When used with intent, Twitter can be one of the best learning and growth tools on the internet. I had a semi-pseudonymous Twitter in middle school (~2008) that I mostly used to follow friends, shit post, and make jokes. I deleted that one when I went to college and started over with my current account @RyanRodenbaugh. When I started following people, I followed aspirational peers rather than only people I knew IRL.
If I were remaking my Twitter today, I would begin by following active Tweeters in field(s) interesting to me. In my case, this would be:
- People in the field I work in tech/crypto (e.g., @Balajis, @Naval, @Jack, @PaulG, @ElonMusk)
- People in health fields I am interested in (e.g., @foundmyfitness, @PeterAttiaMD, @DominicDAgosti2)
- People in finance (e.g,. @Raydalio, @lloydblankfein, @mjmauboussin)
- Authors/Bloggers/Podcasters I like (e.g,. @vgr, @waitbutwhy, @tferriss, @SamHarrisOrg, @EricRWeinstein)
Odds are that from here, these people will retweet or interact with other people who have interesting views, who you’ve heard of and want to follow, or Twitter will make good suggestions (as they often do) based on who you follow.
Starting by following 20-100 people you already know to be interesting and growing from there is probably the best way to have a well-filtered feed.
- I would avoid following Newspaper accounts (@NYTimes, @WSJ) and instead whenever I come across an article I really like follow the journalist who wrote it.
- I would avoid following people who are perpetually angry about nothing. You will mostly run into these types in politic or journalist Twitter.
- If you follow someone and find that their Tweets don’t line up with why you find them interesting, unfollow them. @sacca is a luminary in the tech industry and I followed him for that reason, however, he basically only tweets about politics, so I unfollowed him.
- In general, you should be fast and loose with unfollowing people. There are no consequences to doing this as you can always re-follow them
You should also liberally use the mute words feature. People you like will have opinions on topics you are really uninterested in. For example, there are a lot of people in tech who, for every 3 interesting tweets about company building have a very uninteresting opinion about politics. You can filter these uninteresting Tweets on mobile by going to Settings —> Content Preferences —> Muted —> Muted Words. Here, you can mute words so that they won’t appear in your timeline. For example, I’ve muted words like “AOC”, “Facebook”, “Mueller”, “AR-15”. So now, if people I like want to talk about the Mueller hearings or get angry about AOC’s new proposal, that’s fine, but I don’t have to read their tweet about it. This is your information diet and you should be able to edit it however you like. You should be unapologetic about the content you don’t want to interact with.
The Favorites (Likes) Button
One of my favorite things about Twitter is how favoriting works. When you’re scrolling your timeline, you can interact with Tweets by replying, retweeting, or favoriting. I use the favorite button not as a way to show approval, but as a “save for later”. As far as I know, Twitter is the only social network that makes it easy to view your favorites. I can easily go to my homepage and see all of my “likes”. Every few days or so I will go scroll through my likes and either:
- Unlike it (meaning I don’t need to interact with it anymore),
- Read the article or blog associated with the Tweet (and then unlike, once done)
- Pocket if it’s long and I am confident I will want to read it later
- Capture it in Evernote (covered in a later section)
- Or leave it, in case it’s an idea I think I will want to come across again when I am going through my likes but I am not sure what to do with it yet.
An example of each from my actual likes right now:
- Unlike: Here was a Tweet commenting on and linking to Grubhub’s most recent letter to the Shareholders. As interesting as I might find this, I am not going to actually get around to reading this
- Read: This article about Japan trying to attract foreign entrepreneurs. It was a short article and was something I could skim. It also fits with interests I have about cities becoming more competitive with each other
- Pocket: Patrick Collison tweeted an article about “The Rising Thread of Digital Nationalism” that I know I wanted to read, but didn’t want to read right now so I saved it to my Pocket where I can save articles for offline reading.
- Catalog: @Patio11 Tweeted a blog post called “The ‘Marker’ Guide to Content Marketing for Non-Hucksters”. This isn’t relevant to me right now, but could be relevant to me in the future if I am working on marketing projects so I save it to an Evernote file.
- Leave: I came across this interesting photo of how a restaurant in Bangkok deals with square foot constraints. I have no idea what I will do with this knowledge, but it’s interesting enough that I kind of wanted to have it engrained in my mind
For a while, the regret I had with using Twitter was that I would be reading a lot of great content and advice, but it would be fleeting. For every 100 tweets I read, maybe I would remember 1.
- So, over the past year, when I find individual tweets that contain interesting ideas on specific topics that I want to come back to, I move them over to Evernote and tag them so that I can easily find and return to them. In my case, most of these tweets and tags are related to company building functions (marketing, hiring, etc.)
- My most used Evernote file is one called “Startup Tweets” and it has sections like “Choosing a Founding Team”, “Culture”, “Sales/Marketing” and under each there are tweets I’ve seen with interesting tidbits of advice or ideas.
- Some that I have cataloged that I come back to often:
- On radical transparency (link)
- Thinking about startup culture as a set of sliders (link)
- BigCos and distribution (link)
How I Use Other Social Networks
- I use other social media platforms pretty scarcely.
- Facebook and LinkedIn are both utilities to me. LinkedIn acts as my online resume and a way to be notified when friends move roles. Facebook is for being reminded of people’s birthdays and the groups features. On Facebook my newsfeed is completely blank because I went in and unfollowed every group and person I am friends with on Facebook. This was so that I never get distracted by the Facebook newsfeed when I go to check birthdays. I learned afterward that there are also Chrome extensions that do this. I still like my method best because even though it took ~2 hours upfront, it’s basically impossible to walk the decision back, whereas it is easy to disable a chrome extension.
- Instagram I recently made while I was living in Asia because I was taking a lot of cool pictures that I wanted to easily share with friends and family. I do not follow anyone on Instagram for the same reason as blank newsfeed on Facebook…. I don’t need more distractions.
- Oddly, my 2nd most used social network is probably WeChat. They have a feature called “Moments” which is like a Twitter feed among your contacts. From my time living and working in Asia, I have a lot of friends where Moments is their primary posting channel.