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Spolskism or Twitterism: A Doctor writes…

Published 30 March 2010 5:58 am

“I never realized I had a problem. I just ‘twittered’ because it was a social thing to do. All my mates were doing it. It made me feel good to have ‘followers’; it bolstered my self-esteem. Of course, you don’t think of the long-term effects on your work and on the way you think. There’s no denying that it impairs your judgment…”

Yes, this story is typical. Hundreds of people are waking up to the long term effects of twittering, and seeking help. Dave, who wishes to remain anonymous, told our reporter…

“I started using Twitter at work. Just a few minutes now and then, throughout the day. A lot of my colleagues were doing it and I thought ‘Well, that’s cool; it must be part of what I should be doing at work’. Soon, I was avidly reading every twitter that came my way, and counting the minutes between my own twitters. I tried to kid myself that it was all about professional development and getting other people to help you with work-related problems, but in truth I had become addicted to the buzz of the social network. The worse thing was that it made me seem busy even when I was really just frittering my time away. Inevitably, I started to get behind with my real work.”

Experts have identified the syndrome and given it a name: ‘Twitterism’, sometimes referred to as ‘Spolskism’, after the person who first drew attention to the pernicious damage to well-being that the practice caused, and who had the courage to take the pledge of rejecting it. According to one expert…

“The occasional Twitter does little harm to the participant, and can be an adaptive way of dealing with stress. Unfortunately, it rarely stops there. The addictive qualities of the practice have put a strain on the caring professions who are faced with a flood of people making that first bold step to seeking help”.

Dave is one of those now seeking help for his addiction…

“I had lost touch with reality. Even though I twittered my work colleagues constantly, I found I actually spoke to them less and less. Even when out socializing, I would frequently disengage from the conversation, in order to twitter. I stopped blogging. I stopped responding to emails; the only way to reach me was through the world of Twitter. Unfortunately, my denial about the harm that twittering was doing to me, my friends, and my work-colleagues was so strong that I truly couldn’t see that I had a problem.”

Like other addictions, the help and support of others who are ‘taking the cure’ is important. There is a common bond between those who have ‘been through hell and back’ and are once more able to experience the joys of actually conversing and socializing, rather than the false comfort of solitary ‘twittering’. Complete abstinence is essential to the cure. Most of those who risk even an occasional twitter face a headlong slide back into ‘binge’ twittering. Tom, another twitterer who has managed to kick the habit explains…

“My twittering addiction now seems more like a bad dream. You get to work, and switch on the PC. You say to yourself, just open up the browser, just for a minute, just to see what people are saying on Twitter. The next thing you know, half the day has gone by. The worst thing is that when you’re addicted, you get good at covering up the habit; I spent so much time looking at the screen and typing on the keyboard, people just assumed I was working hard.

I know that I must never forget what it was like then, and what it’s like now that I’ve kicked the habit. I now have more time for productive work and a real social life.”

Like many addictions, Spolskism has its most detrimental effects on family, friends and workmates, rather than the addict. So often nowadays, we hear the sad stories of Twitter-Widows; tales of long lonely evenings spent whilst their partners are engrossed in their twittering into their ‘mobiles’ or indulging in their solitary spolskistic habits in privacy, under cover of ‘having to do work at home’. Workmates suffer too, when the addicts even take their laptops or mobiles into meetings in order to ‘twitter’ with their fellow obsessives, even stooping to complain to their followers how boring the meeting is.

No; The best advice is to leave twittering to the birds. You know it makes sense.

One Response to “Spolskism or Twitterism: A Doctor writes…”

  1. BuggyFunBunny says:

    >> The worse thing was that it made me seem busy even when I was really just frittering my time away.

    Note to all: many, including myself more than a (two?) decade ago, cried Wolf when Word for Windows took over. The reason: office workers fell into the habit of worrying more about which font (and all the other formatting options, which continue to metastasize) to use than the content of the text. And it has all gotten worse since then.

    FWIW, here on this side of the Pond anyway, IM-ing preceded Twitter by that decade (or more) and has been doing the same damage since its inception. Why companies’ IT departments ever countenanced IM has always been beyond me. Oh, that’s right, the Pointy Haired Bosses in Saville Row Suits read in some magazine that it helped with Sales. Bah, humbug.

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