I gave up Twitter for Lent.
I know...I know. This seems a frivolous and superfluous act of "sacrifice" on its face. But the truth is, it's probably the most sincere form of self-denial I've offered up in years. And interestingly enough, only four days into the exercise, the withdrawal pangs have subsided, vast blocks of time available for other things have suddenly appeared in my days, my angst levels have lowered markedly to a range well within acceptable limits, and it's been a good thing that I can see potentially becoming a permanent thing.
Let's do some math, shall we? It's always fun to entertain the pretense that I can actually *do* math. I'll even make it easy by rounding up wherever possible.
I've been tweeting for 5 years. I have tweeted approximately 52,500 times. Extrapolated out, best case scenario, that's an average of 29 (or so) tweets - 4060 characters - per day.
Damn. That is a lot of head space to devote to a thing that has its social connectedness pluses, but which has been used primarily - by me - as a political soapbox-slash-daily-tolerance-self-testing-device.
There is a downside. Of course, there is a downside. I miss a good many of the connections I've made there. I miss being among the million other first to know-ers when news breaks. I miss having other people do the leg work in finding fabulously interesting articles to read. I miss the plethora of connections to the literary world that have been fostered over the years.
I miss having an instantaneous outlet for the meanderings of my grey matter -the largely unfiltered, reactionary rather than thoughtful, oftentimes pointedly petty, and mostly meaningless minutiae that scrolls through my head all the livelong day.
On second thought, that last one should probably be counted as a good thing. Especially if the absence of such a forum helps retrain my brain to process information differently, reverting to the practice of thorough examination while placing a premium on the value of pausing to consider.
My fall back position - excuse? - for my...let's call it "enthusiastic" approach to Twitter has always been to claim it as my political outlet. My place to engage, release, learn, discuss, contend, portend, admonish, claim, pontificate, bloviate, and opine on all things politic.
It didn't take stepping away from the place for four days to show me the truth of the matter. I've known that for quite some time. But what the brief distance has accomplished is casting much-needed illumination on the realities of my own Twitter universe that my previous proximity to the subject had blinded me from seeing.
No matter how hard a person may try to diversify the opinions and perspectives followed on Twitter, there is no escaping the truth of burrowing into a narrow silo of like-mindedness, clamoring to be part of an echo chamber of voices supporting your own contentions, shoring up your own arguments, proving - beyond any irrational doubt in your own mind - your point.
There is no room for dialogue or discussion, debate or detante. Are you KIDDING?! That would require admitting that your views may have room for improvement. That your way of thinking may even be ... heaven *forfend* ... wrong.
To observe this phenomenon without participating in it is both intolerable and humiliating at one end of the scale, eye-opening and vomitous on the other. Grown men and women resort to playground tactics. Name calling is de rigueur. Bullying is merely a tool. Utter destruction of opposing views - and the opponents who hold them - is the apparent goal. Nothing less will suffice. Because in the world of social media, you see, politics is not the art of compromise. No. In this world, politics is nothing short of the art of war.
It's ridiculous. Inane. And I've been part of it all, in the trenches, flinging my mud, redirecting my anger, buttressing my arguments, judging my "enemies" behind a veil of rationalized entitlement. I've engaged, willingly, in the debasing of the process.
I'm more than a little embarrassed by this. I'm ashamed of it.
There is so much good I want to do in the world. So much. But when I participate in these games, diminishing myself in 140 characters or less, some 30 times a day for more than five years...well, my words are speaking at a greater volume than my actions.
I find that pitiful.
I am hoping to fix it.
Forty days is a long time.
Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.
~ Mahatma Gandhi
* Title quote from Terry Pratchett's 'Diggers.'