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You can opt out of Twitter

If I told you you could have an extra 90 minutes a week to do whatever you like, would you take that 90 minutes?

I think most people would.

Earlier this year I starting counting up the hours I spent watching TV. I did not like the number. It felt like there was so much else I could be doing with that time that would arguably be better for me, the world, or others.

On any given week I was watching a slew of shows that, truly, I didn’t even care about. I wondered, “Do I really need to watch “the biggest challenge ever” every week on MasterChef?”

So I set a rule: “No new TV series.”

I’d continue to watch existing series, but as they ended I wouldn’t replace them. It was TV viewing by attrition.

When NBC yanked their shows from Hulu it instantly freed up another 90 minutes a week because I sure as hell wasn’t paying NBC $10 a month.

I considered other drastic changes like moving the TV out of the living room and into a little-used upstairs bedroom. On the theory that having the TV in a room that was more out of the way and a little less comfortable it might result in less mindless TV consumption. I did not do that (yet).

But I did start a “TV App Juggle”, where I’d juggle between streaming services. This became an easier choice once Netflix raised their prices. By cancelling it and coming back every 3 months or so I could revisit the series I cared about, like Stranger Things and The Crown. Doing this with Netflix and Hulu means sometimes I load the TV and realize there’s nothing I want to watch. So I go do something else.

(We keep Prime and HBO Max on account they’re bundled with things we need to keep, namely Prime and AT&T cellular and Internet fiber service to our house.)

So what I’d do with that extra time?

I was able to commit to more activity. My average daily activity has doubled from 45 minutes to 90 minutes. This was also due in part to a 75 Hard challenge I did that required it. I lost ten pounds as a result of the increased activity — often just walking the dog or extra long bike rides. I also had more time for cooking whole meals.

My book reading time has gone up, too. I’ve read 81 books this year and, I think, I can get to my 100 book goal for this calendar year.

All this to say: you can opt out of Twitter. When I think about Twitter, I do have some good memories. I’ve met people like Jon Brewer and Adam Ramsey, who I was thrilled to finally introduce myself as, “Hi, I’m Justin from the Internet.” Jon would later take some lovely photos for me, too.

I’ve built or maintained relationships with my dear friend Tony Dewan. Others, like Will Haven I sort of casually know and recognize, but if not for Twitter would probably be non-existent to me. Likewise with Austin Gibble and dozens of others.

Charles Perry and I have had lunch a time or two, coordinated through Twitter. An appearance on his podcast has even brought me some business over the years.

But like watching TV and being able to say, “Oh, yeah, I’ve seen Breaking Bad,” … is it worth it?

I mean, maybe? But probably not. Does anyone think in twenty years this will matter?

I wish I could maintain and grow relationships through other means. It’s not for want of trying. I’ve tried writing letters, texting, emailing, and even calling people from time to time. But a staggering number of people — perhaps everyone — is just not interested in that. Sometimes I feel like I’m sending people carrier pigeons or smoke signals, all in a plea for their friendship and camaraderie that goes beyond dinky tweets and into something deeper.

This, of course, is a trade off. But as Twitter’s struggle is top of mind among many — including many people I care about — it’s worth remaindering myself and others: you can opt out of Twitter. You can opt out of the shallows. You can opt in to deeper relationships, perhaps with fewer people.

That comes with tradeoffs. But it’s hard to imagine in fifteen or twenty years it won’t have been worth it. Though, arguably, the relationships might endure. I met Doug Masson in part through Twitter, but that was because I was already following his blog. People had relationships and maintained those relationships long before Twitter, and they will do so long after Twitter. Pre-Twitter, though, it took some effort.

Like my “no new series” rule, I don’t intend to make a Mastodon account or any other service account. I have this website, its mailing list, and RSS feed. People can email me anytime, and I’m always open to text threads, letters, calls, and coffee.


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Photo of Justin Harter

About JUSTIN HARTER

Justin has been around the Internet long enough to remember when people started saying “content is king”.

He has worked for some of Indiana’s largest companies, state government, taught college-level courses, and about 1.1M people see his work every year.

You’ll probably see him around Indianapolis on a bicycle.

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