20 days off from Twitter: A View From The Outside

I’ve returned to Twitter last week, after taking 20 days off, and I’m getting a lot of questions from people asking about the “outside world”. There’s a condition known by prisoners that get comfortable with conditions that return even after they are released, I’m sure they go back to tell the other inmates of “life on the outside”. It’s true my friends, there’s a very large world out there that the digital obsessed forget about.

During my time away, I focused more on blogging, a blog redesign project I’m working on, am working on a communtiy project to help people understand how to get jobs, spent time trying other tools like Friendfeed, spent time on Facebook and shared with my friends and family, and spent more time unplugged during the Holidays. When I watched what was happening on twitter from afar, I realized more than ever how much of the data that was created was pure noise, so instead, I created a Friendfeed room where I segmented out the voices of just a few people over the thousands.

I won’t be tweeting as aggressively as before, in fact according to follow cost, my daily average was 30 tweets, which has now been significantly reduced. I encourage you to back off from the social tools (life goes on) and information got to me anyways, that I realized that we’re not as dependent on these tools as you may think. I can’t step away from Twitter forever, as my clients are there, and this is a tool that I cover as an analyst, but I encourage you to try stepping away, refresh your mind, and come back more focused, I sure did.

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  • http://www.skribeproductions.com skribe

    I get bored too easily to do that =).

  • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

    And there are some good reasons why we should stay away from Twitter more often:

    Besides rubbing shoulders with clients is more exciting and tends to have a greater effect on your bottom line as discussed here:

    http://commetrics.com/?p=864

  • http://www.LiveWorld.com/Bryan Bryan Person

    So what happens when you step away from a tool that you’ve been so reliant on?

    1) The world doesn’t end
    2) You still find a way to get the information you need
    3) You get a healthy dose of perspective — and learn to use the tool more smartly if you return to it.

    I learned the same lesson over the holiday break a year ago when I didn’t read my feeds for two weeks. My working world didn’t collapse. I still kept in touch with people. And I hope I’m a better RSS user today because of that down time.

    Bryan | @BryanPerson

  • http://www.beyondphilosophyusa.com Colin Shaw

    I am quite new to twitter and the whole social media space. I agree there is a great deal of noise out there. Some people also seem to “hog” the airwaves, with too much stuff. If you can cut through the noise then there is also some great information out there. I have started using Tweetdeck to help me achieve that.

  • http://www.mhs.net Kerting Baldwin

    Indeed. A break from social media is what the doctor orders from time to time. I must agree with Owyang in regards to the noise in Twitter. I’m amazed at the amount of people, talents and walks of life contained in Twitter, but I’m still trying to figure out how to make it work specifically for me. I’m interested in connecting with reporters and people who write and care about healthcare. I’m slowly getting there in Twitter, but not fast enough. Time is of the essence. Will venture out soon and test drive other tools. I’ll keep you posted…

  • http://www.micropersuasion.com Steve Rubel

    Can I buy your followers? Just kidding. Like many, I think you are deciding where it’s best to focus your attention. I am surprised that more of us aren’t taking the same route, especially given the economy. Now is the time to build your own house, not someone else’s. Your blogs and Friendfeed can do that better than Twitter can – at least in my view.

  • http://www.emaildashboard.com Deva Hazarika

    I found the same thing at a more general level last year after being offline for three weeks (http://www.emaildashboard.com/2008/01/three-weeks-wit.html). I think what you say is only going to become more important as usage of these technologies becomes more widespread. The amount of time wasted to value created is definitely very significant and worth stepping back from for many (if not most or all).

  • Kim Feraday

    Couldn’t you use Tweetdeck to segment? That’s what I do and it seems to work pretty well for me.

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Thanks Steve, I’m sure you read this interesting post about Scoble’s use of Twitter and Friendfeed

    http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/12/22/im-sorry-robert-but-its-time-for-a-friendfeed-intervention/

    Arrington suggest that Robert doesn’t get any equity out of it, but he does gain influence.

  • http://www.beingpeterkim.com Peter Kim

    I think there’s some nervous wringing of hands and smoking of cigarettes over in South Park, hoping that you don’t really start a trend.

  • http://johnwelsh.wordpress.com/2009/01/11/what-to-do-when-your-social-media-is-frustrating-you/ John Welsh/These Digital Tmes

    Jeremiah
    Welcome back on Twitter by the way. We missed ya’!

    For what it is worth, I’ve been pushing colleagues and friends to have breaks from Twitter and focus on another social media activity.

    Often they are new to the game. They find building a community and benefiting from it slower than they thought They often get frustrated and return to the bad old broadcast ways through frustration.

    Take a break, I say. A short sabbatical – in LindkedIn land or on Facebook island – allows them to learn new skills from other social media activity so that, once they return to Twitter, they are just so much better at it.

    Cheers

  • http://bettercloser.com Nick Martini

    I don’t see why all 4 sites can be used twitter, friend feed, google reader, and Facebook. They all work together quite well.

  • http://www.burrellesluce.com/freshideas Gail Nelson

    Jeremiah,

    Thanks for staking a firm position and further fueling the debate over the right mix of participation in various social media channels. One thing hasn’t changed for marketers: there are far more things we can do with our time (some cooler and more fun than others, for sure) to pursue our business objectives. With each new wave of innovation, I need to learn to spend my time where it will add the most value – for my company’s clients, prospects, and the business as a whole.

  • Jenny Berthiaume

    Wow Jeremiah, that is powerful. I appreciate your honesty and grip on reality because you are right. There is a big world outside of SM. We have to find balance in all areas of our lives. It’s called moderation.

    Thank you for being such a valuable source of info.

  • http://www.lithium.com Dan Ziman

    JO, Twitter is a useful communication tool, which suffers from the same rep as YouTube…Diversion vs. Must-have info. Perhaps, 80/20 rule applies. And, in some cases, when it’s about what people are cooking for dinner, imbibing, or watching on TV, it could be the 95/5 rule.
    We love diversion and hence why the internet is so popular.
    Let’s try shutting off our mobile phones for 20 days now? You can still carry it with you in case of an emergency. I think we’ll live.

  • Lars Schlossbauer

    It’s an interesting discussion: I have had a lot of discussions about the overload of social media during the last weeks (too much noise on twitter, too many loose contacts on linkedIn and facebook, etc.). I wonder if this could be one of the first results for the social media world caused by the recession: refocusing on cocooning and on boundaries in the real world during uncertain times.
    It’s like the “hierarchy of needs” of Maslow: Before you care about your “social needs” – you have to secure your “safety needs” (e.g. employment).

  • http://discobeta.com/ Adam Stewart

    I did the same thing over the holidays, unplugging from most services (although I did check in periodically) and I’m happy I did. Because of the immediacy and general the noise on twitter, FriendFeed, etc, it is easy to miss the big picture of what’s happening. The reality is that the most relevant conversations will be relevant for months, not hours, and the important ones will always find you. I came out of the hiatus more focused on ideas and looking ahead into future trends instead of concentrating on the news of the day.

  • http://www.ageofengage.com/blog Denise Shiffman

    It certainly is an interesting point of view from those of us inside the social media bubble. I find myself strongly advocating to newbies to get on twitter and connect to the outside world. I just posted on that subject a moment ago. I think too many people are still living inside a corporate cocoon.

  • http://ivebeenmugged.typepad.com George

    Like anything else in life, moderation and balance are key. (I practice the Yang style of T’ai Chi Ch’uan.) I build into my blogging and tweeting vacation time several times a year. I also use a guest blog author. I need time away from blogging and tweeting, just like I need time away from my day job.

    George
    Editor
    http://ivebeenmugged.typepad.com

  • http://www.investorloft.com Erika Napoletano

    To run the risk of sounding redundant in light of all the other great comments, it’s imperative that companies/professionals take the time to assess the impact social media had on their work flow, goals and intentions. Failure to do can, invariably, result in the “But I’m pushing the button! It’s not working!” cry, when in fact you shouldn’t be pushing the button at all. It’s not what works for you/your company. Find a different button, push it more, push it less. What fits YOUR company?

  • http://www.davidspinks.com David Spinks

    Jeremiah,

    I think for someone like you, who has established themselves online and created a community around their content, it’s feasible and perhaps beneficial to reduce the amount of time spent on twitter and other services. For people and companies that are attempting to create their own community and have not yet established themselves online, I don’t think they will find it as easy to make efficient use of social media from such a distance.

    Dave

  • http://www.jonbuscall.com Jon Buscall

    I’m with @steverubel on this one. Grow your blog. Twitter is very useful, but all the work I’ve picked up via Twitter has been because of the landing pages on my blog.

    It’s so hard to establish professional credibility on Twitter compared to a blog / website.

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  • Darold Massaro

    Everything in moderation including moderation.

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    here here!

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  • http://noesium.wordpress.com Evelyn So

    I whole-heartedly agree with your experience. I have been thinking and blogging about being over-social-networked and how people are beginning to tune out unless there is a good reason to stay with a sensible tool.

    I am not against Twitter at all, but I do think it is up to individuals to use it wisely. Maybe there are people out there who can afford tweeting 24/7, noise or no noise. I know I – and many others – simply cannot afford that, even though we work in the industry. I am beginning to use Twitter as a “pulse sensor”, eavesdropping and clicking on interesting links that caught my eyes.

    As for marketers, I think it is still a feasible channel, but the efforts required and resulting ROI is still TBD.

    I recently had a good experience with Lulelemon, the famous yoga outfit empire. She followed me likely because I mentioned “yoga” in one of my posts. She sent out a few interesting annoucements here and there. Nothing sales-y (mind you, being community-driven is also their overall brand).

    Last week she posted a “Lululemon is going to haev a big warehouse sale, guess where”. It started a nice little friendly convo. And now I know about their new location, the sale, and all the freebies and goodies that go with it.

    Look forward to more great posts from you!

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  • http://ariwriter.com Ari Herzog

    It's intriguing how your followcost has since increased above 30.

  • http://ariwriter.com Ari Herzog

    It's intriguing how your followcost has since increased above 30.

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