Returning to Twitter

Two months ago I returned to Twitter.

After logging into the account through a web browser I was mildly amused. The mobile app was then downloaded to a new late-model mobile device.

The first couple weeks I explored a lot of the Twitter feeds. Shared work-related tweets. Kept it professional. Nothing too personal. But mostly, I searched for friends I once communicated with on a daily basis. They seemed to have disappeared from Twitter. Or maybe I missed them amid the ceaseless flood of poising, posturing, and promotional tweets.

A comment from a kidlinger ceased this activity. The level of profanity used on Twitter is obscene. I had tuned it out, but young eyes saw a string of vulgarities. Kidlinger asked who said that. I did not say. They knew the person. And that individual would never speak like that in front of my children.

Then the pandemic hit. And the tsunami of Covid-19 tweets and updates was both helpful and harmful. But ultimately overwhelming.

Sometime during the past weekend I discovered Twitter’s new preference features and was turning some on and others off to see how the feed was impacted. Late Saturday night, before I went to bed, I checked the Twitter on the mobile device. I was shocked to see someone posted or shared some extremely graphic adult material. It should not have surprised me. Too tired to figure which preferences I needed to reset, I deleted the app from my mobile device.

Before the weekend was over I considered unfollowing everyone I followed on Twitter. Or deleting my Twitter account entirely. My argument was this. With all I have to manage in between work and home, removing Twitter would be one less thing I have to deal with.

My return to Twitter was an attempt to emerge from a self-imposed social media quarantine. To reconnect with old friends and acquaintances. But the debauchery and viciousness I observed on Twitter causes me to wonder. If people are essentially good, than the evidence on Twitter points to the contrary.

I plan to cull those I follow. Half have already been unfollowed. My goal is to cut the list down to 40. It is possible that I have not given Twitter enough time to prove that there are good, virtuous, and honorable people using the social media platform.

The hope was to engage with people on Twitter who enhanced and elevated the lives of those around them. Something inspiring. Something like Andrea Bocelli’s Music of Hope.

Work is the curse of the reading class, or the virtue of reading

Work is the curse of the reading class.

How many books did you read last year? According to some reports, one in four Americans did not read a single book in the last twelve months. Three out of the four who did read in the last year read only one book. But the reports are even more dismal when a distinction is made between any books and books of literature. For example, books on business, cooking, gardening or self-help are in a different category from books of literature. Further, books on business and marketing by Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin or Simon Sinek are not considered literary works. Books by Dante, Plato and Shakespeare are works of high literature. Books of literature by American authors include Flannery O’Connor, Robert Frost and Thornton Wilder.

My own reading pattern shadows the national trend. This discourages me. Years ago I read more than 50 books a year. In addition to that, I used to read several literary journals, magazines and newspapers on the bus ride to the office each day. It was a delicious and robust period of time. But life interrupted this reading regimen. A dream job, mega commute, cross-country move, career change, new job at a legacy media organization, and more commuting disrupted my reading habits.

It is a struggle for me to completely read one single book from cover to cover. The desk in front of the window holds eight books. I may have to return all these to the public library partially read. Or renew them. The library must be weary of me renewing a copy of a theological book. I must have renewed it several times over the last few months. One report I read stated the reason people do not read books is due to their busy work/life balance.

Great disruption.

The interruption to the reading habit is due in part to the daily commute. 90 minutes a day spent traveling from home to work. Public transit would be nice. However, no public transit system services the rural communities surrounded by cultivated fields and farmland. Travel accounts for more than 15 days of my time each year. And then there are the long hours of production work. The job is mentally demanding. My fatigued mind only desires to turn on the record player and go to sleep when I return home.

Solution.

Most Americans spend more than two hours each day on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. That equals more than 40 days a year. From an economic stand point that seems like a lot of wasted productivity. What that means in practical terms is that my social media feeds are on life support. I do not spend time on Facebook or Twitter at all. LinkedIn occasionally. And I deleted my Instagram account. Eliminating social media activity allowed me to reclaim some of the time lost to commuting and work.

Great books.

A second action put into practice during the last few years included reading great books of literature. Mostly. Plato’s The Republic, Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Booker T. Washington’s Up from Slavery, The Autobiographies of Frederick Douglas, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina are some of the books read during the last year and a half. The classical education curriculum of my children helped me form a list of great books to read. I added a few books to the list to include Asian and Near Eastern studies. I explored Basho’s The Narrow Road, an anthology of Rumi, Hafix and Lalla, and Ryokan’s Sky Above, Great Wind. Most recently I attempted to read and compare three different translations of Dante’s Divine Comedy. An ambitious task that I failed. Ended up focusing on selected cantos for comparison before the books were shuffled back to the public library.

The virtue of reading.

Why is reading books, especially, great books, important? The virtue of being well-read is the goal. Do not leave it up to the academics and professionals to read great books. C. S. Lewis wrote that “the simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books on Platonism.” He continued by encouraging readers to acquire firsthand knowledge of the source material rather than to rely on secondhand commentary. Being a well-read individual has the potential to foster a civilized society. But you must be vigilant, designate time, pick up a book and read it cover to cover.