01 Jul 2013
Last year I spent a week off Twitter as an experiment to see what I missed and to give Google+ more of my time.
As the anniversary approached I thought I’d repeat the experiment to see what had changed.
Three things stood out for me this time round:
1. Google+ has really upped its game
When I went #coldtwerky #coldtwurkey last year I found G+ baffling. I’d followed a bunch of people I didn’t know and their updates made my timeline feel like a room full of strangers. Out of desperation at the lack of content on G+ I’d followed anyone I could. Rather than copying that approach, if I was advising a first-time G+ user I’d recommend starting out small and slow – focus on what you care about (whether that’s work or your hobbies) and grow your circles on these topics gradually over time. That way you get much more value from it.
This year I noticed straightaway that the re-design to G+ makes it look much more appealing. In fact it looks beautiful. The tiled design resembles Tumblr or Facebook timeline and is much more intuitive than it was before. Small things – like auto-prompted hashtags for your posts – are a nice touch too and show how influential this Twitter behaviour has become.
I began to re-think circles too. I felt like they’re really Twitter lists in disguise, which is a useful way of filtering out all the updates you might get and of making sure you only push stuff to those people who will care about it. I can genuinely see the benefit of circles now and the re-design is probably part of that, because they are explained better and more logically.
But once again I missed the ability to share stuff from other apps on to G+. Foursquare, Pocket, Instagram, Timehop – all of these apps lack a “share to G+” facility. Perhaps this is for good reason, and probably it’s the apps’ fault rather than Google’s, but I’d use G+ a lot more if they did have this option.
2. Other social networks have got into my personal schedule
The received wisdom is that most people only use seven apps on their phone. Getting into that list of seven is the holy grail for all social networks. Twitter is definitely one of those key seven apps for me, but without it I found there were still enough social networks to keep me busy, even if they didn’t fill up quite the same amount of time in my day.
In particular Instagram has become much more important for me over the past year – I’ve now built up a network of friends and celebrities to follow which makes it worth checking in a few times a day. Quora remains an interesting place to check and, like Wikipedia, you can easily disappear down rabbit holes for many minutes.
3. Twitter is definitely the “global town square” – for good and bad
As with last year, I missed my week without the constantly updated conversation on Twitter. I missed the topical jokes, the little meaningless flurries about news stories, the issues that everyone on Twitter gets irate about but don’t filter into the real world…
But there was also something strangely relaxing about escaping all of that high-tempo debate, the unending opinions and arguments. It’s like stepping out of a noisy bar when you’ve got a headache – you escape to get some calm and some fresh air, and you feel a lot better for it.
Twitter is great but spending a week without it does make you wonder how all that noise is affecting you over the longer term.
Roll on #coldtwurkey part III…