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news & opinion SEP 14-20, 2011 | WWW.CONNECTSAVANNAH.COM

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college student guide

Tweet addiction Behold, the dark side of Twitter by Ben Popper | New York Observer

DIANA ADAMS dreams in Tweets. One hundred and forty characters at a time, the Atlanta–based computer consultant’s subconscious bubbles up. “Sometimes I am literally sending someone a message on Twitter and sometimes the ideas just kind of come out that way,” she says. On most nights Adams wakes up two or three times to check her Twitter stream and reply to @ messages from her nearly 50,000 followers. “I sleep with my phone under my pillow,’ she confessed. “But if you think that’s bad, you don’t know any real Twitterholics.” Living among media–obsessed New Yorkers, including some who employ two computers, one for work and one for TweetDeck, this reporter assures her he does know a little something about the siren song of the micro–messaging service. “If I’m away from Twitter for more than an hour or two, I get nervous and break into a sweat,” she counters. OK, we acknowledge, you win. Adams’ voracious use of Twitter

has earned her a score of 78 on Klout, a service that measures social media influence. This puts her a little below President Obama, but a little above Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter, among Adams’ many followers. The central focus of Adams’ activity is the blog Bit Rebels, where she is a writer along with two other bloggers she met through Twitter. The site is a miniature version of the better–known Mashable, covering social media, Web culture and viral content. On Bit Rebels, Adams writes frequently about whether her Twitter habit is an actual problem. “I began to think about Twitter addiction. Is it real or is it just another way for the people around us to make us feel guilty about something we really enjoy?” This is one reason she would rather stay in and Tweet on the weekends than spend time with family or friends. “It’s not like I’m smoking crack or something,” she complains. “Twitter is making my life better, so how can that be a bad thing?” According to Cosette Rae,

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executive director of reSTART, the first clinic in the U.S. dedicated to treating technology–related addictions, cases related to Twitter are on the rise. “It’s a dangerous little creature,” notes Rae. “When you tell friends or family you’re addicted to alcohol or drugs, that’s something they can understand. When it comes to something like Twitter, people are less sympathetic.” Rae says the symptoms were akin to what she saw during her time treating veterans battling substance abuse. “Individuals who have lost interest in work, whose obsession is damaging their relationships.” She warns people to watch out for warning signs, like users bringing phones into bed. “It’s rare, but we have seen physical symptoms as well. People who are staring at the monitor for hours on a program like TweetDeck––they become so focused, they experience something akin to sleep apnea, where they are awake but forget to breathe.” A recurring theme is that many of the patients Rae has treated were required to use Twitter as part of their job. “There is a big focus now in practically every industry on social media,” she says. “Companies want a voice that sounds authentic, so they don’t create a separation between the personal and the corporate account. For a lot of people that is no big deal. But for some, it’s quite dangerous. Can you imagine if your boss told you one

day, you have to start drinking on the job?” Twitter is also killing Laurel Snyder’s career — her primary one, anyway. One hundred and forty characters at a time, it is taking away the limited reserve of words the Atlanta– based children’s book author has left. Snyder developed rheumatoid arthritis a few years ago, and her doctor told her that over time, typing would become more difficult. Already she is limited to just four or five hours a day before the pain’s too much. “I know that my fingers are only going to last so long,” admits Snyder. “Sometimes I think about how many chapters this is costing me down the line. But I just can’t stop Tweeting.” Snyder’s 23,000 Tweets are a mix of parenting humor, self–deprecating promotion for her books and chatter with friends and followers. She banters with celebs such as Rosanne Cash, who recognized her from her Twitter avatar when the two met at a book signing. And no matter the time of day or night, she can always dip into her stream for a fix. “The important thing about it, for me, is not getting to follow celebs or being clever or building up followers,” Snyder says. “It’s that it never stops. When I’m up at 4 in the morning and I can’t fall asleep, my choice is basically start drinking alone or get on Twitter.” Snyder has taken small steps to battle this habit. She removed any trace of Twitter from her phone continues on p. 20

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