How to Stop Twitter from Bringing You Down

Self on 12.21.11
Contributor bio | twitter

Photo: Petesimon/Creative Commons

According to a recent study by University of Vermont scientists, happiness is on the decline. Or rather, happiness on Twitter is going down. Scientists analyzed the frequency of certain words showing up on Twitter over three years, and have found that in the last half of 2011, words that represent unhappiness are being used more often and words that represent happiness are being used less often. Perhaps that means that connotations of words have changed, that the world at large is getting depressed, or simply that more people are on Twitter and early adopters were a happier bunch. Or maybe it means that Twitter can be kind of a sad place to hang around.

As a frequent user of Twitter and other social media, I'm inclined to believe that Twitter can be a pretty negative environment. That being said, paying attention to what makes me happy is very important to me and I haven't canceled my Twitter account yet. I even like Twitter. I do think, however, that Twitter has the potential to make people unhappy. Here's how to avoid that trap.

1. Avoid starting a Twitter Pity Party.

twitter pity party
Photo: Pink Sherbert Photography/Creative Commons

Where Facebook can make people feel inadequate because of the constant "Look at how awesome my life is!" status updates, Twitter tends to see more of the opposite declarations: Twitter is where people go to complain. Sure, you don't feel like everyone else is winning at life but you, but misery breeds misery, especially if the ground is already fertile for despair.

If you're having a bad day, sharing your woes on Twitter is likely to get you a lot of "yeah, my life sucks, too!" responses. Yes, you'll feel less alone, but you probably won't feel happier. When you find yourself in need of a vent, consider calling one friend who will listen without making you feel like the entire world is soaking in the same pool of suck.

2. Seek out good news on Twitter.

good news on twitter
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One of my favorite tweeters, Danielle Smith, regularly asks people to share their good news with her on Twitter. I love seeing this, and it's such a great reminder that we can make a point of actively looking for the positive.

Do you want to see a more upbeat attitude in your twitter stream? Ask for some happiness! Ask people to share with you the funniest thing they read that day, or a photo that made them smile. Encourage your followers by sharing their good news (and yours) with others through retweets and responses.

3. Eliminate the Debbie Downers.

sad clowns on twitter
Photo: Steven Brace/Creative Commons

Unfollowing isn't easy, but neither is being miserable all the time. If you want to spend time scrolling through the tweet stream without seeing a lot of negativity, you'll need to remove the people who tend to constantly share snark, complaints, whining, or whatever else you find discouraging.

Having a hard time unfollowing? Remember that removing someone from your twitter stream isn't making a judgment of them as a person; it's simply about creating an environment that is better suited for you and your own happiness. If you were afraid of clowns, you wouldn't join the circus.

Also, this is Twitter -  no one signed any contracts or swore a blood oath. Unfollow and move on.

4. Make lists of positive people.

happy people
Photo: Pink Sherbert Photography/Creative Commons

Imagine being able to go to Twitter for an infusion of positive energy. That's what a list of positive people can offer. Maybe this is where you put the people who constantly tweet inspirational quotes - quotes you might normally find annoying except when you need a little pick me up.

If Positive Pollies aren't your thing, consider making a list or two based on some of your favorite things. Create a list of comedians if laughter is your best medicine, or a list of foodies if you love getting inspiration for your own kitchen. The point is to make Twitter what you need it to be for you; bend it to your will.

5. Get off Twitter.

goodbye twitter
Photo: Temari 09/Creative Commons

I'm not suggesting you cancel your account or write a tirade about how you've evolved beyond the need for social networks, but maybe a mini-hiatus is in order if you find yourself sad or mad every time you open the Twitter app on your smart phone. Having a hard time staying away? Delete the app and limit yourself to web only access.

Like Facebook and the Internet itself, Twitter is not inherently good or bad. It's a tool we have at our disposal, one that can introduce us to people and ideas we may never have been exposed to in our own neighborhoods. But anything that grants us access has the potential to open us up to a flood of unfiltered attitudes and perspectives, not all of which may be good for our mood or general outlook on life. There's no reason to let yourself drown in the flood; take back your Twitter stream and make it a place that builds you up instead of brings you down.

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