Project Dickens

Ned Gulley
Jan 4, 2018 · 3 min read

I like Twitter. It’s my favorite way to fill the found minutes that pile up during the day. I’m waiting in the lunch line. I’m brewing coffee. The movie hasn’t started yet. But then a certain third-grader was elected president of my country, and since then I’ve noticed that a surfeit of Twitter is making me ill.

I don’t go out of my way to follow politically-oriented people on Twitter, but these days you just can’t get away from politics. Some fresh outrage presses itself on the fretful populace and people can’t help but tweet about it. And then I can’t help but read about it. And then I get mad, and I follow links and I read analyses and opinion pieces and still more warm suckling Twitter (beware of anything that suggests itself as a solution to the problems it creates). I get more mad. I trade valuable time for stomach acid... and so it might take me an hour to calm down from the outrage of the hour, and by then of course a new one is just beginning to squat on the nation.

And to what end, my Twitter indulgence? Am I a better informed citizen, ready to make a difference? Am I more engaged or just more enraged? In general I don’t advocate avoiding the news or hiding from unpleasant information. But Twitter is full of talented writers with infective invective. With sharable swearable bons mots. Reading it too often is sickly sweet. Sipping from a pitcher of bottomless bile. Picking a fight with the news cycle. It doesn’t end well.

I knew I needed to stop, or at least cut down. And yet, there I am again, in line with a few minutes to kill. I want to reach for Twitter. Because even as it enrages, it always entertains. It really does. This is a classic addictive behavior. When I want to reach for the cigarettes, for what should I reach instead?

That’s when I thought of Dickens.

If you can check the disposition of the Donald every fifteen minutes, you can just as easily check on Oliver Twist. Wherever Twitter is with me, so is there Kindle. Mercifully, it turns out, you can read a novel in the same stolen moments, and it doesn’t sicken your soul. I tried it, and it worked! I still check Twitter, and I still like it. I just don’t read it nearly as often as I used to. I’m calmer, and now I’ve moved on from Oliver to David Copperfield. Clever chap, that Charles Dickens.

So if you should find yourself, like me, dipping into the poison well too often, consider something novel.

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