The morning Twitter was down

by Kristin on August 6, 2009

in Culture, ideas & paradigms

Image by Photo Mojo

Twitter was down this morning. For 128 minutes, give or take a few. (And even longer, sort of for me—hours after I was able to see other people’s tweets, I was still unable to post one of my own.)

Of course, I go for hours at a time without Twitter each day—and not just when I’m sleeping! I don’t need to be on Twitter every waking moment. For the site to be down in the morning, though, when I apparently rely on it most, was harsh.

But life’s challenges always come with teaching moments, right? Here are a few things I learned about myself and life during those long, Twitter-free hours:

I need Twitter in the morning like I need coffee. It’s my dual-activation ritual. The two go hand in hand—both are vices that have a slightly-too-powerful hold on me, but aren’t damaging enough  to inspire a change of habits. Both do something to wake up my mind and get my thoughts and ideas churning.

A constantly refreshed Twitter page never loads, just like a watched pot never boils. And the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. (When Twitter finally came back up, and everyone was tweeting about their pain and agony, I particularly liked this one, from @Neilochka: “Rather than using Twitter’s downtime to be productive, I just sat here and hit refresh 4000 times.”)

Sometimes you just have to step away from the computer. Turns out, it’s good for you. Not only does it keep the aforementioned insanity at bay, but some technology-free activities and fresh air can do great things for your perspective. After a half hour of checking on Twitter’s health every other minute, I gave up and took the dog for a walk. It did me good. (At least until the site was back up and I began incessantly trying to post tweets, to no avail.)

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s out of reach. Or you don’t realize how much you care about people until you want to reach out to them and don’t know how. In other words, it’s time to exchange some phone numbers and email addresses, Twitter pals! Because some of my closest friends, allies and confidants are people I don’t know how to reach outside of Twitter.

For better or worse, Twitter has changed how I think. Even when I can’t tweet, I think in 140-character nuggets. The days of long, rambling, stream-of-consciousness thoughts seem to be gone. Now I go for the concise, poetic, witty and engaging, even in my head, paring my thoughts down as I go. I imagine my audience, too, even though they’re thankfully not in my head: Would they find this interesting or funny? Would they respond?

Twitter’s not a monologue—it’s all about the conversation. Even hours after the site was back up, and I could read other people’s tweets as they appeared, I couldn’t get a tweet of mine posted for the life of me. It wasn’t even so much that I had something *I* needed to say, with any importance of its own—I kept seeing things I wanted to respond to, but couldn’t. People are out there, needing encouragement and sympathy, needing someone to laugh and acknowledge, and share ideas. But for the past two or so hours, I’ve been  listening in without being able to speak up. It’s like a bad dream—I keep opening my mouth to say something, but nothing comes out.

(Update: As of 2:05 pm CST, I still have yet to successfully tweet anything. Of course, when all else fails on twitter, I can always blog about it, right? Hope to interact with my Twitter pals again soon!)

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  • Meredith

    Until today, I didn’t realize how much I relied on having Twitter there. Like you, I’ll go hours without updates or replies, but I liked having it *there*, open on my desktop, just in case I wanted to take a peek. Strange as it may be, I was less productive this morning/afternoon than I am when Twitter is alive and well.

    I also monitor and post the Twitter feed for the nonprofit I work for and I actually started to get worried that we were missing important stories and conversations in our area b/c I’m so used to being updated via Twitter.

    It’s interesting to find out just how much we rely on technology when we suddenly can’t use it anymore.

  • Daisy

    Have you tried Plurk? It’s a networking site similar to Twitter, but it has a different format. I like the timeline and the dropdown windows for related conversations. This is NOT a sales pitch. :)

  • Leighann

    I know! I was participating in a webcast yesterday with Peter Walsh (hooray!) and I was having serious Twitter fail. Other people were commenting and I couldn’t post anything.

    Here’s the good or the bad: I have TweetDeck on my iPhone and I can check in when I’m in line at the store, in a waiting room, or outside watching my kids play. Oh and when I took the train to/from Chicago it kept me occupied part of the time.

    What did I ever do before iPhone and Twitter?

  • Genevieve Charet

    What if the audience in my head always thinks I’m funny? Should I still tell other people? Or just let it be something special between me and…me?

  • Kristin

    Meredith, yes, of all the points I made, the one about how tied I really am to my Twitter friends was the one that stuck out the most (along with the related point about conversation). And I agree, I was far *less* productive when Twitter was down than I am when it’s just there, in the background.

    Daisy, I might eventually check out Plurk, but I haven’t really been annoyed enough with Twitter to add a new social media option into my life. You might have to sell me a bit harder. :) (Oh wait, it wasn’t a sales pitch!)

    Leighann, yeah, that “I’m opening my mouth to say something but nothing’s coming out” feeling isn’t fun, is it? I really should try out TweetDeck. While I’m at it, I really should get an iPhone, too, eh?

    Genevieve, I know all about that issue! I always try to gauge exactly how *hard* the audience in my head is really laughing, and if it’s a all-out belly laugh, or a snarky, head-centric laugh. I don’t know about you, but the belly laughs in my head tend to be more reliable—and more rare. :)

  • mrs chicken

    It was like an intervention for me! Because now I realize how seriously addicted I am to Twitter, especially when it comes to keeping up with my local friends like you. But that said, I did actually *close* the MacBook for a good long while and just be a human for a couple hours. That was … refreshing! Great post.