On the addictive scale, Twitter is in its own league. You can feel like you’re swimming upstream trying to catch your breath as you read the constant overwhelming flow of tweets. You find yourself engaging in one tweet, then you retweet, refresh, post, click, swipe, and refresh again, it’s a never-ending cycle.
What’s happening with Twitter that it captures you so much? You’re able to share ideas with a simple click. It can be your own content or something you see that is newsworthy. Next thing you know, the word gets out to many more people than you expected. At times, it can even reach millions of people! If you’re lucky, you’ll receive a tweet back from a celebrity – no wonder you can become obsessed!
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The Psychology Behind Twitter
Let’s find out exactly how Twitter interacts with your brain. Twitter stimulates the brain’s reward-based learning processes that include a trigger, a behavior, and the reward. To explain further, imagine that you see something interesting or think of something to tweet – that’s the trigger. You tweet it out, which is the behavior, and then you receive feedback such as “likes” or “retweets” – finally, that’s the reward. This cycle causes you to experience a rush of dopamine in the reward center of your brain.
The more you engage in the cycle, the more it gets reinforced in your physiology. It creates a habit loop that you start doing automatically. Similar to how you retrieve food, you learn exactly how to get it and what reward it produces. This becomes ingrained in your brain and you will suddenly find yourself on auto-pilot.
Why Can Twitter Become Harmful to You?
Twitter works in two ways with your brain’s reward center. One is the positive feedback you receive from tweets you post that allows you to feel approval. Another is the negative vindication that happens when you reply to a tweet that makes you angry. Both create a dopamine rush in the brain.
You have to ask yourself the true intentions of your tweets. Are you trying to impose your views on someone or a particular group? Could it be that you’re seeking approval where it is not meant to be found?
Things can get very dicey when we become emotionally involved in passionate tweets. Both with positive and negative feedback. Since you are not facing people in person, it is easy to throw a dagger at someone and rationalize it by re-reading the tweets that have been exchanged. It can create a dysfunctional way of interacting with people and it disables your ability for healthy conflict resolution.
How Can You Get Off the Tweeter Merry-Go-Round?
So, what can you do if you catch yourself obsessing over tweets you’ve read that made you angry or you find yourself tweeting destructive content to people who don’t agree with your point of view?
One way to start getting off this vicious cycle is to realize what you’re doing. You have to develop self-awareness to notice what type of activity in which you’re engaging. Slow down and think about how your tweets and your activity on Twitter impacts others.
It is easy to become righteous and ignore the fact that everyone has the right to their own opinion. It is a waste of time to swim against the current with people whose views are different from yours.
You’ll have more prosperity in your life when you build on the momentum about topics you care about with people who see your logic. It is much easier to create what you want to see in your world than try to destroy the things around you that you don’t like.
Having empathy and being nice is much more rewarding than lashing out at someone. It may seem like you’re not standing up for your values, but that is far from true. People who like to attack people for being “wrong” don’t get very far in life. You’ll feel much better about yourself by flowing like water and letting those negative things that surround you drift away as you enjoy the company of those who appreciate your values.
With this new mindset, you’ll find a lot of your activity on Twitter decrease. You’ll no longer feel the need to be vindictive. Once you have this taken care of, then you can start to think about how much Twitter activity takes from your day.
Set Social Media Parameters
As with your nutrition and exercise, your social media activity must also be controlled for you to stay in balance. Create a particular set of boundaries that allow you to keep your activity under control These are some examples:
Have Determined Schedule for Usage
One of the most important factors of your social media usage is that you feel is not interfering with your other activities. Quality sleep is a huge priority one must have for a healthy life. Ensuring that your Twitter activity does not happen when you first wake up or when you’re going to sleep is conducive to great sleeping habits.
Limit Usage to a Certain Amount of Time Per Week
It is a good idea to determine how much time you’ll give yourself per week for Twitter. You have to stick to the goals that you set for yourself if you want to be in control. It is extremely easy to get interested in a certain topic, usually at 2 AM, and tell yourself that you’ll get back on track tomorrow and that this time is okay to break your rules. Don’t do it! Stick with your plan and you’ll see how empowered you’ll feel. The point is for you to feel in control, not for the app to control you.
Keep Track of Your Progress
As with any other habits you’re looking to change, keeping track of your progress will help you reach your goals. The most important step is to realize what you’re doing with your time, once you do, you’ll be on your way to a happier Tweeting experience. It is a big relief to feel that you control your habits and that nothing is powerful enough to activate your “monkey brain.” After all, you have the power of choice, so choose what truly feels good.