You may remember that at the start of the year I purged my Twitter diet of scheduling tools, curating apps and any form of automation. I even abandoned lists for Tweet’s sake. The goal was to consume, share and engage with other users using only my home stream.
So how did this experiment in Clean Tweeting go?
Like any detox, it was tough to begin with. My social media schedule went out the window. Without Buffer and Pocket, I was spending more than an hour a day dipping in and out of my home stream trying to find somebody or something worth replying too. It was a mess to be honest. A spam-laden, snake oil, inspirational quotation-filled cess-pool of nonsense. I spent much of the first week filtering out as much of this noise as possible.
From then on things took a turn for the better.
Having cleansed my timeline of as much spam as possible, I turned to my own messages. Instead of simply posting links and pulling in headlines, I took time to add real context of my own. After a week or so my tweets were clearer, sharper and, hopefully more attention-grabbing than previous efforts.
And I became more ruthless. At the start of the experiment I scrolled in a daze through hundreds of tweets, going back an hour or more into the past. After a few days the cut off was 20 minutes before jumping back to the top of the feed for the latest news.
Conversations were easier too. No longer able to play with my Twitter gadgets I was forced to get out of my shell and talk to people. And it reminded me of my earliest forays into Twitter back in 2007. The sheer excitement of chatting with someone that you’d never met in real life who shared or challenged your views.
I made new friends. I rediscovered old ones. I got into a squabble or two over the Republican Primaries, the imminent UK-EU referendum and a recent BBC adaptation of War and Peace (not worth half the praise it received I reckon). And at the end of it all, I felt energised and, to borrow my original headline, I rediscovered my Twitter mojo…with a few caveats however.
Firstly, I can’t live without lists. To me, at least, they are the single most useful feature of the Twitter app itself. Even though I wasn’t allowed to use them, I spent much of January adding to existing groups and creating new ones based on posts and conversations in my ‘real-time’ home feed. There’s no question I’ll be using them more in the future.
Secondly, living in Twitter real-time is only sustainable for a week or two. Even where social media is a large part of your professional life, it just isn’t practical to dip into your personal stream on and off throughout the day.
Finally, no matter how much I enjoyed the experience, it did nothing to alleviate my concerns about the future of Twitter. This is the subject of another post, but I still struggle to see how the platform can reconcile the needs of its core users who thrive on hashtags, @replies and unthreaded conversations – and a wider audience unfamiliar with the arcane Twitter rituals that we know and love.
But I’m determined to end on a positive. Much of what I learned or rediscovered in my month of clean-Tweeting I’ve already applied to the professional accounts that I manage from more frequent engagement and opinion sharing to more discriminating use of scheduling and curation apps.
And while I’m glad to be logging back on to Buffer and Pocket for my personal accounts, I’m going to make sure they don’t obscure the real purpose of Twitter: Chat and chastise, debate and discuss, argue and even (heaven forbid) agree. But whatever you do, whatever you say, whatever you post, keep engaged.