I launched an anti-Twitter, Twitter bot.
The bot repeatedly asks, “Do you want to be on Twitter right now?” My answer is rarely yes.
“Do you want to be on Twitter right now?”
Often when I’m on Twitter (or frankly any social media platform), I forget not only the things that I’m supposed to be doing, but also the things I’d prefer to be doing. Yes, Twitter can be a nice way to procrastinate, but usually I’m led there by habit, not a carefully considered decision. I’ve discovered that I’m likely to prioritize what is convenient over what makes me happy if I’m led purely by impulse.
I built the bot to nudge myself into making better decisions. And in the past 48 hours since launching the bot, I’ve already caught myself three times on Twitter when I didn’t really want to be there.
Making the bot
Surprisingly, in order to create the bot, I didn’t need to use the Twitter API directly. Furthermore, no coding was necessary, and it was entirely free. The bot takes advantage of the If This Then That (IFTTT) platform. There are four “applets” that tweet hourly at a given minute.
IFTTT has a 100 tweet limit per day, meaning that the “once every 15 minutes” time scale is effectively the shortest between tweets available (96 tweets per day).
Because Twitter does not allow repetitive posts, a unique tag must occur in each tweet. Unfortunately, this can only be achieved by including IFTTT’s “Date and Time” marker (e.g. April 16, 2019 at 03:15PM).
Another fundamental limitation is that the tweets rely on Twitter’s algorithm to be seen. Because the tweets are posted every 15 minutes, they’ll always be “new,” but in order to show up on your feed consistently, they’ll need to also have high interaction from followers (likes, retweets, comments, clicks, etc.). Essentially, a user can’t always rely on seeing the bot’s tweets when they need it, but they can increase their odds with frequent interactions.
Lastly, this isn’t the panacea for the attention economy’s ills—many awesome people are trying to solve the problems that technologically-induced addictive behavior causes. I hope, however, this is one tool that can help us reclaim some of our time as we work towards a more mindful use of our time on social media.