in the morning. Do this gradually, if you need to, but aim to be at about 2/3 within a week.
Unless you live and breathe Twitter for, say, a blog like AllTwitter, you don’t need to be thinking about it all the time. Coming up with a witty tweet while on the road and then writing it down as soon as your hands are free might be a rush of adrenaline, but it’s not worth getting in the way of your conversations in real life. So, next time you find yourself thinking “How should I tweet this?” accept the thought and then let it go, gently. Train your mind to be in the present moment, rather than projecting what you’ll tweet about in the future, and I guarantee you’ll not only be happier in the moment but you’ll probably also be inspired next time you do set out to tweet.
Like any addiction, a Twitter addiction needs to be tackled gradually and with care. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t stop tweeting after your allotted hour is up, but just try to pull yourself away a bit earlier next time.
There is a happy medium between obsession and not using Twitter at all – and you can find yours with a little patience.