All social media channels are full of pros and cons. Likes and dislikes. Opportunities and threats. Here’s one comms pro’s insights and lessons about Twitter and getting the most from it.
by Ben Capper
The first couple of weeks of January 2021 were pretty grim.
At a time where positivity was in short supply; and when getting through each day needed total focus; I decided to log out of Twitter on all my devices and delete the app from my iPhone and iPad.
I vowed to leave it alone for at least a month.
That month ended up being three months.
I’m back again now. I am, after all, a communications person. A total absence off the platform is probably not viable permanently. However, I do have some strict rules governing my involvement, to keep it positive, to stop the doom-scrolling, and to maintain a degree of good mental health:
1. Know your Trigger-Trends
There are tell-tales signs some days that Twitter is likely to resemble a wheelie-bin fire for the next 24 hours.
I start with checking the trending topics. There are certain triggers that mean it’s time for me to turn off and check back tomorrow.
If any of these appear, I’ve decided that there are better uses of my time and attention than Twitter that day. At this point, the ‘Logout’ button looms large, and I politely take my leave for the day.
Maybe think what your trigger trends are….
2. Use other Channels
There are others available. And depending on what you’re talking about, they can be better places to talk about them.
I’ve made a point of using LinkedIn a lot more to post and talk about “work stuff”, and Instagram to post and talk about “life stuff”. They have their problems, sure, but they’re much more easily avoided.
They’re better places to talk about stuff you’re passionate about and are interested in, and I’ve found tend to offer more supportive communities.
3. Replace the doom-scrolling with some other vacant-smartphone-based activity.
Look, we’re human. We’re busy people, and sometimes we need a quick mindless distraction.
Smartphones are great at offering that distraction. It’s not always practical to “pick up a book instead” or “go for a walk instead” or “meditate for 5 minutes”. Your phone offers an easily accessible way of taking your mind off whatever you’re doing for a minute.
But using Twitter as that distraction, I’ve found is never a great idea. That’s where doom-scrolling happens, and you end up in rabbit-warrens of negativity.
I’m not saying lose the phone completely. But find other things to look at that are nicer, if you’re really in need of something to distract you.
It can be looking through the hashtags of stuff you’re interested in on Instagram, or looking at interior trends on Pinterest. For me, it’s aimlessly ogling at vintage electric guitars that I’ll never be able to afford on reverb.com.
We all have our vices…
4. Be specific and limited
Twitter has been massively helpful to me and my career. It’s been great for making friends and keeping in touch with people.
But it hasn’t been helpful for gaining a nuanced understanding of politics. It has also been bad for my concentration and sense of wellbeing at times.
Understanding this is helping me to use the platform more positively. I check it pretty regularly, but I do so pretty much entirely to see what people I know and like are doing and talking about. I sometimes get involved in those discussions. And sometimes I post something myself. It’s usually either sharing something positive, or if it can’t be entirely positive, something at the very least related to my life as a comms professional.
If I’m not doing either of those things I keep away from it.
This is absolutely not the way to get loads of new followers. But for me, it is the way to stay slightly more sane.
5. Remember these two things:
Firstly: there is a world outside of Twitter.
It will keep turning in all its glory and with all of its maddening contradictions irrespective of whether you share your very strong opinion on the latest Star Wars spin-off, or not.
As communicators we believe Twitter to be essential to our craft. It is important. It is a comms channels to understand and use when you need to. But you can be a successful comms pro without it. You can make connections in other areas, and you can cultivate relationships on other platforms and in real life.
I love that Twitter has introduced me to people, but those connections have only become actual relationships outside of the platform.
Secondly: there are already a lot of opinionated white men on the internet.
It doesn’t need any more.
If this description applies to you, maybe pause before wading in next time. When I deleted Twitter earlier in the year, I felt genuinely conflicted about it. There is, in my view, a lot going in the world to be angry about. And a part of me felt like I didn’t want to be a passive observer to it. But the fact is, by pontificating about stuff on Twitter, you’re making zero difference. You’re probably just alienating people that, otherwise, you might have good relationships with.
I decided that I can make a difference more by concentrating on the work I do, and the way I behave towards people in the real world; rather than adding to the performative noise of Twitter.
I have been very guilty myself of breaking all of these rules in the past and I can’t guarantee I won’t do so again in the future. But they have kept a check on how I use the platform. And who knows, maybe they could be a way of improving it as a whole?
But that’s just my opinion…
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Image via Niven Canjamalay