The Side Effect

Over the past two months, with the arrival of App.net, my social media usage has undergone a noticeable shift. Rather than pouring my inane thoughts and reflections into one digital funnel, Twitter, my attention has been divided. I no longer have the capability, nor the inclination, to mindlessly share my feelings at even the most anti-social and ill-fitting of times.

Instead, when something strikes me — something I typically would've tweeted without much further consideration — my mind now poses the question as to which social network I should share this thought with.

As an aside, I'm fully aware that App.net and Twitter are fundamentally different and that the two are vying for mutual exclusivity but, for now, the simple truth is that they are living in uncomfortable harmony on my Mac, iPhone, and iPad. Despite my keen desire for App.net to prevail over its competitor and, indeed, for it to grow into something altogether different for a new digital age, I'm not yet at a point of psychological comfort with the notion of Twitter abandonment.

Accordingly, I'm faced with an interesting side-effect — one that I'm actually quite pleased to endure. That is, despite the ubiquity of Twitter-enabled posting tools and capabilities, I no longer feel the beckoning of such thoughtless sharing. Despite the enabling draw of the Twitter echo-chamber, I'm now aware of the futility of such sharing.

As I instinctively reach for my phone and my thumb hovers over Netbot and Tweetbot, my decision increasingly defaults to "neither." Despite the endearing aesthetic similarities — and the psychological duping therein — I'm forced into a self-evaluation of what I once would've callously shared. Now, as I consider the separate audiences of Twitter and App.net and to whom my thoughts might appeal to the most, more often than not, I realize that the thought is altogether unworthy of sharing to either. That I'd be better off keeping my phone in my pocket and pressing on with engagements outside of the ephemera of Twitter and App.net.

One of the most endearing characteristics of App.net, in its current state, is the social network's propensity toward more mindful discussion. Allowing for lengthier thoughts to share with an audience primarily comprised of thoughtful geeks, App.net has — at least for me — slowed my typical desire to repeatedly re-visit and re-check my stream. I've grown increasingly conscious of the merit and value of my posts, rather than simply spewing lazy questions for others to unenthusiastically endure.

Given our collective distaste with Twitter's business decisions and our increasing cognizance of our digital reliance, I cannot help but think this might prove to be the most alluring element of the App.net environment. Rather than preying upon trending topics and reacting to live events, with App.net we might instead choose to reserve its usage for content and thought befitting of its clientele.

I'm unsure whether this side-effect is temporary or permanent, but I'm unequivocally pleased it's here at least for the time being. I have no desire to become a obnoxious over-sharer, I'd much rather occasionally write a quick thought that stokes some discussion. Whether I have the capability to be that person is yet to be seen, but I'm willing to try.

Reflexively reaching for a means to share inconsequential thoughts is an unhealthy and anti-social phenomenon and, despite its accessibility and lure, it should be treated with far more consideration and self-awareness than it is today. There's a fine line between truly interacting with people and just yelling loudly into a room filled with other people yelling loudly. In my eyes, Twitter seems to embody the latter, whilst App.net has the potential to enable the former. Perhaps we should embrace the "decision" side-effect, and bring that to fruition.