One of the best things to come out of 2020 for me has been doubling down on and improving my Twitter game. I had always been a casual Tweeter - more of a viewer, scroller, and liker rather than a writer, conversationalist, and idea-getter. However, finding #roamcult and like-minded people interested in topics like personal knowledge management pushed me to find better ways to use the app.
Twitter is full of golden nuggets but also a lot of noise. This is the first of a series of posts that will help you find the nuggets and avoid getting trapped in endless scroll. To start, let's talk about Twitter Lists and why they are the best way to curate your feed.
I generally try not to follow too many people on Twitter. Not only do I want to maintain that ~ratio~ but also I feel like following too many people clogs up my feed with useless stuff that I don't really care about. Lately I've been trying to avoid Information Exhaustion so have really been focused on finding ways to not endlessly scroll through my feed. Even by limiting the number of people I follow (currently 400), I still found the sheer number of tweets to be too large.
My friend Anil Chitrapu phrases it well:
Enter Twitter Lists, which seem to have been designed to solve this exact problem. Lists are exactly what they sound like - filtered feeds that you make to segment your following so that you are not overwhelmed by one giant feed when you open the app. I started using them much more in the past few months and they have helped achieve two things:
If you're finding yourself spending too much time scrolling Twitter to the point where it's starting to feel like Instagram, I highly recommend Lists to help focus your feed. That way you can start extracting more value from Twitter instead of just giving it your mindshare for nothing in return.
To paraphrase David Perell:
I mostly use Twitter on my phone since I'm away from my laptop for most of the day so my Lists are structured in way that is mobile friendly. This means that I only have one List that I call "Focus."
My Focus List consists of 30-40 accounts that I have hand picked and want to see more of in my feed. I keep it pretty fluid, removing accounts if I think I'm seeing too much from them or if I don't find the tweets as inspiring and adding new accounts I find through replies or browsing threads that I find from my Focus List.
I like curating my feed this way because my Focus List serves as my jumping off point to find new accounts and content and I'm more strict in adding accounts to my Focus List. I may still follow someone that I find interesting but that doesn't mean I have to add them to Focus. This puts me at ease because I know that my feed won't continuously get bloated if I happen to follow a bunch of new accounts.
When I'm on my computer, TweetDeck is another great use case for Lists. This is a website that helps you manage and view your Twitter feed in Kanban style boards where you can have a board for your main feed, Lists, Searches, Notifications, Messages, etc. I like having my Focus List up on TweetDeck because again I can quickly see if the core set of accounts I really want to look at are publishing anything I find value in. Here's a look at a couple of panels in my TweetDeck:
I used to have many more Lists than just Focus. When I started using Lists, I split them up by domains I was interested in including Healthcare, Tech News, Current Events, Finance, and Medicine. However, this didn't exactly work for me when I decided that I wanted to use Twitter more as a way to find new ideas from individual people rather than a news aggregator site (which is definitely a way you can use Twitter and that's totally fine - just not for me).
Right now, I feel very content with the system I've come up with. I find myself finding great value in the accounts that are in Focus and 30-40 seems to be a sweet spot so that there isn't an endless amount of scrolling where I end up wasting hours on Twitter. I'm sure my strategy will change over time but using Twitter this way has dramatically changed my interaction with the app.
You're probably wondering how you should go about making Lists and what should you even include in your first List. The wonderful part about this is that it's totally up to you! There is no right answer.
If you're completely new to this, I recommend finding Lists in your Menu bar (tap on your profile photo in the Twitter app and select Lists) and adding a few accounts you want to learn from to a List. See how this feels and add more accounts as you see fit.
Alternatively, make a couple of Lists about topics you're passionate about and add specific accounts in those niches. There is no wrong way to do this. The goal isn't to figure out the perfect framework of Lists, it's to try and break through the noise on Twitter so that you can find what you are really looking for.
Experiment as you go and you'll find something that works for you. The goal is to learn and the best way to learn is by doing!