The Twitter Chronicles (Pt. 1: Sometimes Twitter Wears Me Out)

Yesterday, at noon, I tweeted to my followers that I was taking a self-imposed Twitter break.

I was bowing out for a bit. It had to be done.

Oh, I’d done it before. I joined Twitter for the first time 16 months ago, got caught up in some craziness with one particular follower, and killed my account. I was back a day later, with a new name, because I couldn’t stay away.

I love Twitter because of the immediacy. I have a temper, and I hate when I can’t say immediately what I’m thinking when I’m pissed. Twitter was a way to do that without necessarily having to insult the person who was ticking me off.

In the same way, I loved being able to quickly share an observation about a television show or a song or something new I found in the grocery store as soon as the thought occurred to me. Even better, right away I could hear back from someone else who thought the same way, had a question and yes, even disagreed with me.

I have made friends on Twitter–people I’ve never seen in person but who know a lot about me and who look for me when they’re online. I’ve met awesome people who I would love to meet in person (that’s right, I’m talking to you @GrumbleGirl, @Punkette76, @TommySaysSoWhat!) and some with whom I did indeed take the leap of trust and met for coffee or a dish of pasta.

Do you know what my favorite thing is about Twitter? It keeps me company when I’m sick. I’m single, I live alone,  my parents are three hours away and I’m not currently dating anyone. Last year, when I had walking pneumonia and was down for the count for several days, I had someone to “talk to” during the day. This may sound like a small thing, or even a bit pathetic, but when you can’t move from your bed or couch and you look and smell rank and you can barely speak because of swollen glands and a hacking cough, after several days of no communication with the outside world, Twitter is a godsend! People ask how you’re feeling; they tweet home remedies they’re sure will cure you; they’ll tell you jokes and send you links to funny videos on YouTube to keep you occupied.

The Twitter world can be very real, which is why sometimes it can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, I’m very open and trusting, so I say what’s on my mind and take my fellow Tweeters to mean what they tweet. There have been times when I’ve been too honest and was sorry later about what people knew about me. There were people I’ve had to block because they seemed very nice at first and then they just got weird. And sometimes I take things to heart and have my feelings hurt by flip comments. And believe it or not, there are obligations…niceties and expectations that must be met in order to continue your happy existence in the online world. This can be a lot of work.

But so can real life. In the real world, when friends, family and co-workers get upset with you, you have to deal with it. When an acquaintance oversteps his bounds on a day-to-day basis, you have to do something about it. When a complete stranger yells insults at you or attacks you, you must act. But that’s real life, not Twitter.

The luxury of Twitter is that we can choose to be a part of it or not. There are lots of benefits of Twitter–it can be a friendship generator, matchmaking service, job hunt board, travel adviser, book club, movie reviewer, and many, many other valuable sources of information. You just have to decide how you want to use it, and how you want to handle it.

When something happens in real life, we can act without thinking, but we can also walk away and decide how to handle the person or situation in the future.

That’s what I’m doing with Twitter. I’m taking some time away from being able to tell people that I love Thai food left over, that I’m re-reading Bridget Jones’ Diary or that I discussed mucus with my boss so that I can get some perspective on what to do next. Sometimes the blinking light on my BlackBerry, which lets me know I’ve been DM’d on Twitter, friend-requested on Facebook, emailed by a client, texted by a friend, and called by my mom, can be exciting, but sometimes it can be anxiety-inducing. Already, in 24 hours of forcing myself to NOT check my Twitter stream, I find myself more relaxed and more importantly, focused.

I’m not saying I’m going to quit Twitter. I don’t think I can do that because I’m now invested enough to feel like I’d be missing out on something. But I definitely need to decide what role it plays in my life and what rules/boundaries need to be set up to continue benefiting from it without costing too much.

Ah, so much like real life…

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