In recent years, the inexorable rise in the popularity of social networking sites has led to hundreds of millions of people signing up to the likes of Facebook and Twitter. For many users, it has become almost impossible to get through a whole day without updating statuses, exchanging opinions, posting photographs or interacting with friends.
For the vast majority of social networkers, this usage is an occasional hobby that is easy to manage and offers the maximum pleasure. However, there are a significant number of people who have let it develop into something bordering on obsession. And for the unfortunate few, it can be difficult to maintain anything approaching a normal existence.
To the uninitiated, it would seem unlikely that using Twitter could be so addictive. After all, there is only so much you can say in the space of 140 characters, but it’s surprising just how hard it can be to stop tweeting, or to stop reading the tweets of others. For many users, gone are the days when they simply said something about the weather before returning to their normal daily lives.
Fan of the stars or fan of tweeting?
At one time, Twitter users could generally be split into two separate groups: those who had a lot to say and those who were keen to follow celebrities. These days, however, the levels of interaction have blurred the distinctions, and most people now enjoy using the site from both sides of the divide.
There are several ways to reduce Twitter usage to more manageable levels, although it should be pointed out that some people may find it a slow and difficult process. The first step should perhaps be to ensure it doesn’t get in the way of your working life. Whether you are self-employed or you work for a company, being constantly logged into Twitter, or regularly tweeting from a mobile phone, will be damaging, so it’s a good idea to set yourself a daily time limit.
How long that limit should be will depend on your own individual circumstances, of course, but it needs to be set to an effective figure. The old saying about no pain, no gain is especially true when dealing with over-indulgence of almost anything. A good tip is to keep usage to a few minutes every couple of hours, and in the end to restrict it to lunch hours and non-working periods.
For highly active tweeters, the toughest aspect of all is knowing when to stop for a while. This can be particularly true in the case of those who use their cellphones constantly. The problem with ongoing conversations is that it can seem impossible to put a stop to them, but if you don’t do exactly that they can go on for hours. Here’s a useful tip: send out a tweet that says something along the lines of ‘OK, I gotta go now, will be back later’. And then, simply log out and get back to work.
Social networking can be great fun, of course, but it can be unsettling when it gets too obsessive. A little common sense, as always, is all that’s needed to keep a sense of equilibrium.