Opinion: Forty Days Without Twitter

by Shelby Powers

Ever since the parental takeover of Facebook in 2010, Twitter has become the social network of choice for my generation. I am no exception to this mass of young tweeters, using the website almost daily to keep up with my peers and to project my own thoughts of less than 160 characters into the great unknown of the Internet. With my Twitter use, however, came some unfortunate results: procrastination and the dreaded condition of FOMO (fear of missing out). It got to the point that I could not do homework without checking tweets every five minutes.

Looking for an excuse to ditch my problem and perform a social experiment of sorts, I looked to the Christian tradition of sacrificing vices for the 40 day period before Easter, known as Lent, to drop my Twitter habit. During a past Lent I successfully made it through 40 days without meat, so I was up for the challenge.

The day after Mardi Gras, I deleted the Twitter app from my precious iPhone, replacing it with an NPR News app and a Bible app, hoping to better myself with knowledge and strengthen my faith, as opposed to wasting time reading the aimless thoughts of my peers.

The most difficult times of my hiatus were March Madness and Spring Break. I missed out on everyone’s reactions to the crazy upset games and the pictures of their sunburnt faces on some Floridian beach! Of course, the everyday struggle of missing gossip, jokes, and news was also present, especially at first. As the weeks went on, however, I began to realize how irrelevant and unimportant Twitter really was. Without it distracting me constantly, I actually would finish my homework at a decent hour, despite the emergence of a hefty case of senioritis as I spend my last semester in high school.

Although I had these great revelations, they did not prevent me from hopping back to Twitter on Easter morning. Catching up on my favorite comedians, politicians, and friends’ thoughts from the past 40 days would have been time-consuming, so I simply let their tweets go unread. My pre-Twitter-break self would have never possessed such self-control, thirsting for information and things to read no matter what. I kept my Bible and NPR News apps, and find myself reading through those more than Twitter, even though I no longer restrict my use of it. Over the course of my Twitter time-out, I even had time to read real-life paper books, a rarity for many of my tech-saavy generation.

While social media is convenient, fun, and kind of addictive, it is also a waste of time. Everything is best in moderation, and Twitter is no exception. While a 40 day hiatus is not for everyone, take a few hours every day and do something other than living vicariously through the 160 character soliloquies of those you follow, craving retweets and favorites and followers like a pregnant woman craves pickles and ice cream. Read a book, read the news, write letters, or better yet, talk to people face to face, maybe even go outside. Listen to the tweeting of some real birds every once in a while. Following the birds is optional; just don’t expect them to follow you back.

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