Yihui Xie

Twitter Threads vs Blogging

Yihui Xie / 2017-08-31


This year I have been intentionally quiet on Twitter. So far I have tweeted 9 times over the past 8 months. Of course, this number does not include my replies – I still reply to other people’s messages frequently. I just saw Lincoln Mullen said on Twitter:

Of all the inferior technologies that have replaced better ones, surely tweet threads replacing blogging is high on the list.

I absolutely agree. The reason I’m shying away from Twitter is that I feel more and more uncomfortable with the the arbitrary limit of 140 characters. I think this rule has brought a lot of negative impact on our reasoning abilities. When you are forced to say short sentences, you may develop a habit of thinking too quickly and shallowly. I guess this opinion will offend a lot of people on Twitter, so I should emphasize that it is only my gut feeling. I don’t have data to support it.

I mentioned the book “Amusing Ourselves to Death” in a previous blog post. In that book, the author was mainly attacking TV. I think social media is actually worse than TV, because the frequency of the so-called “news” or new information on social media is so much higher than TV, and the consequence is that it is even harder to maintain focus to read or think deeply. I don’t follow a lot of people on Twitter not because I don’t love those I don’t follow; it is only because I find it impractical for me to process so much information. I follow a small number of people, and hopefully they will retweet important things, which means I’m essentially using them as my information filter.

Over the past few months, I have worked hard on the blogdown book, and I really needed a lot of focus. I find large blocks of uninterrupted time the most valuable when I need to write something lengthy, such as a book. I’m not a person of strong self-discipline. I’m extremely poor at managing my time and making plans, and can be very easily distracted by emails, Github issues, StackOverflow questions, and Twitter. Originally I told myself “I’m not going to tweet again until I finish this book”. Then after a few months, I finished the first draft of the book, and pleasantly discovered that I no longer had the strong desire to tweet anything.

Just to clarify: I don’t mean all tweets are bad. My point is the chaos. It is just such a chaotic world out there. There is a lot of great information that I want to learn about, but unfortunately hidden among someone’s dinner pictures, cute kittens, selfies/“stealfies”, baseball games, and politicians’ nonsense.

Write and remember. Tweet and forget.