On Blog Addiction and Twitter
by Jamison Koehler on April 27, 2010
I get up most mornings at around 5:00 am and, shutting the door so that I don’t disturb my still-sleeping wife, step into my study off the master bedroom. I have an hour until the gym opens, three hours until I need to drive my son to school.
First I check my email. Then I check the comments on my website. Finally, I check all the sites on my blogroll, starting with A Public Defender at the top down through Windy Pundit at the end of the list. I want to see what has come out the previous day. I want to see what other people are writing about, maybe to comment, maybe as inspiration for an entry of my own, maybe just to enjoy. I do this many times over the course of the day.
I am, in other words, addicted. Seriously addicted.
Mirriam Seddiq has recently joined Twitter and has been encouraging me to do the same. “It’s simple,” she tells me when I complain I won’t know how to set it up. “I’ll set it up for you,” she offers.
But I have mixed feelings. I already devote a good part of the day to blogging and to reading blogs. I justify this to myself by telling myself it helps with marketing for my firm. But I know that this is only partially true. I do it mostly because I enjoy it, because it is a welcome distraction to my real work. I do it because it adds some social interaction, however anonymous, to what might otherwise be a very lonely existence.
And I am afraid to add another distraction to my day.
My wife is amazed at my ability to be unsociable, to go days without ever speaking to a single person. But even I need some social interaction. I meet clients at the office. I hang out with other lawyers in the courtroom and in the attorney’s lounge of the D.C. Superior Court building. I meet friends and other lawyers for lunch. But I also spend the bulk of my time alone, right here in this study, glued in front of this computer screen with law books and client files piled next to me. I could be at the gym. I could be out networking. Instead I sit at this computer, communicating with people many of whom I have never met before.
While my daughter has somehow been able to avoid this distraction, my two sons have spent many hours of their lives playing on-line games. They started with Starcraft and Diablo and then moved onto the World of Warcraft. My wife, concerned about the time the boys spent on-line, was reassured to read that these games have been proven to provide kids with the skills they will need later in life: teamwork, problem-solving and so on.
But we have always been wary, disturbed by some of the social interaction we have seen on these sites. Teenage boys in an anonymous setting can be pretty mean. We both remember the time our then ten- or eleven-year old son came downstairs upset because a more experienced player had tricked him into giving up some of his hard-earned weapons and gold. “It’s because I was greedy,” my son told us at the time. “He told me if I typed in a specific thing, I could get all this gold. So I did what he said and then it kicked me out of the system. When I got back in, he had taken all of my stuff.”
What can be more painful than seeing your children lose their innocence, their trust? Welcome to the Internet, son. Welcome to the real world.
I have been disturbed to see some of that same behavior — the lack of civility, the Wild West atmosphere — in the blogosphere. Years ago, even before we were all on-line, you might see a flame war erupt through the intra-office email system, with each antagonist pushing “reply everyone” on the latest salvo. You would sit back in horror and amazement: Don’t these people realize the whole sorry thing reflects poorly on both of them? I had the exact same reaction in reading a blog exchange yesterday that degenerated into nastiness and name-calling.
But the Internet is not the problem. The problem is with me. Like my sons, I have an addictive personality. Years ago I spent a good deal of my own time playing one of the early Internet games in particular, long after my sons had tired of the game and moved on, thinking I could improve my game if I could just figure out this one problem. My sons having gone to bed, and my wife would come downstairs to find me still sitting at the computer. “Have you ever noticed,” my younger son once asked me while watching me struggle with the game, “that you keep playing this game but you don’t seem to get any better?”
It’s this addictive personality that keeps me from trying out Twitter, at least for the time being, at least for today. I am concerned about the amount of time I might devote to it. I am afraid of what might become of me. Most of all, I am afraid I might devote a lot of time to it and still not get any better.