I’m getting old. Early next year, I turn 40, and in grudging deference to the event, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking: Is this it? Am I doing the things in life I want to do? Am I making time for them, for my family?
Over the summer, one important step I took was a break from Twitter. Something I’ve realised is that, ultimately, it’s just work, and I need to keep that more firmly in mind.
Just over 18 months ago I joined Twitter properly, and started using it for educational purposes. I’ve absolutely loved it – the buzz after posting a blog, the new followers alerts, the mind blowing FREE(!) CPD, the sharing, the teacher camaraderie and support…
But it can also take over. Look at the poll results below.
It suggests that more than half of us spend over 5 hours a week on Twitter, and a worrying number of us, 10% spend over 15 hours. I’m pretty certain that I was not far off that latter figure some weeks.
The site is utterly immersive. Whilst one can drop in to Facebook, check the latest updates from friends, throw a few likes and comments in and then get out, Twitter, I find, is different: conversations/debates quickly emerge, and you’re hooked! One blog post references links to others and before you know it, you’ve forgotten where you started! Hours can quickly disappear, or worse – during the day when you’re doing other things, your attention will never be exclusively on that time in the park with your family, or meal with your wife; it’ll be considering how to challenge someone’s ideas about differentiation, who you’ve never met.
I hope this doesn’t sound like a lecture. It’s meant to be the same kind of advice I give my colleagues: find ways to maintain a life! Ultimately, for most of us who I presume use it for educational purposes -Twitter is still ultimately just work.
I have had the raised eyebrows from my wife when I’m not focusing on a film in the evening after I get home at 8pm from a Parents’ evening and turn on Twitter. I’ve moaned to colleagues about not doing enough exercise, then realised a Twitter chat has cost me the 45 mins I could have been swimming in the local pool. What a hypocrite I am when I lecture students about getting off social media, and reading instead, when I have been hugely guilty of losing track of story plots for this exact reason!
This summer I had a bedtime hug from my little boy that was bigger than ever before, and I am positive it was partly down to me devoting an entire day to him, and leaving my phone with its Tweets behind!
So, I have a plan to change my Twitter approach. I am going to dedicate an hour or two on separate occasions during the week to catch up on stuff and blog once a month, but that’s it. The phone will also be physically placed away from any other activity -just putting it out of the room is an effective step I’ve found. I want to stay informed; I’m ambitious, and know I will keep my profile high by utilising some of the amazing ideas/research I read; I love the professional contacts I’ve made on the site too, but life’s too short for the debates that drag on for hours, sometimes days (although Rebecca’s recent Windowsgate was genuinely amazing…) I want to do other stuff. Life’s too short.
This summer I’ve written a children’s book and planned several more -something I’ve been dreaming of doing for years; I’ve created a 20 minute film documenting my little boy’s journey from birth to school that he starts tomorrow(!) complete with all kinds of iMovie wizardry which I had never used before; I’ve played piano to random passers by all over Bristol in the Play me I’m Yours initiative , and just felt generally, with the Twitter self imposed ban, that I’m using my time more effectively to achieve stuff that I care about.
Anyone can do this stuff over the summer, but back in the work routine is where it matters. That’s my aim: I’ve allocated weekly time to do/achieve certain creative things that make me happy, and I hope in this crazy job of ours, and as a likely fellow Twitter user, you find time to as well!
The kids’ book I’ve written is called ‘Roscoe’s Sunrise’ and it looks at a little boy who gets ignored by all around him who are obsessed with technology.
Enjoy Twitter this year, but remember it’s still just work.