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Mindfulness in an age of Twitter noise

  • 21 September 2018


Social media platforms push us to connect. Seeing 'People You May Know' on Facebook and 'Who to Follow' on Twitter along with metrics like likes, favourites and retweets displayed alongside our posts means we're always encouraged to grow our networks and numbers. 

Existing as droplets within floods of information can mean we have access to all kinds of stories and conversations. When we use a platform like Twitter to check in with what's current, trending topics, hashtags, and 'moments' can give us instant insights. But what happens when our platforms and networks become too much?

Having been on Twitter for almost a decade, I've seen the platform grow and change. From 30 to 335 million active users since 2010, tweet lengths now at 280 characters instead of 140, algorithmic rather than chronologic sorting, and celebrity feuds and Donald Trump's rants regularly making headlines, it seems Twitter is noisier than ever. Scrolling through Twitter daily, along with Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit, can make me feel like I just can't keep up.

Some people recommend switching off. A Pew study reveals 42 per cent of American Facebook users have taken a break from the platform in the past year, indicating that people are starting to put up boundaries. Advocates for digital detoxes, such as holidaying without an internet connection, say that deactivating social media accounts is 'the best thing you can do', claiming that their 'mind has never been so clear'. 

Overconnection might be stressful, especially if we actually have a limit of meaningful connections we can make in our lives. Psychologist Robin Dunbar puts that number at 150, but we usually have just four people we trust to call on in a crisis. And thinking of the last mindless scroll I took through my platforms, it definitely felt like quantity over quality.

Instead of following platform prompts to connect more, or logging out entirely, it could be time to get mindful of our audience and develop ways to nourish the online relationships we enjoy. After all, intimacy is still important in the age of the high follower count.

Limiting the number of people you follow and friend, creating an alternative or secondary account for just a few people to see, making lists on Twitter to only view tweets from select people, moving specific kinds of chat to more sparsely populated platforms like Mastodon or Discord, and turning off retweets can all help reduce the noise. We all have to think about our