Particle Debris: The Emotional Toll of Twitter

Twitter allows one to tap into the stream of consciousness of a subset of the world. When that stream goes largely negative, it can adversely affect the life balance that most of us seek. Here's what I'm doing about it.

I've been a big fan of Twitter for about a year. I follow mostly tech writers and a few selected news sources. When I tweet, I try to provide useful information in an even-handed way. Occasionally I tweet about bad weather in Denver for travelers, and sometimes it's a great way to send a quick message to a friend, bypassing e-mail. 

What I've noticed in 2009, however, is that a lot of the writers I follow have started to use Twitter as a platform for grumbling. One may be complaining about feeling ill, another may be bitching about health care debates. And all those negative vibes descend on me each and every day, each and every hour. This is not true for everyone I follow, and one executive and several writers I follow are always brimming with enthusiasm and positive feelings.

Experts tell us about life balance. We need to have a balanced diet, exercise, and become part of community. We need to balance work against family life. For me, my Twitter life has become out of balance by virtue of the set of people I've elected to follow.

In my early Twitter life, I felt a sense of obligation to follow other tech writers who do what I do. Now I'm reconsidering that strategy. From now on, whenever I see constant negative feelings, I'm going to unfollow that person. I figure it's unlikely I'll miss anything important he or she writes thanks to my RSS feeds and other sources. I'll keep doing this until I get a definite shift towards positive emotional flow.

There are many problems in the world. People have a right to express their feelings about them -- and then act to make things better. But I'm not going to tap into a negative emotional current on an hourly basis. I have a job to do and a life balance to strike. So ... I promise my own followers, I'll remain positive and constructive.

And the neat part is that unfollowing the whiners is just a click away. My wireless mouse has never been so excited.