A friend of mine once said that mobile phones are pacifiers for grown-ups. The description fit my usage all too well, so I decided to do something about it.
Twitter was by far the biggest time drain so I thought why not try replacing it with something similar but perhaps healthier. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius seemed to fit the bill. It’s a collection of notes written from 161 to 180 AD, most of which are short enough to be a Twitter post. So, I would basically replace Twitter with a kind of ancient Twitter-feed, but hopefully a high-quality one given that it’s been filtered by so much time. A lot of it is about death and how to deal with the fact that we do indeed die, but you’ll also get advice such as:
“You’ve given aid and they’ve received it. And yet, like an idiot, you keep holding out for more: to be credited with a Good Deed, to be repaid in kind. Why?”
Twitter is pretty great though – you get to follow people you admire and learn from them daily. What’s wrong with that? Turns out even serious, apparently sophisticated people are attracted to flame wars, and comment sections quicky turn to cesspools. I sincerely hope that the type of people who frequent comment sections are not representative of the population as a whole. You may think that it’s up to me to decide whether or not to pay any attention to these discussions. Unfortunately, I’m not nearly disciplined enough to look away.
I like to think that I’m cognizant of groupthink and do try to understand how people end up with believes opposite mine. This translates into following people all over the political spectrum, including the very fringes. I’ve found people I deem rational both left and right, but not on the fringes. The fringe is exciting though. Fringe-people are often aggressive and ill-mannered but make for great entertainment. So, if you want to have an unbiased feed, be prepared to get annoyed on a regular basis. I like to get paid if I’m to do something annoying.
There are a lot of brilliant, highly productive people on Twitter, from which we can no doubt learn a lot. However, I’m not sure how healthy it is to fill your feed up with such people. Can daily exposure to brilliance cause anxiety? Perhaps it’s a net benefit type of thing.
Anyhow, a couple of months into the experiment I felt somewhat calmer than usual, the main difference being that I started reading books again - and not just Meditations. Without noticing, Twitter had replaced reading books. Once I discovered this, I deleted the app and swore never to install the damn thing again. I still catch myself aimlessly surfing the web though, but Wikipedia is not nearly as addictive as Twitter. Not doing anything except thinking is still difficult but seems to be getting easier. Thinking about things that matter harder still. I’ll leave you with this quote from Meditations which might indicate that cluttered minds existed well before Twitter:
“You need to get used to winnowing your thoughts, so that if someone says, “What are you thinking about?” you can respond at once (and truthfully) that you are thinking this or thinking that”