The Great Twitter Experiment of 2010

I made it 40 days and nights (mostly) without Twitter. And honestly, it was like quitting smoking.

I missed it a lot the first two weeks.

The next two weeks, I didn’t miss it quite as much.

The last two weeks of Lent? I didn’t think about it much at all. I didn’t even think about it on Easter until 3 p.m. — no lie.

And I still didn’t jump on until Monday.

I’m still sussing out what I’ve learned about how I use(d) Twitter.

I had five posts about what I missed about having access to Twitter:

1. Instant information (and/or opinion).
2. Instant (or nearly so) contact (i.e. for baby sitting requests fer instance).
3. Traffic and weather updates.
4. Restaurant reviews and/or suggestions.
5. The ease of fundraising.

(And, yes, they are mis-numbered. I skipped III)

But otherwise, although I missed the connection with people, I clearly saw the way Twitter was taking over the way I spent time. And now that I’ve made the break, I need to figure out how to make it stick. While also going back to Twitter.

I will be using Twitter in the five ways I mentioned above. I’ve organized the people I follow into lists (I know, I know, I’m slow; sue me). I will also have to limit my time on Twitter to certain times of the day (one way I hope the lists will come in handy).

I’m still figuring out things on the professional side, which hasn’t gone as well as I have liked. (But, hey, I still have a full-time job, knock wood.) And it ain’t over ’til it’s over, right?

All in all, it was positive, and I’m glad I did it. It helped me re-prioritize how I spend my time.

Besides, it’s hard to be on top of that potty training thing when you’re on Twitter. Trust me on that.

You Don’t Know Me!

I’m still recovering a bit from the sudden surge in blog traffic from last week’s post in support of health care [insurance] reform. I had to close comments for a day to get a breather. I don’t mind intelligent debate, and I do think that some of the people who posted their opposition have some legitimate gripes and concerns. (As per my buddy Bluzdude, “paying for something I don’t want to” isn’t one of them. That’s how government works, for ill or good.)

Some people took issue if/when I deleted their comment. (I deleted about 10, maybe a dozen. One of them was an ugly misogynist rant, so don’t even get me started.) I deleted negative, go-nowhere rants (IMO) mostly, one or two that were completely off-topic, or if someone resorted to name-calling.

I know I made people unhappy. And I know that because some of them took it upon themselves to email me again to let them know how unhappy they were. One commenter even asked me to email the comment I had deleted back to him. Writing it had “wiped [him] out.”

I empty my trash really often. Sorry!

Although these further, er, communications made me angry, I took deep breaths and tried to stay calm (as I hit the delete key). I pretty much had two mantras:

1. Meh. It’s my blog.
2. These people don’t know me.

One of them wished me a happy Holy Week, I’m thinking somewhat sarcastically. Maybe he/she thinks I am a flaming liberal heathen. For the record, I’m a Catholic Democrat, which most of you probably know.

Another called me a weak-willed apologist.

My husband got a kick out of that.

For a little while, I felt like a big, popular (and/or infamous) blogger. And, honestly, I could have done without that.

I like my little niche of the Internet. I like the people who read/visit/comment on my site regularly. (There could be more of you commenting!) Ultimately, I’m in this for myself, to flex my writerly muscles, tell stories, talk about Lost and books or music, and occasionally air my opinion.

My husband is always handy with an analogy (sometimes graphic). He is amused by people who get offended by being banned from a site or by having their comments deleted (or not published in the first place). About the flak I got about deleting comments, he said, “Those people came and pooped on your front porch. It’s not censorship or poor etiquette to clean poop off your own porch.”

Like I said, graphic. But apt! That’s my baby!

Forewarned

I am doing two fundraising events this year.

The first is the March of Dimes March for Maddie. I’ll have the privilege to walk with the Pittsburgh team that I (and my two girls) walked with last year.

My personal goal is to get $250 to add to the pot. It’s not much, but every little bit counts. You can donate here, at my March of Dimes page.

The second event is a new one for me, Walk Now for Autism Speaks. My husband first did this about two years ago — I don’t think he did it last year. I’m hoping we can do it as a family this year.

If you are interested, I would love to start a Pittsburgh bloggers team. I’d like to call it Pittsburgh Bloggers for A Boy. (I’ll explain later, and frankly, I probably need permission to do that.) With the rates of autism at 1 in every 166 children, it’s likely that you know someone on the spectrum, whether a friend or family member.

++

In both of these cases — premature infants and autism — my family has not been directly affected. My children, my girls, are healthy and what is called “normal” by society. (Gabriel was not premature, he wasn’t even at risk. He died for unknown and, probably, unknowable reasons.)

But Dan works with families whose lives have been touched by these factors. I have friends with children who are on the spectrum.

I can’t do much. Love, acceptance, support. And show my love, my support, for these families and my friends and their families.

If you want to come out, information about the Pittsburgh team for Maddie is here. (Maddie is Madeline Spohr, who was premature, and who died last year, at 17 months. Her mother writes, movingly, at The Spohrs are Multiplying.)

If you are interested in being on a team for Autism Speaks, let me know in the comments (or shoot me an email at albamaria30 [at] verizon [dot] net. I’ll start a team.

And then I’ll start harassing you all on Twitter and Facebook to donate to these worthy causes. You’ve been warned!

What Twitter is Good For V

Restaurant reviews/suggestions.

I need to find a restaurant in Sewickley. It needs to be quick and low-priced (but NOT fast food), fairly child-friendly, with tasty vegetarian options. Eat’n’Park is acceptable. The only restaurants I know in Sewickley are China Palace (very good, but not fast or inexpensive enough for me tonight) and Sharp Edge (right out in these circumstances).

If I could post this to Twitter, I would have an answer (or at least suggestions) FAST.

Dagnabit.

What Twitter is Good For IV

Traffic and weather!

I am not and have never been a local news watcher. I get my news from the radio, from newspapers, and, increasingly, on-line.

During Snowcapolypse 2010, I got a lot of information from Twitter: how much snow we were getting, current conditions, road conditions, school closings, etc.

And that’s from other tweeps, not even necessarily from the news sites I follow. For the record, I do follow @WPXITraffic and @Verz (Jeff Verszyla) from KDKA. But it’s a lot more fun to see other tweeps Twittering about traffic or weather: bitching about it, making fun of others for bitching about it, bitching about school closures, etc., etc. I got a lot of amusement from it. There was one morning we had roadkill updates (I-79 is the final resting place of a lot of unfortunate animals).

Now, if I want to get updates on weather and traffic I either have to turn on my television in the morning, tune into the radio at exactly the right time, or check the Internet either before I leave for work or when I leave for home.

And they don’t talk about roadkill.

*Sigh.* As we would say on Twitter: #firstworldproblem

One Other Small Thing

In case anyone was keeping track, I was until recently doing Blog365. I pretty much let go of that last week, for a lot of reasons similar to why I’m not on Twitter right now. It’s just a lot more fun for me to spend my weekends having a good time with my children and my husband instead of wondering when I am going to get to the computer (or, as Kate is calling it these days, my “cuter”) to post something. Or, conversely, running errands. Either way, I don’t have that voice in the back of my head nagging me about making a post.

If I had a laptop, or a “smart” phone, my tweeting and blogging life would be different. If I could do those things while in the same room as my children, I would probably do them more often. Which, as I am learning from actually being in the room with my children and interacting with them, may not be a great thing for me, either. So.

*Disclaimer*: I would hope that everyone knows this, but I have cut back on my Internet usage (at this point in time, in this way) not because I think anything is wrong with being a parent and using the Internet. I don’t think there is anything wrong in blogging about your children, even your young children. Don’t be mean, obviously; don’t be exploitive — of anyone, not just your children. I don’t think there is anything inherently evil about Twitter or Facebook or blogging or the Internet in general.

I think it’s in the way that any of us use it. Surfing the Internet for child porn is WRONG, sick and wrong. Tweeting so much that your kids get into the pancake mix is funny, but Tweeting so much your kid says, “Why do you love your computer more than me?” would be sad (no, I don’t know an example of this, I’m making this up). Spending so much time on Facebook that it ruins your real-life relationships is problematic, to say the least.

I just want to be clear that I’m conducting this experiment, this Lenten fast, for my very own self. If what I have to report strikes you as useful or entertaining in some way, I hope you’ll let me know. But please don’t think I’m judging anyone, or anything, except my own life.

/disclaimer

Twitter: The Lecture*

* To clarify, not from me to you. From my dad to me. To clarify further, the title is a bit of an inside joke, which I will explain in a different post.

My father tried to leave a comment on my blog regarding my Lenten Twitter fast. And my blog ate his comment. (Good blog.) (Just kidding, dad!)

As I got to drive him to the airport the other day, though, he was able to deliver his comment in person.

To paraphrase:

One of the reasons we Catholics give up something for Lent is so that we can shift our resources to a more worthy area. For example, if one gives up chocolate or the daily Starbucks concoction, one takes the money one used to spend on it, and gives it to charity.

In terms of giving up Twitter, what I am gaining (aside from perspective) is TIME.

My dad shared his ideas with me as far as what I could do with the time I have not being on Twitter.

1. Spending extra time in prayer. I wish I could say that of course of I am doing this. But instead of attending Mass more often or even reading my Bible, I’m probably dedicating more effort into getting and keeping my house clean. What’s that old cliche? “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”? So, uh, I’m in the ballpark.

2. Spending quality time with Dan. This is an effort that is being made both ways. Dan and I picked up the book Love Dare. And we are working our way through it over Lent.

I always thought Dan and I had a pretty good marriage — I still think that. But just because it’s “pretty good” doesn’t mean it couldn’t be better. We both have areas in which we need to improve. Giving up Twitter has certainly given me the time to reconnect with Dan, and the Love Dare has given us both a vehicle to use for that reconnection. We don’t spend every night having deep conversations or anything like that, but we are working together more, and talking more, and just spending more time together. It’s really nice.

3. Spending more time with my children — interactive time, not just sitting in the same room with them. This is a weakness of mine in general, I admit. The computer and Twitter have less to do with it than my own personality. It’s an area in which I needed to improve in any case, and since I’ve got all this time on my hands, I figure no time like the present.

Don’t get me wrong, I think I’m a good mom. I love my girls to pieces. But I have to give them more of myself instead of just caring for them — the bathing, the feeding, the clothing. I have to talk to them and listen to them and play with them more. I have to laugh with them more. They are growing up fast. Granted, it’s difficult (especially that laughing part) when I’m dealing with a controlling 3-year-old who doesn’t want to poop on the potty.

But that’s just the thing: Kate needs me so hard right now. I don’t know how else to put it. She creeps into our bed at 5 a.m. not because of ear aches or nightmares, but because that’s where I am. She fights us for control of everything not because she actually wants it, but because she needs to push to her boundaries to see where we push back. When I read this post over at Mom 101 recently, it made me think of Kate. Not because she’s so much like Sage (although I do see similarities) but because of the contrast of my two girls — yet another post for another day.

For now, I have to be available to respond to Kate’s needs (and Flora’s, too, of course, although at 5, she is quietly independent and more willing to explore her own space). Her need for control, her need for cuddles, her need for me. It’s hard to be available when I’m tweeting. I have to fight that urge to run to the computer and tell about the latest cute thing (or crazy-making thing) that my girls have done. I have to save it up for a blog post; I have to Twitter in the spaces between my girls’ time — after they go to bed, for example, or during “quiet time”.

And even then, I’ll have to limit Twitter. It’s easy for me to spend an hour on there and not get the laundry folded.

My dad had a fourth suggestion for this Twitter-free time, but it’s completely escaped me. Maybe he’ll try to leave it in the comments again.

What Twitter is Good For II

Can someone let @pghrugbyangel I need to talk to her? KTHXBAI.

Seriously, I use the DM feature of Twitter quite a bit. I DM’ed the above tweep to see if she can babysit for me next Friday. And then I quit Twitter, and I haven’t emailed her yet. Ooops.

Oh, DM = Direct Message. It’s kind of Twitter’s IM feature. (Again, for my dad: IM = instant messaging, akin to chat. It’s like instant e-mails, back and forth. Oh, never mind.)

So every now and again, I DM someone. Do they want some gluten-free chocolate chip cookie dough (part of my daughters’ daycare fundraiser)? What time were we going to meet? Can you babysit for me on Friday, at 6 p.m.?

I don’t have to remember e-mail addresses or cell phone numbers. (How lazy is THAT?) I don’t have to know their last name, even! (Insert your own inappropriate joke here.)

But now I have to go all the way into my e-mail, find an address, put a subject line in, type a message, and send it. Instead of the two-step method that is Twitter.

So, not only has my attention span been shortened, but I can’t even be bothered to e-mail (or, even more medieval, call) someone.

How pathetic is that?

Plus there’s the whole waiting for them to e-mail or call back thing. Twitter: another sign of the culture of immediate gratification.

Withdrawal

When I was in my 20s, I gave up coffee for Lent.

I had a headache for a week. It sucked. It also made me aware that I was pretty hooked on caffeine.

Giving up Twitter is worse. (Yet, probably better for me.)

The willpower it takes to not type “twitter.com” into my browser is… phenomenal. Although I could safely do so, I guess, as I would get a sign-in page, which would be enough to bring me to my senses.

I think. Best not to test me right now.

I have gotten some e-mail from “tweeps” (that would be Twitter peeps for those not in the know. And, for my dad: “peeps” is short for people, in this context people who are friends — not those marshmallow confections that Dr. Bro likes so much). They have asked how the no-Twitter thing is going, and I have been honest: It’s hard. I don’t like it.

I even find myself irritable about the whole thing. I guess part of that is feeling out of touch, and, I will admit, irrelevant.

Which brings me back to one of the reasons I gave up Twitter in the first place: the relevance of my on-line presence in the first place.

(Justin Kownacki has a zillion thoughts about on-line relevance, and I will be citing him in the coming 40 days. Just as soon as I get that professional blog on-line. But that is another post for another day. I’m still waiting for my attention span to increase. Although in squee-worthy news, Justin links to me on this post. I’m not really sure he means it to be complimentary, but I’ll take it. I’m a narcissist like that.)

Where was I?

Oh, right.

Twitter and this blog are purely personal pursuits. They are not for networking, they are for socializing. I’m not trying to drum up business, although I do occasionally post links to this blog on Twitter. One of the points I made in my Year of Social Media post was this:

Becoming a parent can be extremely isolating. Within the last five years, I had two babies, moved to the suburbs, went from WAHM to SAHM to WOTHM. While I still keep in touch with a handful of IRL friends (without social media, too), I have lost touch with many more. Friends I went to high school or college with, people I moved away from when I left the South Side.

In the past year, though, I have discovered so many more people and I feel as if I’m fast on my way to becoming friends with many of them. Social media and blogging have helped me overcome the isolation I have felt since the triple-whammy of motherhood, ‘burb living, and full-time work.

As such, Twitter (and to lesser extents, Facebook and Plurk) have been vital to my mental health.

I am stepping away not because I don’t want to be connected any longer. I absolutely crave that connection — like any person craves connection.

It’s just that it’s gone way beyond a way to connect to people, and become a compulsion. My husband is the psychologist, so I won’t be psychoanalyzing myself (he can do it in the comments for me), but it seems that not being able to stay away from Twitter for 5, 10, 20 minutes is a bit of a problem. Especially as the children may be setting a fire in the other room. (I kid. More likely they are figuring out how to use the remote. But still, what is mommy-blogging for if not to over-dramatize?)

So if I’m commenting more often on your blog, or sending you pointless e-mails and text messages, please bear with me. I’m searching for ways to still connect without being compulsive about it.

Thanks for your patience.