Twitter. There’s a reason it rhymes with the verb — to fritter
Could changes in the popular website help some of us opt to scroll less and read more?
I took an afternoon break today to visit with what appears to be a lone jacaranda tree on Jefferson Avenue in Miami’s South Beach. My husband and I had spotted this tree a few days earlier. After seeing sunrise from the beach this morning, we’d walked about a mile south so I could check on this tree. The light was bad then. My husband suggested I return later in the day to try for a better picture of the tree.
Jacarandas captured my heart years ago. I’ve seen them in their glory on trips in Mexico and Argentina.
My afternoon photos of South Beach’s young jacaranda tree were pretty meh. I need to develop better techniques for shooting photos of flowers. Still, on my walk to my apartment, I thought about how much I enjoyed seeing this one little jacaranda in South Beach.
Today was a day of little indulgences. Like many Americans, I begin each weekday morning thinking of all of the tasks I should be doing and feeling like I will never catch up.
But I gave into temptation this morning and took a little time to read an essay I’d missed when the New Yorker first published it in 2015. In “Teach Yourself Italian,” novelist Jhumpa Lahiri describes how she sunk herself into that language to learn it. Here’s her description of how she made her way through Italian books:
“I read slowly, painstakingly. With difficulty. Every page seems to have a light covering of mist. The obstacles stimulate me. Every new construction seems a marvel, every unknown word a jewel.”
“I make a list of terms to look up, to learn. Imbambolato, sbilenco, incrinatura, capezzale (dazed, lopsided, crack, bedside or bolster). Sgangherato, scorbutico, barcollare, bisticciare (unhinged, crabby, sway, bicker). After I finish a book, I’m thrilled. It seems like a feat. I find the process demanding yet satisfying, almost miraculous. I can’t take for granted my ability to accomplish it. I read as I did when I was a girl. Thus, as an adult, as a writer, I rediscover the pleasure of reading.”
The essay inspired me to plan to pay more attention to what’s in the New Yorker, and also to stick with my own studies of Romance languages. What a pleasure it is to immerse yourself in a project like Lahiri describes, to concentrate deeply on a text.
Reclaiming My Time
There’s an expression you hear a lot when members of Congress hold hearings. Lawmakers get a set number of minutes to question witnesses. Sometimes there can be crosstalk or other disruptions or witnesses can be evasive. Lawmakers will say “reclaiming my time” to get the focus back to their questions, to use the best of the minutes they have.
This morning I already was thinking about how I need to regain the minutes that sometimes add up to hours lost scrolling Twitter.
I’m a journalist. There are times when I need to check Twitter for reactions to events. But covering breaking news is only a small part of what I’ve been writing about as a freelancer.
Now may be a good point at which to reclaim my time and cut back on scrolling Twitter, given the the news that broke today about the change in ownership. You might be reading a lot on that topic soon. I highly recommend this quick take in the Boston Globe from Joan Donovan about what the change in management could mean.
I subscribe to the Washington Post, the New York Times, Spain’s El País and other great publications that send me daily newsletters. They update their websites when news breaks. And I can usually wait to read what their journalists have found out. I don’t need to skim hot takes by people with varying levels of expertise.
Let’s face it. Most days I don’t need to venture near the stream of — no — the Mississippi River of consciousness that is Twitter.
Disclosure: I’ve never met or talked with Donovan, who is the research director at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media Politics and Public Policy. But I have had the good fortune to have written a few articles for an excellent Shorenstein publication, The Journalist’s Resource.