April 26, 2010

Help Me! I’m Tweeting & I Can’t Get Off!

Photo: Edgar Montano

Beating twitter-aholicism ain’t easy.

I would have shared this with you sooner, but I got a bit distracted by twitter. There are so many amazing tweeters who have interesting, meaningful, radical, inspirational and/or humorous things to tweet. From all over the world! Who could resist (besides my husband, who glazes over when I talk twitter much the same way as I do when he drones on about history or sports)? I love facebook, too, but it’s not as fast-paced and doesn’t provide the same buzz. Facebook is like sipping a cozmo. Twitter is like a venti double shot skim café latte. Make that a triple.

Help me! I can’t get off!!! Do you know any good social media therapists? Even a not-so-good one would be better than nothing.

What the hell is f@$#-ing wrong with me?

The good news: I recognize that I have a problem.

Plus, the a sizeable portion of my tweets help to raise awareness about environmental and social justice issues. I’m even in 5th place for a Shorty Award in the green category! (Click here to nominate me).

But the other portion…. Could it be all the times my son has to drag me by hand away from the computer. “No more computer today, mom!” Once he’s big enough to carry me, who knows what he’ll resort to.

Instead of tweeting, I should could be spending more time with him before he goes away to college, playing piano (I used to be very good back in the day), writing, gardening… living. But how do I find that balance? Can I wean myself down to a point that I can proudly announce, “I twitter in moderation”?

I decided to journal my every twitter (and other social media) move for 7 days to see if that would help make me accountable to myself and those around me. Let’s throw in my twitter followers and facebook friends. And LinkedIn connections. The more, the merrier. (Scroll down to “The Internet is phenomenal” if you don’t want to read the minutiae of my tweeting struggle).

DAY 1 | Friday

8:27 a.m: This morning—like most mornings—I woke up and told myself (while still lying in bed mind you)

Today I’ll limit my time on twitter and facebook.

But once I’ve tweeted one tweet, I just can’t seem to stop. How I justify it: Had I not been socialmediacizing that day, I wouldn’t have made that important connection or learned about that action that needed to be taken, the petition to stop mountaintop removal that needed my signature. Every voice counts! Not only that, my tweeps and facebook friends might forget about me if I cut back.

The argument continues: I need to unplug. Just for today! I promise, I’ll socialmediacize less tomorrow until I’m down to 30 minutes to an hour in the AM, quick check-in over lunch and signoff late in the day/early p.m..

12:21 p.m: Okay. Off to a good start. I’m pretty sure I stopped tweeting at the 1 hour mark. Posted on my blog, read a few informative articles, even talked—on the phone!—with a friend in the ‘hood. Props to me!

How did I get here? This twitter addiction snuck up on me. I didn’t know much about tweeting and was quite awkward at first—some may think I’m still awkward—but then it snowballed into having thousands of followers and people I follow. What can I say? Must tweet now. Can’t. Help. My. Self.

3:51 p.m: Although my initial plan was to tweet just once the entire day, I couldn’t help myself from acknowledging a couple of Follow Fridays and telling people to take action for our National Parks. But I didn’t tweet my entire day away.

I feel a bit more connected to the space around me, as opposed to living inside my computer world. I have the urge to tweet. And I know many have sent Follow Fridays love.

Uh-oh. My son’s bus just rolled up, leaving me no time to sneak onto Hootsuite… maybe later. I always make it a point to be as present as possible when he gets home—I greet him at the door (unless I’m on a writing roll), hang out with him, ask him how his day was, maybe even shoot some hoops or take a bike ride. I’m on the computer while he does his homework, takes a shower, watches TV (only an hour a day)…

4:10 p.m: My husband and son are tossing the ball outside. I’m going through a bit of withdrawal, very curious to see whether anyone tweeted me. Did someone friend or message me today on facebook?

Why do I do it? Tweeting is fun. Tweeting is addictive. You can tweet here, you can tweet there… you can even tweet in your underwear. Simple.

When I knew I needed help.

If you’re an active tweeter, you know what I’m talking about. Once you enter twitterland, it’s damn near impossible to leave. Kudos to companies and personalities who have found the right ghost tweeters/facebook updaters. Celebs would have no time to do what they do if they were on twitter and facebook as much as they seem to be, right? (Correct me if I’m wrong, Ashton Kutcher). I bow down those disciplined tweeters who tweet their own tweets on occasion. Not every half hour. Or more.

Bottom line, I love to write. I blog. Then I tweet about the blog entry, post it on facebook in hopes of drawing in readers and inspiring them to take action or change their habits. Occasionally I’ll tweet a special sale on my biz account, but mostly I’m just trying to provide information about environmental issues, ways to lead an earth-friendlier life, and raise awareness about other important issues. I reserve my personal account to tweet anything and everything. Random, meaningful, funny, whatever.

I’m staring at my computer right now. I really don’t know when I started getting sucked into twitter and/or needed to even tell myself; Okay. No twitter for you today. Or when I stopped listening. There wasn’t an epiphany. One day it hit me to write about it—explore my feelings and motivations. Quite possibly, writing about it would make me more mindful and, hopefully, help me shake the habit.

It’s just hard to leave my post at the computer (yes, even when I’m not tweeting, I am chained to this machine). I must keep up-to-date on what’s going on in the world. There are letters to send to my representative, petitions to sign and, for better or worse, it can all be from the comfort of my office chair with the cat lounging in my lap.

Is that the problem? I keep defending my socialmedia-aholism. I need it. The world needs me to use it. It’s my jolt of coffee in the morning with people around the world telling me how great I am. “You rock!” “You’re awesome!” “Sending Follow Friday love”. It’s a daily dose of affirmation that I can’t give to myself. Sure, I get it from the outside world, too, but it’s not like what you get from twitter, which is like an IV line of positive reinforcement (with the occasional tweeter calling me a Nazi or socialist or whatever). And there were the obvious rewards of raising our son, who I think is just awesome (could a tweet-aholic be a spectacular mom, too?). Those rewards continue, of course, but he’s in school all day. I need to make myself useful.

How do I begin? My goal is to hop into facebook and twitter on occasion and I’ve been reluctant to define “on occasion” because that means I’d have to stick to it. I am so disciplined in so many things. I exercise, eat healthy, drink water, take fish oil, make sure my kid doesn’t eat too much crap and gets his fruits and veggies and whole grains. I can say no to another alcoholic beverage if we’re at a party, even if someone begs me (is it me, or does peer pressure never end?).

Day 2 | Saturday

6:15 a.m: It’s Saturday. I woke up in angst, asking myself why I tweet. It’s supposed to be a beautiful spring day, my son and I have a contest to see who can finish cleaning their “room” first (my office vs. his bedroom)—a contest I devised so that I’d have no choice but to organize what currently looks like a landfill. A task I’ve been meaning to tackle for weeks now. You can only imagine what gets in my way. Oh, just a quick check on twitter. I’ve got to catch up with all the nice folks who were kind enough to retweet my last tweets. Maybe if I didn’t tweet as often, I wouldn’t have to thank people so much. Hmmmm… there’s an idea.

Did I start pondering my twitter problem first thing in the morning in bed before I started journaling? I don’t think so. I laid there wondering whether I should use the time before my son awakes to follow tweeps who recently followed me—a weekly effort. Or should I do yoga. How long would following new followers take? An hour at most. Does this really matter in the scheme of things?

And who are these followers? Do they actually read the information I’m pointing them to? Or do they just see that my 140 characters LOOK like they’d lead to something interesting and tweet without even reading what it was I wanted them to read? Are people retweeting me because they’re hoping I’ll retweet them or do they really find me interesting? What is the meaning of tweeting?

Without twitter, I wouldn’t have developed some of the relationships I’ve developed—so many people, I can hardly-not-possibly- in-my-wildest-dreams even name them all.

I’ve got my smoothie. I’m going in. I need to see what’s happened in there. I haven’t touched twitter since yesterday lunch time-ish. How did I manage that? Or did I? I’m not 100% positive. I think I blacked out at one point.

Okay. Can I just catch up on my followers? We shall see.

The day I want, which I talked about with my son and husband last night: office/bedroom clean-up, pick up house clutter, turn over our compost (this is a task that we’ve NEVER done, but that would require an entirely different story), take a casual family walk, go for a bike ride. I may go for a short, but speedy, run to get rid of all this twitter angst I have.

6:37 a.m: Off I go…

7:46 a.m: Just got done following some folks who started following me.

It doesn’t help that I have three twitter accounts. Why so many, you ask. @IC4ME is dedicated to eco views, news, tips and activism. It also ties back to my I Count for myEARTH blog. @myEARTH360 is for my business, where I tweet eco tips, news, new the occasional product announcements and special offers. Mostly #eco-related info. My personal account @LynnHasselbrgr can be anything. I retweet some of the @IC4ME and @myEARTH360 tweets here along with random thoughts, political nonsense, ways to take action, the occasional quote, funny stuff. I used to manage my older brother’s account daily. He’s in prison. But that’s another story.

My tea is boiling and I have yet to hear rumblings from my son’s bedroom. Hopefully he’ll sleep in a bit so I can catch up more.

Journaling my twitter time has already helped me to become conscious of my problem and work faster, smarter (I know, it’s only day two). If I can keep this up, I should be in good shape by the end of the week.

I bet there are therapists that specialize in socialmedia-aholism. I googled twitter support group and found a discussion about twitter as a support group mechanism. The irony. How many people have the same problem? What percentage of these mighty tweeters are really tweeting for themselves personally—do most have an assistant? Note to self: tweet this question for feedback.

7:56 a.m: Going to steep the tea. Green tea.

8:07 a.m: Twitter wasn’t such an issue when I had less than a thousand followers.

I’m grateful to all of the followers I have, many of whom retweet my tweets quite frequently. Some I feel like I’ve known for 10, even 20 years. So it’s only natural that I would want to thank those tweeps for their props, retweets, etc. To thank all of those people could take me an hour… maybe more. Some people don’t bother thanking their followers, but I just wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I neglected to do so. If only I could clone myself.

Have you seen this twitter rehab video? I can totally relate…

8:40 a.m: The gig’s up. My son is awake. The day must go on. All I did this morning was follow/unfollow people. It didn’t take 1 hour, it took 2. That ain’t right. Especially because I didn’t finish.

Balance. That is what I’m missing. It’s so easy to get sucked in—some people obsess over reality TV or get hooked on Desperate Housewives. This socialmediacizing is a nobler addiction. Right? Please tell me what I want to hear.

How can I wean myself off of something I love? This is going to be harder than I thought. But at least I’m getting in touch with why I’m out there. The problem is, it’s soooo distracting—I have a list of writing topics a mile long. I want to write. Writing has always been a forte of mine. Am I afraid of failure? That I’ll never truly be a recognized writer, just another writer in a sea of writers? A mere number? Do I want fame? No. Do I want fortune? Well, sure that would be great, but it’s not why I do what I do. I have the need to put myself out there, share information, talk to people. Tweet.

Day 3 | Sunday

4:41 p.m: Spent the day unplugged… until now. Read the NY Times, took a nap, rode bikes with my son who is back to cleaning his room (sort of). Happy to report that my office is clean and I even got myself organized for the week. For the most part.

My reward? Twitter. The urge is undeniable. Oh look, so many kind tweeters have given me #FF mentions—how can I not take the time to thank them. So that is what I’m doing. I’ll report back when I’m done…

5:07 p.m: I found myself watching a quick video about a plastic bag tweeted about by one of my new followers. Fifteen minutes in I realized I was supposed to be on twitter… but I have to post this video on my blog.

5:14 p.m: Now watching a related video! Who knew a plastic bag could be so captivating?

5:54 p.m: Posted the video. But that’s a good thing. Another day, I might have just made note of the film to post another day and it would have likely gotten lost amongst my other to-do’s. My subconscious must have taken over, drawing me out of twitter.

Tomorrow is #ecomonday, a day I typically wake up saying, I’m not participating in #ecomonday today. And then I do. Time spent on twitter: lots, but never quantified.

Note to self: I must stop waking up thinking about twitter, strategizing when/how to get my next fix.

7:33 p.m: Son taking a shower, hubby catching the baseball score on his computer. Me? On twitter… biggest pet peeve: people hiding behind an eco-friendly/nature bio luring me in to their site where I can “Make $30 Million Dollars!” from home.

8:07 p.m: Signing off. Believe it or not.

Day 4 | Monday

7:28 a.m: The internet is not working. The DTs waste no time taking over my mind and body. It’s not just the lack of access to twitter… it’s everything internet. Without it, I feel the same angst as when I lose my keys. Or, worse, sunglasses.

Determined, I shut everything down, un-plugged, re-plugged and started back up again. I was awash in relief when that worked. Quick trip to my e-mails before letting twitter embrace me. A quick tweet and the time-eating thank you’s. Have I forgotten my intention to limit tweeting? Conveniently, yes. At least for now. Just. Can’t. Help. It.

8:04 a.m: A half-hour plus just slipped away whilst I tweeting my thanks to many of my faithful, honorable followers. Then I put a couple tweets out there and here I am. The journaling is keeping me honest. I could spend my morning on twitter. But I refuse!!!

9:52 a.m: Dabbling here and there on twitter, then got caught up in a riveting Huffington Post article. Of course, I had to tweet about it! Coming back to my journal made me realize I could be doing more important things. Back to my long to-do list… Don’t I have a blog to write? A business to run?

10:13 a.m: Received an email from a contact asking me to tweet about something… tweet I must.

10:20 a.m: Oops. Got caught up in other tweets! Listening to whales singing, then tweeted about that since someone else tweeted about it. http://bit.ly/dhbquM FOCUS! But it’s beautiful and everyone should know about it!

10:38 a.m: Retweet favor complete. Checked that off the list. Someone just tweeted about another Huffington Post article, which I not only had to read, but comment on.

10:41 a.m: Staring at Hootsuite. Realizing I have lots of other things to do. De ja vu. Help!

10:57 a.m: Got caught up in some Treehugger articles… almost shared on twitter, then I stopped myself. Pat on the back to me.

11:49 a.m: Just finished a new blog entry about the documentary Tapped. This film deserves my tweeting time.

12:35 p.m: Been spreading the word about Tapped via twitter and facebook. Anti-bottled-water-ism is the core of my eco-activism being. This is legitimate social media time. I will turn it off at or before 1 p.m. or when I’m done with lunch. Whichever comes first.

12:44 p.m: Main course finished. Dark chocolate square comes next. Feeling overloaded with info as I get distracted by others’ tweets. Retweet a few… phone calls to make…

1:01 p.m: Tweeted my last tweet for the afternoon. I’m swearing off until I complete my list. Really. I mean it. If that means tomorrow… so be it.

1:39 p.m: Wandered on to twitter again. My tweeting is like people getting loaded at a fundraiser ball and saying—it’s all for a good cause.

3:25 p.m: I have a half hour left before my son gets home. I haven’t completed my list. But I’m starting to zone out. I found myself on twitter. Only for a few minutes, before realizing I was there. Better than doing heroine, right?

3:40 p.m: Tired. What do I do when I’m tired and my mind is blank? Take a wild guess…

3:49 p.m: Still here on twitter and facebook. Can’t jump into a new project when my son is expected home any moment. Of course, I could figure out what the hell is wrong with our washing machine—filled with water, stuck on the first cycle—or clean the kitchen. Social media zoned = my current state of mind; an escape from physical feelings/reality into virtual reality. Can reality be reality if it’s virtual? Wow. My mind is really thinking some out-there thoughts right now. Why do I tweet? The bus has arrived.

4:45 p.m: My son is back to cleaning his room. It’s taking a long time because he’s a Lego maniac, his floor is a sea of plastic (another story). Who am I to talk?

Here I sit. Haven’t gotten anything done. Why do I sit at the computer when I could be relaxing, reading something of importance, like the article in the NY Times Magazine about the Green Economy? That is what I’m going to do right now because I’m obviously not being productive :/ But twitter won’t loosen its grip …

5:32 p.m: My son is still cleaning his room. Tweet tweet tweet.

7:01 p.m: No, I haven’t been on twitter this entire time. The boys are watching Star Wars, I made dinner, which I planned to eat while reading the NY Times article, which I had made the mistake of leaving in my office earlier. An unknown force pulled me to my computer. Twitter, I knew it was you.

I am now officially twitterly & emotionally drained for the day. Shutting down….

Day 5 | Tuesday

First thing, I put a tweet out on all of my twitter accounts that I would be tweeting light today… and I fulfilled on that tweet promise. I tweeted throughout the day, but just here and there. A couple of calls-to-action about the clean air act needed tweeting; in the process, I stumbled upon some funny tweets that I thought my followers deserved to enjoy; plus, since bottled water is such a hot button for me, I had to tweet more about Tapped because I think everyone should see this film. I know I’m repeating myself. Think of it as a retweet.

But my less frequent tweets resulted in less retweets and props from my followers. As if I wasn’t on twitter at all. Why does that bother me?

Tomorrow is #waterwednesday. I must toss at least a few tweets out there. But maybe I should set my limit tonight—a twitter intention.

I will only spend one hour on twitter on #waterwednesday.

That will be rough. By writing it down, now I will try to commit. Facebook, same thing. No more than an hour. Shit, that seems ridiculous – 2 hours socialmediacizing when there are so many more important ways to spend my time. Okay…1 hour total on twitter and just 15 minutes on facebook. I wrote it and that is what will be. Maybe I need to write it in stone. Or have my husband stop paying our internet service.

Day 6 | Wednesday

5:14 a.m: I woke up too early today—was it because I knew I only had a limited amount of time to socialmediacize? Well, yes. I laid in bed for at least ten minutes thinking about my twitter attack. I had to tweet ever so precisely… in hard and fast, out like a whisper.

8:31 a.m: I’m proud to say I did it. Then I hopped back on for a minute or two while my son brushed his teeth.

But can I keep myself away for the rest of the day?

8:46 a.m: I just slipped. Signed an action for climate legislation, which led to a tweet, which led to, well, just a few more tweets. Back to the list. Twitter off! No, I’m serious!

8:49 a.m: Another action to stop KFC from destroying our rainforests. So many things to take care of! Yes. I did tweet that. Seriously. I’m going now.

10:09 a.m: A friend called, so I think (I’m not really sure) I snuck in a few tweets. Note to self: be more mindful!

12:08 p.m: Suddenly found myself on a twitter binge. Why? It’s #waterwednesday. I’m afraid if I don’t tweet frequently, the universe will be off kilter. My followers won’t find out about all the ways to help people and planet. Every voice counts! What made me the designated indisposable tweeter? Why can’t I get off? Help me!

12:12 pm: I just learned something important from someone else’s tweet that I didn’t know before. See? That wouldn’t have happened if I had not been on twitter at that very moment. Am I a twitter crazy person? Or a crazy tweeter? Or… just plain old crazy?

12:18 p.m: Still at it. Saw a relevant quote that deserved retweeting:

Today’s mighty oak is just yesterday’s nut that held its ground.~anon.

I’ve been feeling like a nut given my addiction. The quote eased my mind. Maybe I’m on my way to oak-hood. That doesn’t seem so bad!

12:27 p.m: I’m hungry and thirsty and have to pee. Twitter is mocking me. What the fuck is my problem? This is really more serious than I thought! (Note: I rarely ever say or write the f-word).

Tweeting time over! Or is it? Just grabbed a yellow pepper, which I’m eating like an apple. Is that weird? Next up… nuts. How ironic.

12:44 p.m: Still tweeting! I will stop at 1 p.m. If I don’t, then I need to google a twitter therapist.

12:55 p.m: Five minutes…

1:02 p.m: Oops. Still on. Excuse: Hard to start a real project or make calls when I’m eating almonds.

1:12 p.m: I eat my lunch in courses most of the time so I can work while I eat. Twitter while you work. Twee- twee- twee- tweet- twee- twee- tweet.

But this tweet was VERY relevant … RT @InvasiveNotes @BreakingNews Library of Congress acquires archive of every Tweet sent since Mar2006 http://bit.ly/cBDm4i

There’s no way anyone could read every tweet. I sure hope they don’t plan to print this stuff out onto paper! Could you imagine? I bet it would be enough paper to circle the entire planet.

Speaking of the planet, tweeting cannot be good for the earth. Unless you’re tweeting about things that will help the earth. Like I do. But there has to be a point of diminishing returns. I am the furthest thing from analytical. Can someone come up with an equation? Maybe that will help me with my twitter problem. Tweet less, save the earth and protect your children’s future. Hmmmmm.

1:25 p.m. Lots of subjects to write about. Not tweet, write. Okay. I swear this time I mean it… after I’ve eaten my pasta. Or at least until I’m done with everything I need to do which will be… never. I’m screwed.

2:05 p.m: Now skyping and tweeting at once. About ready to just give in to twitter today. Trying not to tweet makes feels like my engine is running at full speed, but I can’t go anywhere and I can’t turn it off. A part of me is missing.

If I don’t tweet, do I exist?

2:32 p.m: Just received an email that included this quote. I had no choice but to post it to my facebook profile…

Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons. It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth. ~Walt Whitman

My husband came home and said it’s 80 degrees out! I’m dressed in my sweats uniform with heavy socks and an extra layer, office windows closed! WTF?!

4:21 p.m. Tweeting off and on. Tweeps that don’t follow many tweeters must be overwhelmed with my tweets. Need to consider that. Doh! Of course, I think about this all the time, but then I say—oh, just this once I’ll tweet with only minutes between each. I guess the good news is, I’m mostly tweeting things that are meaningful… well, meaningful to me.  Time to write. Time for yoga and running. A moment to remember that my piano is more than just an old piece of furniture. To just be.

4:59 p.m: Ah, the wonders of twitter. I mentioned that I was staying at the @hotelfelix (an eco-friendly hotel in Chicago that I’m reviewing) Thursday night and they tweeted me to see if I needed anything! I had it on my list to call them, but kept getting sidetracked. Gee, with what, I wonder?

8:37 p.m: All bets are off for today. I’ve been on and off twitter enough to know I was not able to keep track. It was like eating a gallon of ice cream, topped off with loads of fair trade chocolate. I know… I need to do this tweeting in moderation. Work-in-progress. More tomorrow.

9:01 p.m. I’ve been blogging. Normally don’t stay on my computer this late. But I have to complete some things before we head into the city tomorrow.

DAY 7 | Thursday

5:27 am: My computer never shut down last night, leaving me unintentionally face-to-face with twitter. I had gotten some worthy retweets in the middle of the night. I tweeted a couple tweets and then I stopped to start today’s journal. About tweeting.

My son and I get to meet the wonderful people behind Tapped (who, by the way, I connected with on facebook, thank you very much) … lots of cool things going on.

In order to leave when I plan, I will be forced to go twitter-free. Well, I’ll send out a couple tweets. Just a couple. This feat should be achievable since I had my twitter binge yesterday.

The internet is phenomenal.

And the social networks have made so many things possible. Without it, I would not be in contact with people across the country much less around the planet. You wouldn’t be reading this right now. Important issues would get lost in army of profit-driven media sound bites. Instead, we, the people, have become the media—instantly and simultaneously supporting multiple causes and movements, spreading the word with a few strokes on the keyboard. Or finding out what Ashton Kutcher had for breakfast. Our voices have more of a chance of being heard by those in power, far and wide. We can force companies to change. There are no bounds. It’s incredible and I sure hope the powers that be don’t start regulating us. That would ruin everything.

That said, I’m going to do a couple tweets. I hear the birds singing, beckoning me outside for a run.

In moderation. I need to accept the fact that I will binge now and then as hard as I may try. It would be more worrisome if I was tweeting my every move—I am now going to brush my teeth… clipped my nails this morning … today I’m really gassy (sexy, right?) … great the cat just coughed up a hair ball… off to grab a glass of water. should I add a squeeze of lemon? Instead, I’m trying to catalyze change, inspire others to be conscious of their impact on people and planet and find out why many don’t seem to care about the ripple effects of their choices—even the most simple choice, like whether to grab bottled water or take the 2 minutes to fill-up a reusable bottle.

It’s a way for the world to be connected—I have ‘met’ some amazing people. I will not give up twitter or facebook cold turkey. Nuh-uh. But I will live more consciously and keep my socialmediacizing in check. I think.

9:11 a.m: My run was fantastic! And I actually took a shower.

I am going to be at peace with social media.

It has a place in our lives and it’s not going away. I’m tweeting a bit right now, but have done other things since my last entry, including getting my son off to school with a good breakfast—an oversized whole grain pancake and organic, cage free eggs.

I’m going to work through this day smarter, socialmediacizing with precision so that I have time and creative energy to do what I love to do. Write.

PS. Please remember to nominate me for a Shorty Award!

Acceptance is the only way.

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