My number one thing to do with my nervous energy used to be opening Tweetbot, and the Twitter app. Just going back and forth. Bored? Look at Tweets. Want to see news? Look at Tweets. Want to talk to friends? Look at Tweets. Want to see when D-list Apple pundits are talking about? Look at Tweets. Uncomfortable silence in a waiting room? Look at Twitter.
It was a habit for any and all occasions. When I stopped using Twitter, a little over a year ago, I knew there wasn’t a Twitter replacement. I needed to unlearn my habits, and it’s an ongoing process.
Mastodon isn’t Twitter, for better and for worse. I decided early on that it was a place for a specific type of social interaction. I wasn’t going to evangelize the Fediverse like someone with Tux desktop wallpaper talking about FOSS. I was just going to use it for fun, and also not for anything too personal.
Instagram had been converted to a private account long ago. It’s a good way to interact with certain people, but it has its own darkness, obviously. When Threads started up I joined to see what was going on, and it’s been pretty dismal. Optimizing for brands and influencers. It has its whole gross thing about boosting interaction by spamming people to see Casey Newton’s posts all the time. It doesn’t bring me any joy, so it’s relegated to another iOS screen. If it turns into the place where one must be, then I’d probably create another account unlinked from my private Instagram, but I’m in no rush to entertain that.
Slack and Discord are not microblogging platforms, but they fulfill a role in having a place to pop in and be social about certain topics. I’m not a completionist about it, and I don’t want to get invested in arguing with people. It helps that it’s controlled access, through various membership programs, and not a general audience.
As for news, real news, not Kyle Griffin paraphrasing headlines in quote tweets, I’ve tried a few things. I have a Los Angeles Times digital subscription, and their app is shockingly good. They cover all the major global news, and local news. The Food section is pretty good too.
I tried Apple News, and Apple News+, and both suck. Mostly the app is trash. It’s weird to think that LAT, a struggling newspaper, has a better app than one of the most profitable companies to ever exist. Things like forcing you to see stories from publishers you’ve blocked, because of some weird editorial desire to appear objective and fair. Completely irrelevant listicles from third-rate content farms. Also a lot of breaking news from CNN, which is the same as just going to CNN or the CNN lite site. I’m not always in the mood for breaking news.
I also have a couple newsletters through a subscription to Puck, and Lowpass. I wish they just gave me an RSS feed instead of emails, but I’m surviving. It’s lower volume news than the rapid-but-vapid stuff churned out about entertainment, and entertainment-related tech.
I’ve also rediscovered RSS. I was never a Google Reader person, or someone that maintained a curated list of RSS feeds. I tried but it always ended up feeling like another inbox. The trick, it turns out, is subscribing to sites that only post a few times a week, and to have a RSS reader that syncs across all my devices.
Enter NetNewsWire, with all my feeds in iCloud. A handful of bespoke sources, particularly ones that don’t post to Mastodon, and I’m good to go. This also helps with sites that have been junked up, like DPReview, but it’s not a place where I would want the bulk of posts from The Verge.
When all else fails, I read books now. It’s true! I’ve read four novels in the past month, and I’m almost done with a fifth. I’m not going to win any reading-speed contents, but that’s not the point.
I noticed that I keep jumping between the apps and news sources when I was lying awake in bed at night, unable to sleep. I was feeling stressed out, and just compulsively opening and closing apps like suddenly there would be a slew of new stuff at 3 AM Pacific. The Kindle app solved that.
I could just be in the app, with it’s dark background and gently glowing white text. Twitter, even in the best of times, wasn’t something for winding-down.
I’m going to keep screwing around to try and get the right balance of social activity, and media. As I’ve said before, I don’t want a Twitter replacement. I don’t want to be disconnected from the world, or the people in it, but I’m not craving a new stress machine. I’ve got enough shit to deal with.