I like words. Words are interesting. A few words from someone else in a conversation can give you a whole new perspective on something or connect two ideas in a crazy juxtaposition that would never have occurred to you on your own. I love that.

Words can also discourage, depress, anger, and separate. A lot of the time, it’s completely unintentional. I feel like this happens a lot on Twitter, for me. I fully recognize and have admitted openly many times that I have a problem with concise text from others versus speaking to people in voice. Quite often conversations that would be perfectly neutral in voice or in person seem to become frustrated and frustrating on Twitter. It happens on other online venues as well, but Twitter is concise, and that can add to the problem of stripping out context from someone’s words.

Earlier this year, I had what I can only call a wake up call in life. I keep starting to write about it, but being a lousy writer, I’m having a hard time with it. When there’s something really important to me that I want to properly communicate effectively, I stumble and stutter and delete and start over. Over and over and over.

One thing I took away from that experience, though, is that I want to change how I relate to people, and my attitudes towards self and others. I talked about this a little bit with Ronnie this morning, and I used the word intentionality. I want more intentionality in how I relate to and with people in my life. Unfortunately, I seem to be failing at that on Twitter.

I don’t think Twitter for me needs to be a place full of gravitas and serious themes. Far from it. But I also am at the point where I’m realizing that, unfortunately, things I want to debate about and talk about on Twitter just aren’t worth debating and talking about there, because people take things personally, meaning gets lost, and everyone just winds up more convinced than ever that the other person or people are completely missing their point. No one is happy, and everyone becomes more entrenched in their own thinking than ever. It’s the opposite of what you want from adult communication.

That’s not to assume this is everyone’s Twitter experience, and most of the time, it’s not mine. But when it does happen, it’s discouraging and depressing, and even more so because I am at a point in my life where I want more empathy and understanding in my interactions with others. If I get in conversations on Twitter where I fail or I do the opposite, even unintentionally, that’s not just a disappointment, it’s a setback in a goal of change that’s important to me.

This is not mean to be a dramatic tale of woe – I am not quitting Twitter and this is not me taking my ball and going home. But my conversation with Ronnie today just reinforced to me that sometimes it’s better just to step back, quit letting the iPhone ding with notifications every ten seconds, and quit just replying immediately to everything that comes in.

I’m going to try having all Twitter (and all other service) notifications off. Even on my IM clients, I am turning off audible notifications. I’ve never had email notifications on, so that’s not an issue. My approach will be, check it when I want, reply when I want, and treat it as me going to it, rather than it constantly coming to me and interrupting me mid-thought or mid-action all the time. That’s when conversations get messed up, because reflection is lost and it’s tiring to deal with anyway.

Constant inputs can rob us of time to think, time to do, and intentionality or purpose in our use of time. Notifications can be good, but they can also be negative, and they have become negative for me because I have been too permissive with them.

And hey, if all this leads to is that I think a little more when I read and generate words, so much the better.