Why I can’t stand twitter

As a blogger, the common wisdom says that I should use twitter.

I’ve tried… but I just can’t stand it.

Supposedly, it helps you build a network and engage with an audience, but the quality of that engagement is unspeakably poor.

Recently, I’ve been trying to respond to tweets that mention me, but I’m often left utterly confused as to what on earth people are trying to say, usually because I’ve been copied into a reply to a reply to a retweet from a week ago, and all context is lost.

Then because everything is limited to 140 characters, conversations about complicated topics become reduced to soundbites devoid of any subtlety of meaning. I write a 1000-word blog post on skill development in writing, and I get a sub-140-character reply saying “get words down and worry later” or the meaningless “writing is thinking”. It makes me want to beat my head against the desk.

But my real problem with twitter is the lack of attention. Everyone is multitasking. Everyone is distracted. All the things I write about depend upon stemming the tide of information so you can actually think… so if you are on twitter, you aren’t following my advice anyway.

Twitter might help me grow an audience or increase my web traffic, but I think it’s a better use of my time to spend longer talking to fewer people, and engaging in higher-quality conversations through webinars, coaching and speaking engagements.

I find twitter stressful, inefficient and superficial. It goes against every principle I talk about on this blog, and it’s an unnecessary distraction to meaningful work. With that in mind, it seems the only reasonable conclusion is to stop using it.


Update: I’ve reactivated my account, but only to auto-post links to new articles. If you want to comment, do so on the post and feel free to use more than 140 characters! If you comment on Twitter I won’t see it because I don’t look.

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    • James Hayton says

      Not my style I’m afraid. I’d rather post in-depth articles every so often than throwaway soundbites on a daily basis! I have it set up to automatically retweet old posts, but that’s it.

  1. Nouf Aloudah says

    Hi James
    you are right. It is the worst tool for communications.
    But I like twitter a lot-it is very popular here -I like it for updates, knowing what is going around, short advices, motivations, and news! Please do not leave twitter

    • James Hayton says

      Why do you need to know what’s going around? And why do you need news while you’re working? And if you need motivation, turn the internet off and find it from within.

  2. Matt Ferri says

    Hi James. I agree completely! And I was pleasantly surprised to find a post like this stapled to the bottom of your blog. Your reasons for not using Twitter are well-argued and very sensible. I’m looking forward to reading/watching more of your content.

  3. DWBJ says

    “… and all context is lost.”

    Context is a keyword important for thinking. Twitter and other social medias does not have a focus in context. Although they try, sometimes.

    As the old quote says: “text without a context is a pretext” I prefer things with context!

  4. Anjeline says

    As a student who tends to write long, I appreciate how Twitter forces me to be more rigorous with words. The 140-character limit is a non-threatening “canvas” for exercising my editing skills so I can express a single idea as precisely and pithily as possible. It’s kind of like making a roll of sushi. That said, now that I’ve deactivated Facebook, Twitter has become my “procrastination crutch”, so it fritters away what little attention power I have. Guess I’ll have to deactivate my Twitter–until I finish my thesis in September, anyway.

    James, I love your blog and have recommended it to many friends. :-) Thanks for the excellent and free writing guide–it’s been a big help! Will attend one of your webinars soon.

  5. Azu says

    I feel that someone think the same way as me. I have never understood the purpose of Twitter, it is like talking to yourself when nobody is paying real attention to you, and you do not even make social contacts with that.

    James, keep blogging and delivering those wonderful and extremely useful webinars :)

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