The Harbinger Online

Staffer Struggles to Overcome Twitter Addiction.

My eyes glaze over as I stare at the trembling, scuffed up Samsung phone in my hands. I rack my brain for just one funny thing to say, one sarcastic comment to get a few laughs from my followers. I haven’t tweeted all day and I’m beginning to feel the withdrawal. Then it hits me. I have a tweet.

I vigorously type into the weathered keypad and hit send. Feelings of regret instantly wash over me as I scrutinize my work. Was it funny? Will people understand it? Will they think I’m some kind of freak? If my next tweet is funny, people will forget about the last one. All I need is one more tweet…
Maybe it’s the rush of trying to cram my thoughts into the 140 character limit, or the thrill of knowing my followers will instantly read what I have to say. Maybe it’s the yearning for something new and exciting, an escape from my years of Facebook “poke” wars and “like” attacks.The point is,

I’m hooked (or as we say on Twitter, #ImHooked).

I restrained myself from getting Twitter for quite some time. But day after day I would see the hilarious tweets of Chad Ochocinco and LeBron James, kings of social media, on SportsCenter. Around the beginning of this school year, my friends started tweeting. I seemed to be the last person to find out about school events and themes for games. Not wanting to be out of the loop, I made a Twitter account.

When I first created my Twitter in the early days of December, I had very few followers, but I began to receive compliments on my tweets. Soon enough, I was being introduced to people I’ve never met by my Twitter persona, @webbgemz. My tweets defined me. It didn’t matter if I wasn’t a comedian in real life, but on Twitter, I felt constant pressure to make people laugh. Then my December phone bill came; concrete evidence of my addiction. I would be penniless, shoveling every driveway in sight if it weren’t for my unlimited messaging plan.

Just one month in, I had become addicted. My parents believed there must have been an error when they saw the number of messages; I had no explanation for the insanity. I overheard on an Oprah episode that thousands of alcoholics had used a 12-step program to quit drinking. With some changes, I hoped it could get me off of Twitter. My name is @webbgemz, and I am a Twitter addict.


Step 1 – Admit that you are powerless to your addiction. I was in control when I created my Twitter. I chose when to tweet, what to tweet and who to follow. Now the line between mild-mannered Will Webber and @webbgemz is ever-blurring (#TwitterIsMyLife). I feel the necessity to make my every thought and experience heard and it seems my Twitter account has control of me.

Step 2 – Believe that you alone do not have the power to rid yourself of your addiction. I am too weak to kick this Twitter addiction alone. Tweeting has taken a physical toll on me–my eyesight has deteriorated from constantly glaring at a screen (#NewGlasses), the radiation from my phone has surely killed off a few brain cells and my fingers are calloused from beating on the keypad. Unfortunately, I’ve dragged most of my friends with me on this downward social networking spiral. Upon joining Twitter, I noticed a lack of presence from the junior class and began to tirelessly recruit friends. I can’t look to them for help and my family is about as hooked on social networking as I am–my dad burns away his iPhone’s battery by constantly posting on Facebook and my sister sends thousands of texts each month. Social networking is in my blood.

Step 3 – Decide to make a change. Ever hear the expression “too much of a good thing?” Well, I’ve taken that to the extreme. I started off as a social tweeter, but now tweet in the double digits on a daily basis (#ModerationFail). I wish to return to my old innocent self and go back to the days of occasionally updating my Facebook status, but I have become immersed in this Twitter world. I recently viewed my tweets collectively on the computer. There on the screen, I saw all the time I had wasted on these meaningless tweets. Beyond the stream of hollow remarks, I saw a boy crying out for help. My work habits had declined. In late December, most students were cramming for finals, but I was wasting my time on Twitter. My test scores were fine, but I am at the breaking point and absolutely need to change.

Step 4 – Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourself. I have always had issues with talking too much. I still remember idling my recesses away in time out, “thinking about my actions” (#DisruptingTheClass). I wasn’t loud, but I was always busy pointing out errors in my teacher’s lessons or making snide jokes. During movies people around me have always been annoyed by my perpetual talking (#ImThatGuy). I guess that’s the part of Twitter that appeals to me. Through Twitter, I found a way for people to hear me at all times.

Step 5 – Admit to yourself the exact nature of your wrongs. Since creating my account I have lost sight of the purpose of Twitter: community. A self proclaimed “Elitist Tweetist,” I became entirely wrapped up in myself (#OverinflatedEgo). I became selfish and basically acted like God’s gift to Twitter. I constantly urge people to follow me, but often fail to reciprocate the favor. Why should I expect them to care about what I have to say if I won’t take the time to read their tweets?

Step 6 – Be entirely ready to remove all these defects of character. This is about more than Twitter. This is my life. I have always been an unfocused, poor listener, and Twitter has only magnified these defects. I wish to be freed from the shackles of Twitter. I am ready for a new life. I could live slowly, but with purpose, focusing on enriching myself. Perhaps I could notice the teacher is asking me a question instead of trying to think of a six letter word for “peak” in the daily crossword, or actually read Huckleberry Finn instead of tweeting my opinion regarding its censorship. There’s a new world waiting for me, and I can’t get in with all these issues.

Step 7 – Humbly ask to remove these shortcomings. Save me from myself. Strip me of my hashtags and @ signs and teach me how to listen (#Please).

Step 8 – Make a list of all persons you have harmed. (#OhBrother) @webbgemz has done a lot of damage. I have quoted many a teacher out of context, making them look like complete idiots. I have teased my friends on their petty spelling errors. I have neglected Facebook (#SorryZuckerberg). I’ve tweeted about friends who don’t even have Twitter, leaving them defenseless. Worst of all, I have encouraged approximately thirty members of the junior class to join Twitter and exposed them to the addiction which burdens me (#SorryForTweeting).

Step 9 – Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. I could just stop tweeting, but it’s not that simple. Twitter allows me to delete past tweets, but I don’t have the ability to erase memories (#Yet). I can only apologize. I have already explained to a few of my friends the nature of my addiction and expressed my regret for any tweets that have caused harm. With each day, I will spread my message to more Twitter users. In the past, I criticized my friends’ tweets and noted their lack of humor, but now I see that it was never my place to judge them. In the future, I can just fake a laugh. Next time a friend asks me if they should get a Twitter account, I won’t be so eager to say “yes.” The world doesn’t need another @webbgemz.

Step 10 – Recognize the positive effects of your change. I have begun to listen. I’ll admit, it’s not easy to give something my undivided attention, but I am learning a lot more. Taking notes in math instead of playing Angry Birds eliminates the hour I usually spend teaching myself the lesson at home. I can’t figure out everything on my own, and by listening to my friends, family and teachers, I can reach my full potential in the class and in life. As a result, I have become more comfortable with myself. I used to only be happy if I was tweeting, and if I wasn’t tweeting I was talking about tweeting. But I see now that I don’t need @webbgemz. I’ve probably missed out on some serious conversations while expressing my contempt for TBS original programming in 140 characters. I know now that a tweet doesn’t express true feelings. I can talk to my friends, (#NotFacebookFriends) or followers.

Step 11 – Improve yourself and search for knowledge. January rolled around and I resolved to tweet only once or twice a day in the new year, only things that really mattered. Within a week, I realized there wasn’t much in daily life that did matter enough to be reported to my followers, and found I didn’t need to tweet at all. It was a major breakthrough, and this time away from Twitter has done me good. Rather than spitting out a stream of witty tweets, I am keeping my thoughts to myself, and I can develop them. I have been thinking about my future, especially college: what I want to study and the field I may enter. It’s a better use of time than imagining what it would be like to have Severus Snape as a chemistry teacher. I have realized my listening problems and selfishness, but also discovered my strengths which Twitter once hindered. I can sit before a blank sheet of paper and fill it with my essays or stories, and it’s a great deal more gratifying than typing a quick tweet. I don’t care if anyone sees it.

Step 12 – Having changed, I carry this message to other addicts, and practice these principles in all your affairs. This is not only to the people I signed up, but to everyone who has fallen to the evils of Twitter, Facebook, Myspace or any other poison. Believe me, you don’t need to hear from 90 people that there’s a snow day, look outside your window or turn on the TV long enough to see Shawnee Mission roll through the ticker. Our generation has a serious problem with information overload, and I’m just another statistic. I will make my horror story heard and if I can help one person stop tweeting, then I’ll feel I’ve made an impact.

These 12 simple steps can go a long way. My name is Will Webber, and I am Twitter free.

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Will Webber

Will is a senior in his second year with the Harbinger. Will writes about a wide range of topics for the print publication and is also a top contributor for the website's online broadcasts. He enjoys wearing suits and commentating varsity basketball games. Read Full »

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