Intervention for the Seriously Twitter Addicted

by Lisa Stanforth

20 September 2010

Are you Twitter addicted? What looks like love to you might in fact be abusing -- and therefore losing -- your followers.

Many people I know don’t care for Twitter. They see it as a pointless and even self-centered waste of time. I, however, have found that micro-blogging is an excellent tool for connecting with consumers, fans, and people with common interests. It’s a great way to share and trade information, and it even helps me keep in touch with friends who live far away.

That said, I understand what a lot of folks don’t get Twitter. After all, it’s easy to abuse the ability to share our thoughts with the world in real time. Are you one of those people?  You might be if your tweets look like this:

Angsty Tweets
Mostly common with teenage Twitter users, these are usually lamentations about an unnamed person (most likely a love interest or evil nemesis). An angsty tweet might go something like, “You always tell me that you care, but when I need help you’re never there.”

Why you shouldn’t do it:  Look, it’s not that we’re heartless; we just have no freaking idea what you’re talking about! Furthermore, it’s none of our business what’s going on between you and this person. You just wasted an inch of my feed with your whining about something that doesn’t affect me in any way.

I understand your need to express yourself, but that’s what poetry and diaries are for. If you want this anonymous heartbreaker or frenemy to know how you feel, do everyone a favor and pick up the phone.

Play-by-Play Day-by-Day
This form of tweeting is particularly frequent, especially among Twitter users who don’t really get the point of micro-blogging. Most of these people equate Twitter with the days of Facebook when status updates were always prefaced with “(Name) is…”  These were also the people who used to dutifully change their AIM away message to let everyone know where they were and what they were doing at any given moment of the day. Now they’re taking that “What’s happening?” prompt on Twitter for granted, as well.

Why you shouldn’t do it:  This one is tough to gauge, because sometimes you are doing something super-awesome or randomly hilarious that warrants sharing. I mean, if you tweeted, “Just took a tour of Silver Cup Studios and TOTALLY met Tina Fey! #bestdayever” I would be really excited for (and jealous of) you.

However, if you post a series of tweets like, “Gotta start this paper.”/ “Started the paper, but then got hungry.” / “Ordering food and then more paper-writing.” / “I hate writing papers. Why isn’t this going faster?” / “Finished my paper finally. Time to watch a movie,”  I might unfollow you for boring me into oblivion.

Tipsy Tweets
Ah, remember the days of drunk dialing?  Whether someone actually woke you up to have an incoherent conversation or just left a sloppy voicemail for you to hear in the morning, it was kept between you and your intoxicated friend. Now that we can tweet from our cell phones, your inebriated insights can be shared with all 2,147 of your faithful followers.

Why you shouldn’t do it:  I’ll admit that tipsy tweets are sometimes hilarious, but they could also be damaging if your Twitter account is connected to your work persona (which is becoming more and more common), or if you end up tweeting a comment that could hurt someone else. While tipsy tweets can be extremely entertaining, they also have the potential to be space-wasters on my feed. Just operate by this rule of thumb:  friends don’t let friends drink and tweet.

Quality, Quantity, and Keeping Your Cool
Sometimes it’s hard to tell where that line is between sharing and over-sharing. One way I like to monitor myself is by estimating my daily average amount of posts. I usually keep it to about three tweets a day; any more than that, and I notice that I’ve been either spending too much time at the computer or sharing things that aren’t really that interesting.

I realize three tweets a day may sound excessive to some Twitter users and restricting to others. This is where quality comes in; if you don’t have anything to share, you certainly don’t need to post three times (or even once) on a given day. On the other hand, if your average is way over mine, it may be because you are circulating a lot of articles, videos, pictures, or other useful information with your followers. Or you may be live-tweeting an awards show or breaking news event, which requires sending out frequent updates. However, if you’re just tweeting about uninteresting thoughts or events, you may need to consider scaling back the frequency of your posts.

When all else fails, I’ve found the “ICEE” rule to be quite helpful. I first heard this in an interview with Ashton Kutcher, who said he stole it from “the guy who runs Zappos” (I assume he means Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO). The ICEE rule suggests sharing only that which is inspiring, connective, entertaining, or educational. This rule helps you clarify why posts may be interesting to your followers, and also acts as a filter for tweets that really aren’t relevant to anyone. Whether it will always rule out those tipsy tweets, however, is entirely up to you and whatever you’ve been drinking that night.

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