Posts Tagged ‘twitter’

During this completely bonkers year, I have needed voices of reason more than ever — to help me make sense of the pandemic and political madness, and cut through all the noise. Juliette Kayyem is one of my go-to sources for sharp, thoughtful, sane news commentary, and her tweets are a major source of light (and reliable information) these days.

I met Juliette when I worked at the Harvard Kennedy School, where my duties included staffing the camera room on campus. We had multiple faculty members who were regular guests on CNN and other networks, and the camera allowed them to speak to networks remotely.

I got to know Juliette as she’d come dashing into the camera room before a CNN hit, frequently finishing up a call with her consulting company before plugging in her curling iron and changing into a snazzy blouse. She struck me then as brilliant, real and funny, and I’ve enjoyed following her work ever since — but she is really knocking it out of the park these days.

This pandemic, whatever else it is, is confusing, and the distribution of a vaccine (not to mention containing the spread, distributing PPE, etc.) is (and will continue to be) a huge logistical and policy challenge. Juliette (a former homeland security advisor at the state and federal level) knows a thing or two about disaster response and logistics, and I have so appreciated her thoughtful takes on various stages of the pandemic and the challenges facing us at each stage. She and a colleague have also done a wise, funny “Questions from Quarantine” video series, and she occasionally peppers her Twitter feed with photos of her sunset runs, or her dog.

In short, she’s a human being sharing her considerable expertise and also her very real, very human take on life during the pandemic, and I am here for all of it. I’m thankful today for the experts who are pulling back the curtain a bit, sharing their scientific and political knowledge (and their struggles with bored teenagers) as we continue to navigate this pandemic together.

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Some of you may remember I gave up Twitter for Lent this year. I confess my motivations weren’t all high-mindedly spiritual. Far from it, in fact. I knew I wouldn’t, for example, spend the time I usually spent on Twitter praying, or reading the Bible – most of the time I spend on Twitter is at work. And I am under no illusions about Twitter’s importance in the grand scheme of things – the fact that I even had to worry about giving it up is a problem of privilege.

I mainly wanted to do two things: give up something for Lent that demanded a lot of my attention, however trivial it seems; and break the cycle I’d gotten into of hopping onto Twitter every few minutes during the workday, scrolling and clicking links ad infinitum. I wanted to use Twitter as more of a tearoom, as Marianne says, rather than a constant stream of distraction that left me feeling frazzled and guilty for wasting so much time.

Since Easter, I’ve been tweeting again – though I find I have less to say these days. And while I still sometimes fall into the scrolling trap, I’ve at least gotten better at catching myself when I start clicking multiple links or reading dozens upon dozens of tweets (as opposed to the freshest 20 tweets or so).

It’s not ideal, but it’s a step. Catching myself, and refocusing, sure beats mindlessly giving into the urge and letting my time-wasting go unchecked. I guess this is what they call self-discipline.

Anyone else struggle with the distractions of social media (or other distractions)? How do you catch yourself and refocus?

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I haven’t tweeted in two weeks. I kind of miss it, though not as much as I thought I would. Sometimes I think of sound bites or quips that I would normally tweet, and then I remember I’m not tweeting till Easter. The oh-so-clever (usually snarky, rarely brilliant) comments in my head drift away. (Occasionally I post them to Facebook instead.)

I’m sure I’m getting more actual work done at work, though a small part of my job does involve social media (coordinating more than participating). And I know I’m spending less time online in the evenings, with fewer links to click, fewer conversations to participate in. (And I’m spending more time listening to my husband play guitar, which is what he’s adding in for Lent. To each their own.)

I’m realizing how often I looked to Twitter as a distraction, a brain screen-saver, something to fill my day, a chance to consume instead of create. And I’m trying not to let my Google Reader take its place.

Madeleine L’Engle, my literary idol, points out in Two-Part Invention, “We have allowed the media to call us consumers – ugly. No! I don’t want to be a consumer. Anger consumes. Forest fires consume. Cancer consumes.” In her acceptance speech for the Margaret Edwards Award, she added, “I want us to be nourishers.” Yes. I want to be a nourisher, a creator, someone who brings life into the world instead of simply absorbing – or, worse, wrecking – what’s already there.

Lofty goals for a single Lenten period, I know. And when I go back to tweeting, I’m sure I will still be susceptible to distraction. But I want to remember what it feels like to have a little extra silence and space in my life. And to create more often, instead of consuming.

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I am a big fan of Twitter. It’s a fascinating place to have real-time conversations with people you know (and wish you knew), on topics ranging from big life questions to mundane details. It’s a place to connect with authors you admire and bloggers you read. It’s a veritable treasure trove of links, photos and news stories; in fact, it’s one of my main sources of news these days.

And I’ve given it up for Lent. I am (painfully) aware this is a small sacrifice in the grand scheme of things, but it’s kind of a big deal for me.

The idea behind a Lenten fast (food-related or otherwise) is to give up something on which you depend, something which fills a void in your life, so you can let God come in and fill that space. (With food-related fasts, the idea can also be to give up food that’s unhealthy, or unhealthy in excess – such as chocolate, meat, fast food, etc.)

Twitter is something I depend on. It’s a daily conversation with friends who live far away; it’s my virtual water cooler; it’s a pretty, shiny distraction when I don’t want to settle down to work. I’m used to hopping on and off it a dozen times a day – especially since I spend most of my days at a computer. This has the added effect of splitting my attention span, sometimes even smashing it to smithereens. I like to think of myself as good at multitasking, but the truth is that Twitter doesn’t help me multitask – it distracts me from whatever else I’m trying to focus on at the moment.

So, for the next seven weeks, I’m stepping back. I’m not giving up social networking altogether; I’ll still enjoy the posts in my Google Reader and keep up with some of my friends on Facebook, and answer my email (work and personal). But I hope eliminating this one distraction will bring a measure of peace and quiet to my workdays. And that I’ll rediscover what it means to focus on one thing. And that some of that silence will leave room for connection with the God I tend, so often, to ignore – because His voice, whatever form it takes, is generally quieter than the chirping, squealing, shouting voices of the Twitterverse.

Are you giving anything up for Lent this year? (Or have you taken part in a similar fast, either for Lent or for another religious observance?) I’m curious about how people decide to give something up, and the effects a fast can have – please share your stories.

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friday news

I’ve finally joined the Twitterverse! You can see my feed over there in the sidebar, or if you’re also a Tweeter, you can follow me @katiengibson.

I say this every single day lately, Abilene being what it is, but I just have to reiterate: IT IS SO HOT. Even lemonade-on-the-go and air-conditioning don’t completely solve the problem of dripping perspiration and panting like a dog. We were under a heat advisory yesterday. I didn’t even know those existed!

Despite the heat, I’m still drinking hot tea in the mornings. My addiction is strong – and anyway, Tessa likes to keep it cool in the office. (And with my excellent new travel mug, courtesy of Bethany, I have even more motivation to sip my favourite beverage.)

I’ve got about six projects rolling right now, as usual; one of them is sorting, editing and uploading my photos from Oxford last year. Many of them, including hundreds of outtakes, have been hanging out on my hard drive all year, and I’m just now getting around to it. And I have to say: I am AMAZED at how many there are. I knew there were thousands, but really. Someone should sign me up for camera therapy.

Speaking of Oxford, we leave in six weeks. (Eeeee!) Good to remember on long, slow days at work.

I hope all of you have a wonderful weekend. And if it’s not over 100 where you are, praise God for your cool weather. Believe me: we in West Texas envy you.

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