Jan 11

Curious if anyone else has experienced this effect:

Twitter has almost completely supplanted my drive to make thoughtful, in-depth blog posts. Its low-friction, sound bite, instant gratification-ness style for interaction satisfies enough of what the lengthier public writing used to provide to where it’s now become the path of least resistance for meeting that need.

Let me first say I’m not hating on Twitter. It definitely has value as a communication tool and can be used in various beneficial ways (I just wrote about last month). And I understand a device like Twitter can’t be blamed for behavior anymore than a handgun can be blamed for violence. But at least in my situation it has undeniably sapped mental cycles in the way that a mindless primetime TV show being on in the background can suck me in and shut my brain off. I’ve got a theory on the dynamics of what’s happening here but before we examine the heist, let’s rewind and look at what the blog used to satisfy.


For me in the past keeping a blog has served as:

  1. a reference for remembering links, random thoughts and non-intuitive things I had figured out
  2. an outlet for airing out observations and wacky ideas and getting input from others
  3. a shaming instrument to call companies out on injustices or crappy customer service experiences
  4. a self-promo tool for our company
  5. a way to give anyone who wants to connect with me more “surface area” to work with
  6. an exercise in persuasive writing
  7. a personal space to encourage deep or thoughtful exchange on complex topics that I find interesting

Those are the main reasons I have written and continue to write posts (albeit now at an anemic pace).


So what has changed with the introduction of Twitter as a communication medium? Very simply, Twitter solves every one of those above except for the last two. And it does so with less friction. We naturally gravitate to the solutions that require the minimal amount of effort while adequately satisfying our needs. Whereas before keeping the blog was the path of least resistance, Twitter has become that. The only problem is that #6 & #7 aren’t a part of this new path. Or well okay, let me restate that: it’s really difficult to say anything compelling or thoughtful in a 140-char message.

But if it’s “really difficult,” that’s a good thing right? A challenge. A hard path. Constraints breed creativity!

Wrong. In an increasingly-ADHD environment of rapid volleys of thousands of disparate and abrupt communication snippets, I would say the real constraint challenge now is focus and attention, not message length. There’s an addictive, caffeine-like quality to Twitter too where once you’re out there, you feel compelled to stay abreast of this distributed conversation that’s occurring. You begin to feel obligated to keep up with people with whom you didn’t before. While you’re surface area is now quadrupled, your depth in connection is reduced to paper-thin.

So what

Well this is all fine and obvious Sean. What do you propose?

Acknowledging that #6 & #7 are missing (or at best diluted) seems like the first step. You can get lulled into a routine and not realize the mechanics of what’s causing the behavior. Becoming conscious of the deficiency lets you recognize the issue so you can actively hunt for the source of it and make a correction. Personally I’ve discovered I don’t respond well to “push” tactics (ie. telling myself “Sean, you should really write more on the blog”). What I do respond well to is the “pull” of a vacuum when there’s something missing.

I don’t foresee my Twitter account going away but I now recognize that it’s displaced #1-5 from this blog. The upside of this discovery is that hopefully the posts that do appear here will now be skewed towards #6 & #7. For #1-5 if you are so inclined, you can follow me on Twitter.

What do you think? Have you experienced this same effect and if so, how do you compensate?

8 Responses to “Twitter stole my mojo”

  1. I’ve written before [http://bit.ly/155S9] about how I think writing is dangerous for free thinking. (Or really, translating anything into a written/spoken language.)

    In that vein, Twitter’s just another limiter; though, it is supremely useful for training people to get to the point.

    For me, I’ve severely cut the amount of tweeting I do.

  2. ike says:

    In my case the fact that I’m autistic prevents this sort of thing from happening to me. If I weren’t autistic, I imagine I might have this same experience, but… because I’m autistic I tend to hyperfocus on the things I do and in a lot of cases even when I’ve intended to write a “short blog” it turns out much longer than I expected because I hyperfocused on the subject while I was writing it.

    It’s like being “in the zone”, but being in it in such a way that it’s then difficult to get out of the zone.

    Funny thing is I do twitter… it helps me to compensate for the fact that the autism has degraded my social skills and my ability to network with people. But I frequently find when I’ve been “in the zone” that I’ve not checked it for several hours at a time.

    p.s. I like the Ausin Powers image. :)

  3. Sean, your analysis is all too accurate. I have seen it in my experience (although FriendFeed is more of the bandwidth-sucker than Twitter in my case), and you probably saw the incident in which Michael Arrington called out Robert Scoble for spending more time on FriendFeed than on his own blog.

    And by the way, I wouldn’t give up on Twitter’s opportunity to fulfill number 6 so easily. If a persuasive message can be written in 140 characters, you can bet that it will be VERY persuasive because of its very simplicity.

  4. […] To put all that twittering in context..Scrollin’ On Dubs writes it best “…the real constraint challenge now is focus and attention, not message length.” – 0 comments […]

  5. Tony says:

    I didn’t understand Twitter when I first joined. I thought “this is so stupid! Texting is way easier!”
    Two months later and I can’t look away from my Twitterific app on my iPhone. And just the other day it finally dawned on me to try out this TweetDeck thingie…uggh…I’ve been sucked in by Twitter!
    I know what you mean about the blog posts and twitter. I tend to tweet alot of twitpics throughout the day and save “issues” or compelling subjects to blog posts.
    I’m amazed at the power of Twitter as well for social networking. Back when I was a kid playing on my Atari, I never thought this is where our technology would take us.
    Damn you, Twitter! I can’t quit you! :)

  6. […] insane growth and conversations will still occur via those channels but people will feel their mojo zapped and rediscover the role of the […]

  7. […] comments for short responses and trackbacks for more substantive responses. Twitter has IMHO shoplifted people’s mojo and derailed this practice that used to be commonplace. I believe we’ll see Twitter fatigue […]

  8. […] me. I believe it was a confluence of burnout from a company I started eight years ago along with loss of mojo for long-form writing due to overwhelm from tweet-sized social media blurbs. I started this blog end of 2005 and wrote […]

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