More than a decade after joining Twitter and posting more than 20,000 tweets to tens of thousands of followers (a few of which are even human), I did the unthinkable recently: I deleted the app from my phone.
It hasn’t been easy.
Well, deleting the app was easy. It took half a second. But I wasn’t eager to do it.
Still, after reading “Digital Minimalism” by Cal Newport, I was ready to try something new. Newport basically comes off as the Marie Kondo of digital media. After reading Kondo’s book, I started rolling all my t-shirts. After reading Newport’s, I deleted Twitter. (Don’t confuse these and delete your shirts, but feel free to unroll your tweets.)
The hero in Newport’s book is Henry David Thoreau from his Walden Pond period. But just as Newport says Thoreau has been misunderstood and wasn’t such a recluse, Newport doesn’t advocate a complete disappearance from all forms of social media. While Newport’s methods are aggressive and even radical if applied in full, there’s a healthy middle ground you can take.
Or at least, that’s what I did. I deleted the mobile Twitter app.
The approach is reminiscent of what Dan Ariely has written about in “Predictably Irrational” and other books. If you have a bowl of Hershey’s Kisses and they’re out on your desk, you’ll eat them all day. If they’re in your desk drawer, you’ll eat them once in awhile during the day. If they’re in the back of the office kitchen cupboard, you will only go for them when you’re really craving sugar. The effort needed to get the reward doesn’t change very much, but the behavior changes drastically.
Deleting the mobile Twitter app, while still using Twitter from my laptop and maintaining my account, does the same trick. I even re-installed the app for a couple of days when I was at the Talent Land conference I wrote about last week and then deleted it again. A couple of times, when I wanted to look something up, I used Twitter from the mobile browser. Beyond that though, I’ve resisted checking Twitter from my phone, and the app is gone.
Why Twitter? It’s an incredible service, and I love so much of the community there. But, since late 2016, it turned into an outrage engine – at least for me. I get that there are a lot of things one should feel outrage toward (white nationalism, global warming, the color of female presidential candidates’ shoes), and I discover some valuable information through Twitter, but the feeling I’ve come away with after browsing Twitter is usually negative.
Thanks to the algorithms used by Twitter, along with Facebook, LinkedIn, and others, I’m able to see a lot of what I care most about from the accounts I interact with the most even when I log in infrequently from my laptop. I might be a little slower to offer a snarky comment in response to favorite reporters like Kerry Flynn or Casey Newton (sorry, pals), but I can still dish all the snark I want, and I can find plenty of outrage about GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY ELIZABETH WARREN HAS ACTUAL POLICIES TO DEBATE AND I DON’T GIVE A (%&@ ABOUT HER HAIRCUT – whew, sorry. I told you my cortisol goes up.
Now, if many others follow Newport’s lead and minimize usage of Twitter and Facebook and the like, this is very bad news for social networks, their investors, and advertisers. It could make the duopoly shift to Google and Amazon outright and have a lot of domino effects. While Facebook’s user base is growing, Lou Kerner sees the veneer fading as engagement continues to fall (see the link in the section below).
As for me, I had already deleted Instagram from my phone before reading the book (with Instagram, the sin was it felt like a time-suck of G-rated voyeurism… or maybe PG-rated for my friends drinking at axe-throwing bars). I’m probably going to ditch Facebook next – at least its mobile app. And lest you think I’m a total minimalist, I have 127 apps on my phone that I can’t bring myself to delete. even after culling my app herd considerably.
With Twitter, I do feel those moments where I want to check it from my phone. I get that itch. I am now aware of all those moments of downtime where I am dying to get that surprise hit of outrage, so it’s like a dopamine and cortisol cocktail (which would be a big hit at axe-throwing bars). But I stop. And then I turn off my phone. Or I read more of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat on my Kindle app (I bought the print book too and love it).
It feels great not having the Twitter app. It feels like I’m in control. And I can’t recommend this deletion approach highly enough – even as an experiment for a week or even a weekend. The outrage can wait.
What books have inspired you lately? And, as always, what are you making of yourself?
LEARN. TRY. SHARE.
WORD TO YOUR STARTUP
NfX recently wrote about the psychology of startup growth. I loved the first lesson, which says that language needs to come first and then directs the product. They write, “The exact language you choose to describe your product and company tells you what you’re doing, and it tells your user what to expect. Your language defines you. It tells users how you are relevant to their life.” Words to live by – or more like words to grow by.
A BEAR GROWLS AT FACEBOOK
Lou Kerner, a Facebook analyst turned crypto guru, goes back to his roots to show how most analysts and investors are overlooking a key indicator: despite its growth, Facebook usage keeps declining. Facebook isn’t reporting on this, and Kerner hypothesizes that these drops in the bucket will become a deluge. What’s striking is how consistent the trend has been.
LA TO AXE TAXI TOP ADS?
I get that taxitop ads can be a nuisance; I’m waiting for my kid to be old enough to ask me what’s up with all the Flashdancers ads plastered atop NYC cabs. In LA, the issue isn’t the content but the digital format, and their city council is considering a ban on digital ads on cars’ rooftops. From anything I’ve read and anyone I’ve spoken to, few drivers are living such a posh life on such part-time or full-time income, and an accident or a gas price hike could destroy a driver’s margins. Plus, there’s a slippery slope (as noted here). As much as people find ads annoying, I’d imagine LA residents care far more about crime, employment, and how many schools and streets they can name after Kobe Bryant. Hurting drivers’ potential take-home pay by banning such ads seems like a decision that will hurt too many while benefiting barely anyone.
WHAT DO YOU WANT FOR YOUR 10,000TH BIRTHDAY?
Joe Jaffe’s “Built to Suck” explores how corporations are now designed to have a shorter shelf life. Alexander Rose looks at companies and institutions that have lasted more than 500 years to explore what could be built for not just a lifetime but an era.
I’M JUST BROWSER FROM THE BLOCK
The good news: there’s a web browser that is crazy fast, has very aggressive privacy settings, and comes with a useful application for blockchain applications, as that’s at the heart of how it pays publishers and rewards users for watching ads. The bad news: if you look up any listing of web browser market share (like Wikipedia’s roundup, for starters), Brave doesn’t even show up on the list (and I checked several different lists). The good news: overall, Brave is probably a net negative for advertisers since it caters to people who don’t want to see ads and just want their websites to load. The bad news: it’s a shame because Brave is a pretty good browser, and I root for underdogs with unconventional ad models to succeed. The good news: Brave says, “Used to have a little, now I have a lot [of users]” – just not quite enough yet. At least it’s a browser that knows where it came from.