Why I've put a Twitter client on my smartphone

October 2, 2016

I recently got a smartphone, and one of the things I put on it is a Twitter client. In fact I went out of my way to pay money for a good one (and it was totally worth it; Tweetbot has a much better interface than the free official Twitter client, especially if you use multiple accounts). Given that I've said I need to break my Twitter addiction, this may seem like an odd move, but there's a method to my madness and it's worked out pretty well so far.

One of the things my phone is for is entertainment, or more specifically killing time if I have nothing else to do. If I'm waiting somewhere or stuck somewhere, I can pull out my phone and do something. Twitter is an excellent source of time-killing entertainment; if you follow enough people there's almost always some new activity to read and look at. Tweetbot dials this up to full power by making it fluid and easy to scroll through tweets, skimming them and dipping into bits, and it will normally even feed in a continual stream of updates. The Tweetbot interface is great for quickly dipping in and skimming around and being temporarily absorbed.

(Since I'm never going to read everything on the phone, it also makes it easier to check in briefly just to skim the latest conversations. This makes it surprisingly similar to my social MUD experience; I can drop in, see the current chatter, and if I want I can go back a bit to get the context.)

So is using Twitter from my phone a lot a tempting thing? Actually no. First, my phone is clearly not good if I want to be actively engaged with Twitter because of the limitations of its interface. Reading web pages that people link to is not a great experience simply due to limited size, it's not a good environment for multi-tasking (where I may start looking at a web page, read a bit, and then put it aside for later), and I'm probably never going to be fluid enough at phone typing to make conversations and so on something I want to do on the phone. If and when I actively care about Twitter, I want to be interacting with it through my desktop and my client there.

Second, using Twitter from my phone means that I can't possibly fool myself and believe that I'm multi-tasking effectively and checking into Twitter 'just a little bit' in between other things. The phone itself is a single-tasking environment, and using Twitter (or anything else) on it means that all my attention is on my phone, not on my computer. I can't pretend that picking up my phone is anything other than consciously ignoring what I'm doing on the computer. This isn't a casual distraction that snowballs, it's a deliberate shift and that makes it much less likely to happen.

Although it's still the early days, I think I've finally managed to make a real shift in how I deal with Twitter, one that simultaneously sees me giving it less attention while in some ways following it better (because I can and do dip in to current conversations periodically).

Written on 02 October 2016.
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Last modified: Sun Oct 2 23:58:44 2016
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