You feel a sick sense of disgust every time you open Twitter. You might think that queasy feeling in your stomach is from the state of the world, the politics, the negativity — the horror, the horror.
It’s not. The state of the world is what it is, but there’s no amount of scrolling through Twitter that will change it. What you feel is sea sickness from scrolling through a murky stream of disconnected bids for your attention and outrage.
I get it — I used to feel this way about my own Twitter feed for a long time. I “quit” Twitter multiple times because of it.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. The experience you have on Twitter completely depends on your feed and how you interact with it. It’s common to forget, but your feed is entirely your own, So if Twitter feels like a dumpster fire train wreck that you just can’t look away from, that’s your fault.
It’s also completely within your power to fix and doing so is actually quite simple: create guardrails that force you to be intentional about who you follow and why.
Taking control of your Twitter feed is about rethinking two things:
- How you interact with your feed
- Who you follow and why
In this article, I’ll explain how you can turn Twitter into a machine for inspiration, instead of dread and anxiety.
Structure Your Feed
When you follow someone, their tweets get added to a single stream of content (your feed). That stream has no structure as you scroll through it, so you’ll see tweets about current affairs of the day right next to tweets about a hobby of yours. After scrolling for a few minutes, you’ve barely gotten a surface-level update on every thing you’re interested in. Like a pinball, you’ve ricochetted off your various interests with absolutely no control over what you see and when.
Don’t be the pinball. Turn the torrent of a single feed into multiple curated streams by using Twitter’s best, secret feature: lists.
Back in November, I sat down and thought about all the things I was interested in reading about on Twitter. I turned each interest into its own list. You can do the same: think about what you want to get from reading Twitter and use that to create a set of lists of your own. These lists can be for hobbies or interests, or different things related to your profession.
Now, stop following people. Following someone is a quick way to add them to your feed. Because it’s just a yes/no decision, it requires little to no thought. Overtime, this is how you end up with a chaotic feed of content that is all over the place.
It makes you anxious, because you’re bouncing from one interest to the next with each passing Tweet. It gives you FOMO because you’re only ever getting a very shallow, surface-level update on any of these specific interests.
So from now on, rather than following someone, add them to a list.
Curate Your Feeds
Instead of one murky stream of content, you have a collection of multiple, separate streams that you can read independently. That is the primary goal of using lists, but it isn’t the biggest benefit.
The biggest benefit to using lists is that it forces you to answer the question, “Why am I interested in following this person?”
I follow people who are Twitter friends - people who I know in real life or who I interact with regularly on Twitter. Everyone else goes in a list.
If I can’t think of a list someone easily fits into, I have to make a decision: create a new list or not subscribe to that person. In the moment, this can be hard. But over time, it keeps my feed clean and focused.
The other benefit of using lists is if someone consistently tweets about something you’re not interested in, that will surface sooner and in a more obvious way, so you can de-list (unfollow) them.
I added a senior member of IBM’s blockchain platform to my blockchain list, thinking it would be a great way to hear about updates to that product. But, they ended up mostly rage tweeting about politics. Those tweets looked really out of place in my feed of all blockchain-related news and updates, so it was easy to spot and easy to know what to do: remove them from the list.
This strategy of structuring my feed, and using that structure to curate who I follow and why, has worked really well for me. I’ve implemented this over the past few months and it’s completely changed my experience of using Twitter.
Before, I would doom-scroll and pull myself away from Twitter when the dread and anxiety became too much. I now have the opposite problem where Twitter is a constant stream of inspiration and awe and I have to put time limits on my usage, or I’ll spend all day completely enamored with the the possibilities.
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