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Drowning in Twitter debt

I abandoned RSS because I couldn’t keep up. Now I’ve fallen behind on Twitter, too.

I abandoned RSS because I couldn’t keep up.

Feed readers made it easy to read every single post from my favorite websites. But there’s a downside to that thoroughness. Hit ‘subscribe’ too many times, and catching up becomes a chore—one more inbox to empty. My RSS unread count frequently ballooned into the hundreds.

When Google Reader (my preferred RSS client) shut down, I resolved to try something different. I would rely on Twitter for the latest updates instead. I became a “Twitter completionist”. In other words, I always pick up my timeline from where I left off, rather than starting with the most recent tweets. My favorite Twitter client, Tweetbot, makes this automatic; it syncs my timeline progress between the iPhone and iPad.[1]

Tweetbot unread
My out-of-control unread count in Tweetbot.

For years, this Twitter-as-feed-reader approach worked well. But recently, my renewed commitment to daily blogging leaves me with precious little free time for social media. I’m facing the same problem with Twitter that I had with RSS: constantly falling behind. Over the Thanksgiving break, my unread tweet count approached 1,000 for the first time ever. By this morning, I had whittled that number down to 700, but I can feel it climbing as I type.

Here are three potential ways to handle skyrocketing “Twitter debt”:

  • Follow fewer tweeps. Easier said than done; how do you decide who makes the cut? Besides, as of today, I only track 366 people on Twitter. That seems like a reasonable number (right?).
  • Stop reading every tweet. After all, Twitter itself doesn’t expect its users to be completionists. But I rely on Twitter to generate ideas for this blog. Skipping ahead often could mean missing out on potential post topics.
  • Declare Twitter bankruptcy (when necessary). I have to accept the fact that I’m going to occasionally fall behind—especially on vacations. That’s a good thing; the holidays are meant for lazy TV watching with family, not for checking Twitter obsessively. I plan to adopt this approach during the upcoming Christmas break.

Till then, I’ll keep that scrolling thumb loose. Tweetbot Zero, here I come.


  1. Syncing also works on the Tweetbot Mac client. That doesn’t help me; I’m a Windows users on the desktop. Lately, I’ve been avoiding Tweetdeck on Windows, just to preserve my mobile progress. That’s good for productivity, but somewhat irritating. If only Twitter had integrated (or replicated) Tweetmarker in its official clients—then I’d always be in sync, no matter what app or platform I used. But Twitter refuses to acknowledge the possibility that some users prefer a third-party client experience.  ↩