3,804 characters.

“I realized about a year ago that I couldn’t have a complete thought anymore, and I was a tweetaholic. I had four million Twitter followers, and I was always writing on it. And I stopped using Twitter as an outlet and I started using Twitter as the instrument to riff on, and it started to make my mind smaller and smaller and smaller. And I couldn’t write a song.”

— John Mayer, quoted in Rolling Stone on why he went off Twitter cold turkey

People who aren’t on Twitter will undoubtedly roll their eyes at this. Maybe you didn’t even hear about this when it happened; it was months ago. But for a lot of Twitter users, even if we did roll our eyes — or quietly celebrate Mayer’s departure from Twitter, because he’s an asshole — it actually was cause for some reflection.

 

In the three years since I joined the site, I’ve written just shy of 50,000 tweets, amassed almost 3,500 followers. Apparently I write an average of 38 tweets a day. Last night, I live-tweeted the Emmys. Sorry, the #Emmys. I am not proud of this. But I didn’t even think about it; I was alone in my apartment, near-robotically shoveling Thai food into my mouth, and completely robotically type-type-typing away on my Twitter client. Snarky shit that the world easily could have done without.

Snarky.

That’s become the word most often used to describe me. Not generous. Not thoughtful. Not talented. Snarky.

Because, well, I’m sort of a bitch on Twitter. I guess that’s my thing. And it’s common knowledge that once enough people see that you project yourself in that way, even if it’s not how you and your closest friends see you, well…

I hate that. I’m a nice person. But throwing that insistence into the ether without anything to back it up is just as hollow a gesture as it seems. The snarky wheel gets the grease, and I like the attention. I am not proud of this. But what’s a sweet girl to do when the insular online world loves her snark? (Until they hate it.)

 

I know this is the world that a lot of us live in now. It certainly is for me. And my fascination — okay, obsession — with Twitter hasn’t just been for the sake of online popularity; I’ve gotten job leads, free meals, dates, freelance work and mentions in such illustrious publications as the Chicago Tribune and Wall Street Journals — for putting myself out there as much as I do. I’ve made so many friends and learned from so, so many professional contacts that I’d never even have had access to without Twitter.

And I am proud of this.

 

But what suffers as a result? My long-form creativity. It breaks my heart.

I’m depressed as hell when I look back at my blog for the past few months. I know, I know: Quality over quantity. But then I remember how hard it’s been to write the posts that are there — and how many of them I’m actually proud of — and I’m even more depressed. For the most part, writing anything longer than a couple hundred words has been like pulling teeth. And I lost all my babies a long, long time ago.

It hurts.

And then? That fixation on immediate gratification — with page hits, with comments, with retweets of the post’s link on Twitter — sets in. And that isn’t healthy either. At some point, it actually felt good just to write. Beyond that: just to know that someone might see it and enjoy it.

Not only do I rarely feel that intrinsic joy anymore, but it’s also hard for me to produce anything that could create it in the first place.

 

“Rainy days and Mondays always get me down,” I’d have tweeted this morning, maybe with a TwitPic of the rippling puddle at the corner outside Starbucks attached. And the emphatic retweets, the sympathetic replies, would follow.

Well, not today. Today, I keep my 140-character quips to myself. On the first day of Chicago’s Social Media Week, so begins my (probably) one and only Day Without Twitter. I wonder whether anyone will think I’ve died.

More truthfully, I wonder whether anyone will notice. Because for as “LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!” as Twitter is, it begs the question of how many people have been mentally trained, Clockwork Orange-d, into watching, just like I have.

 

Finally, let me be clear: In publishing this, I’m not looking for congratulations on my Herculean sense of self-control, or this keen introspection I’ve done here. (Real. Keen.) This is about self-improvement. Because while there are a few people growing tired of my snark and constant tweeting lately — and a few more bemoaning the lack of posts on my blog — I can safely say I’m at the top of both lists.

And if there’s one thing Twitter has taught me, it’s this: It’s all about me.

Me. Me.

Me.

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15 Responses to “3,804 characters.”

  1. Sean McGinnis Says:

    Swoon.

  2. Crysta Says:

    Completely agree. I just got back from a three week trip that I turned into a social media hiatus. I feel so refreshed, and once I got over the initial reflexive attempts to tweet, it was a very good thing. I wrote more in the last 3 weeks than I have in months, and I noticed a lot I may have otherwise missed: http://elginista.com/2011/09/16/the-cost-and-joy-of-disconnecting/

    • paigeworthy Says:

      Good for you! And man, the temptation to tweet every second of what I’m sure was an amazing trip…you beat that! Thanks for linking to your post — looking forward to reading.

  3. MHA Says:

    Pad Thai and snark go so well together, though.

  4. Becka Says:

    I totally noticed, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I hear you, 100%, and I think twitter/facebook/a lot of the net has done the same thing to readers. This isn’t really a long post, but after a million two-sentence twitter quips, it seems like it. This took me all of two minutes to read, but if I were “busy,” I might have seen that your post went ‘below the fold,’ and said, “Hey, I’ll have to come back to this later.” It’s crazy, and unfortunate.

    But I still love twitter.

  5. Helena Butters Says:

    I noticed!

  6. Brian D. Says:

    I missed you’ll twitter today, (not just on twitter). If it were not for twitter, I’d probably not have met you, so for that reason alone, I am thankful for twitter…

  7. BW Brooks Says:

    I found out about this blog post from Twitter.  #irony

  8. Amy de la Fuente Says:

    I was just thinking about how Twitter fits into my life yesterday. In the beginning, I overindulged, like a kid let loose in a candy store, throwing common sense to the wind, not wanting to miss anything. Now there are days when I don’t check it because I’m too busy and I forget. At certain times I rely on twitter to be an outlet to me, although sometimes it’s not very healthy. I have learned to apply the everything in moderation motto to its usage now. Everything happens so fast on Twitter that of course I will miss something, but I will also miss out on the reality in my life if I misuse it. Just be yourself – keep your presence on Twitter but don’t neglect the rest of yourself because hanging out with Paige Worthy in person is great.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    Funny, but I happened on you writing this just as I was trying to figure out how much time to spend snetworking versus, well… everything else.

    From what I’ve read here and of you, I like you.  Twitter’s good for conversations, but there’s something about mandatory concision that acts like a filter.  One of the things that flys through that filter is snark, just because it can usually be concise.  It lets through good concise epiphanies, too.  And a few conversations that exist in short sentences.  Do that exclusively long enough, it biases what you do.  (File simultaneously under: “why I learned appreciate business writing” [forced me to expand my habits] and “why I still hate business writing” [so many people that can’t seem to get past two sentences in an email — I have one coworker who consistently misreads an email if there’s anything surprising about even the second half of the first sentence, I like him but that’s goofy].)

    Knowing you care about what you say and how you say it, I like that.  Knowing that likely means more blog posts, I like that too.

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