What Twitter Can Teach You About Mindfulness

Something fascinating has been happening to me recently on Twitter. Social media definitely isn’t the first place I’d expect to grow more mindful, but I’ve been learning more about what it means to live in the moment when I use this particular site for several different reasons.

Reason #1: The Case of the Missing Tweets

Every once in a while, my Twitter stream grows quiet for a few hours during the day for reasons that I’ve never been able to tease out.

There’s no pattern to it that I can find. It doesn’t happen at the same time or on the same day of the week. The small number of people that continue to tweet during those quiet periods shifts as well, so it’s not that everyone in a certain time zone or geographic region has suddenly been distracted by something.

The first time I noticed this, I thought I had missed out on a big section of my timeline. I scrolled back through my timeline to find the tweets I thought I’d lost only to come up empty-handed and more confused than ever. It took me a few rounds of this to stop searching for the tweets that never existed in the first place. The people I follow simply grow quiet at the same time every once in a while, and I actually look forward to those moments these days.

There is something relaxing and surprising about spending time on social media when barely anyone else is around. It’s kind of like being the last person to leave a party. The room that was so full of energy a few hours ago has quieted down. You can almost hear the final note of the song or the sound of two people saying goodnight as your eyes sweep the room before you turn off the lights.

I’m always glad to see my timeline fill up again, but I’m learning to enjoy these pauses in the conversation as well.

Reason #2: Everything Has a Season

There are memes that last for a day or a week before suddenly disappearing forever. Other jokes can come back when you least expect them to.  Your timeline might be full of depressing political news one day and cute puppy pictures or a hilarious conversation between friends the next. People you once had long conversations with might stop logging tweeting tomorrow. Other people sometimes show up again after being away for six months. In short, Twitter is in constant flux.

When I first began using this site, stuff like this bothered me occasionally. I worried about the people who disappeared and wished that the collective mood there would somehow become more consistent. It was strange to log in every day and have no idea who or what I was going to find.

The interesting thing about accepting all of these sudden shifts on Twitter was how it changed the way I think about the non-digital world as well. While there are things I can have an influence one, some experiences aren’t ever going to be predictable or controllable.

Everything has a season. You can’t make it begin early or stop it from ending. All you can do is enjoy the ride and see where the stream takes you next.

Reason #3: Every Tweep Can Teach You Something

The best part about following people from so many different walks of life is that my timeline has become a beautiful mishmash of ideas.

An angry political tweet from one tweep is often immediately followed by a Haiku poem, a picture of someone’s naughty cat, a link to a news article about a new scientific discovery, or the announcement of a different tweep’s brand new book or website.

I can’t count the number of times that someone has tweeted something that was exactly what I needed to hear or see that day, whether it was a joke or a serious essay. If you sit quietly and wait, all kinds of wonderful and meaningful things will come your way.

The picture on the right reminds me of what this process feels like. The best thing to do as the tweets flutter by is to sit quietly and see what they’ll teach you.

Reason #4: Tweets Are (Usually) Temporary

This reason is similar to reason #2, but there were just enough differences between the two for me to separate them into different points.

A tweet’s shelf life is short but also unpredictable. It’s rare for me to see anything retweeted on my timeline that’s older than a day or two, so I have to live in the moment when I’m on Twitter. What is relevant today might be forgotten tomorrow.

On the other hand, I have had a few of my own tweets travel much further and for much longer than I ever would have expected them to. These aren’t things that I was expecting to happen. What grabs people’s attention isn’t always easy to predict, so I try not to have any expectations when it comes to what kind of reception my tweets will get. Sometimes they are ignored, and other times they are the beginning of a long conversation.

There’s something to be said for throwing yourself so fully into the moment that you don’t think about what might happen tomorrow. No one can predict the future. Just pay attention to the present without any expectations about what might happen an hour, a week, or a month from now.

Reason #5: People Don’t Always Tweet the Full Story

The strange and fascinating thing about social media in general is that it only shows the highlight reel of most people’s lives for reasons that are far too complicated to get into in this post.

One of the nicest things about fully realizing this is that I don’t assume I know everything about someone because I’ve read their tweets for X number of months or years. This isn’t to say that I think people are lying about their lives online. Being careful about what you share for privacy or other reasons is something a lot of folks do, including me! It’s not a bad thing at all.

You can accept what someone shares without making any judgements about how your life compares to theirs or what the hidden parts of their life are like. This isn’t something any of us can know anyway, and making assumptions about it doesn’t do anyone any good.

If you’re not already on Twitter, I hope this post has given you some food for thought. If we hang out together over there, I’d love to know what you think of this post. Has social media changed how you approach mindfulness? What has Twitter taught you about life?

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