A Rough Guide to Healthy Tweeting

Tweeting and other forms of “micro blogging” involve the writing of sentences fitted into a limited number of characters (140 with Twitter – I’ll be referring to “Tweeting” in this article as an example of many different kinds of micro-blogging). The article is also relevant to regular phone texting.

There’s a huge cleverness involved and various tools to help cram that essential meaning in – such as acronyms (e.g. ‘RT’ is ‘retweet’, when you want to show you are passing on someone else’s sentence), and shortened web links, some looking like a secret code, others attempting to shorten a link in a more meaningful way). And there are the same and similar short phrases and cut-down speak used on text messaging on mobile phones. (I L U – I love you !).

Tweets can also be shared across different platforms and social messaging products at the same time such as Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. So they are often posted “on the go” using thumbs from Blackberry‘s or fingertips from Iphones or HTCs!

Fingertip typing is a very specific type of expression. Fingertips remind me of spiders. There’s something pokey, sharp, intellectual, not very sensual about fingertip communication. You can also learn to type at lightening speed, bypassing pausing that is often associated with letting your thoughts pass through the filter of your feelings before reaching your will to do something.

So here are a few little helpful habits to develop if you’d like to stay warmly awake while you are microblogging. If you feel that too much fingertip communication is doing you a bit of harm, read on…

!. Always speak your tweets aloud before you type them or read them aloud before you press the “send button”.

This brings your tweeting directly back into the consciousness of your mouth, your organ for speaking, your larynx and even the tastes on your tongue. By speaking the words you physically hear them, you bring them into a consciousness that doesn’t live in your fingertips. It might be a bit awkward at first, even feel unnecessary, but if you persevere you’ll get used to it and you might well find your tweeting is more original and that you edit it a bit more, making for better, more articulate writing. You may frown less too! It’s a way of keeping the process more conscious and healthier for the whole of you – your heart, not just your head.

2. Always tweet sitting upright and try to go at a slower pace. Bring a kind of healthy poise and posture to your tweeting. A decent chair helps. But don’t cower over your computer, Ipad or phone. Put some healthy distance between your eyes and the words. If the screen is small, then use a larger font, or zoom in if you can. Uprightness isn’t just physical, it’s a physical symbol of you being aware, awake and conscious and is good for you – physically and mentally. Also a slower speed is actually more efficient in the long run. Slowing down will allow wisdom to enter your thoughts and your texting will have a better quality to it, making YOU feel better. Try it!

3. Get a note book and locate it with a comfortable-to-use pen, next to your computer or device. Write your tweets down physically before you type them. This may feel clumsy, but writing with a pen makes use of different parts of your hand, not just fingertips. In a way, physical writing makes use of the “whole body” of your hand. It will be like a first draft of your tweet and often you will find that the slower process keeps you more aware and conscious, less prone to cliché in your writing. It can be surprisingly refreshing to get back to writing for real but also to combine it with typing. You might be shocked at how much the muscles in your hand have wasted away, even as your fingertips have hardened.

4. After you have tweeted for a few minutes, stop, take a few deep breaths. Step outside. Take a walk near some nature – a park, sit under a tree, even just look into the sky and watch the clouds going by or the progress of the sun. Nature is a wonderful place to “come home” to, especially after working on a computer or a mobile device. Here’s a good rule: a minute in nature for every minute in artificial work. This might sound a bit old-fashioned and out of touch. However, the benefits of a bit of fresh air, of leaving the binary world, for the world of natural quality, is well attested to. Nature is rarely bad for you, but squinting over a mobile phone or staring into a bright screen has never been doctors’ orders! Try it. Open a window. Breathe in some fresh air. Just be still for a moment and let the beauty of a field or a horizon work on you. Give yourself a bit of recovery time. Try it between tweets. See what it feels like. See what happens.

5. Do something simple, physical and tactile. Sit back from your typing. Look at your hand. Close each finger slowly into a fist. Let your fingers unfold until your hand is open. Stand up. Stretch your hands up to the sky or the ceiling. Take a deep breath. Taste something on your tongue – a piece of lemon, a grape. Every so often, break the texting routine and go on a trip into some physical gestures. Close your eyes and feel the weight of your feet on the floor, your bottom on the chair – put your attention there, even if only for a minute. This is a way of “re-membering” yourself – literally, putting your body back on. When we are tweeting and typing, our attention falls away from our body and locates almost totally in a direct line between brain (a part of) and tip of thumbs or fingertips. Time to reclaim all of us. Do something simple and physical. Singing can also help, improvised is better, just like in the bath!

6. Look back over your most recent tweets, ideally in reverse order. Go back over them and read them afresh. Look for the thread that runs through them, see the patterns and themes. Reflection is a very healthy thing to do. It helps us file away what we have in our present mindedness. It can unclutter us. How might you have written that tweet differently? How did that string of replies develop? Oh! Why did I spell that wrongly? Oh, that one makes me laugh again! Look back over your words and the words of others. Then pause for a minute before moving on.

7. This is a bit like the idea about writing your tweets only it is a bit more radical (and fun). You’ll be amazed at how much more creative your tweeting can become. See your tweets as a form of art. Think of colour being important. Get a set of paints or a set of big crayons or pastels. Put an easel next to your desk or get a big sketch pad or note book. Write your tweets big, or just some words and phrases. Draw your ideas, or just put some colour. Choose a colour for your tweets and write them huge – it doesn’t have to be all of them, but a nice big piece of paper to allow your “right brain” to flow even as your clever fingertips tap away, if a much more holistic (and often enliving, energising) way to micro blog. If you are about to tweet something exciting, write it in red first – thick red paint! If you are in a particular mood – splash some colour on the canvas and then tweet. Make your tweeting a left and right brain activity.

8. When mobile, never tweet while walking. Always stop. Tweeting and walking is like driving and texting. It is dangerous and generally not ideal for our sense of balance and can be a stress-creator. People have got very good at this multi-tasking but it inserts small amounts of agitation into us. Stop, sit down. get comfortable, and THEN write something. Even if you have to stop a lot, you’ll feel the benefits of you being the one who chooses when and how to tweet. And you might just rediscover the human race and you walk around. (You may well have been trying to avoid the human race which is another sign of how micro blogging on the go can cut you off socially). You might be surprised at how contact with the human race can actually inspire what you write in a positive and beneficial way.

9. Try to tweet backwards. I’m serious. It puts you into a very clumsy place but is hugely awakening. It brings you right back consciously into the process of making meaningful language and is a bit like a gym exercise for tweeting. Go on, start at the end of your 140 characters and go back to the beginning. Whenever you feel you have got too much into robotic, auto-pilot, have a go at some backwards micro-blogging.

10. Create sacred spaces. I’m not being new agey here, but when we don’t value micro-blogging, then we stop valuing ourselves. Communicating with others is an important process, but so is spending quality time alone or with friends and family. Try NOT bringing your mobile to bed . Don;t tweet during meals. Go for a walk in the hills WITHOUT your Blackberry. Tell yourself – this hour is not for texting or micro blogging. Or – today is a tweet-free day with family. You’ll actually value yourself and microblogging when you bring it into some conscious self-discipline. You can always schedule your tweets while you are off doing something else. Putting value into certain times and physical spaces will strengthen your will power, re-energise you and make you feel better.

11. Get a tennis ball-sized piece of clay that won’t dry immediately (sticky tack or plastercine if you cant find any will also do). Have it near your desk or bring it with you in a bag if mobile. After a bout of blogging, take hold of the clay in your hand or both hands and press it into your palms. Shape it into whatever you like. It can be fun to try to make a perfect round ball with your eyes closed. Or you can explore different shapes. The key thing is NOT to use your fingertips but only use the palm of your hand. Feel the more general, more widely spread sensation of palm versus the pointy, sharpness of fingertips. Enjoy the feeling of more general pressing and let go a bit – don’t worry too much about the detail that fingertips could direct. Press hard right into the clay. It is a very earthy, grounding feeling, a kind of antidote to too much fingertip focus.

I hope you find these tips useful. Your comments are most welcome!

(c) Paul Levy 2011

Posted on March 8, 2011, in Key themes. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Elizabeth Marsh

    Conscious tweeting, I like it! We have many forms of communicating in our modern world – emails, tweets, phone calls, blog posts etc. – on the outside they’re different but to me the essence is the same: that is about connecting and to do this well takes care and attention. It’s easy for this to get lost especially in digital forms which are essentially cold and disconnected unless we can imbue them with warmth.

    On another note, I like the idea of the tweet potentially being like poetry – both are condensed forms that can strip away the unnecessary.

  2. Awesome. Those are all really sound tips and I’ll be passing them on to the upper school staff at my school.

  3. Cheryl Lesser

    Thanks, Paul. We’re all living in such a rush… so it’s hugely important to have some gentle reminders on how to communicate thoughtfully and respectfully.

    As a sidebar, I just read this article last night on reflective tweeting. Maybe you guys are on to something! http://danielforrester.com/?p=464

  4. I don’t tweet, but these are good ideas for working with texting & computers generally – & certainly apply to the sending of emai. Quick replies easily lead to diasters! Thanks for the consciousness!

  5. This is a great reminder. I have definitely been guilty of too much ‘fingertip focus’ recently and the thought of leaving the phone behind, going for a walk without it, doing some real writing with hand and pen seems suddenly so appealing. That’s it, signing off. Thanks

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