A Twitter Thought Experiment

How much time do you spend on Twitter?

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

I previously announced my Twitter detente. So far so good. By signing off social media, I have reclaimed about 1 or 2 hours every day. I am not sure the exact amount, because I never really counted. But I think there is a way to quantify Twitter usage. Consider this thought experiment.

  • The average person reads between 200 words per minute. Most tweets are about 35 characters, which is roughly six words. Therefore, in a minute, you can scroll about thirty tweets. That ballpark figure lets you focus on each tweet for about 2 seconds. (That sounds about right).
  • According to one study, people typing on a phone with two thumbs were able to hit about 38 words per minute, roughly the same rate as people typing on a keyboard. (At my peak, I can break 100 words per minute.) A six-word tweet would then take about 3 or 4 seconds.

These rough numbers (all underestimates) should allow you to calculate, with some accuracy, how much time you spend on Twitter.

This thought experiment could be transformed into a research project. It should be easy enough to calculate how much a person writes: simply add up the characters in all of your tweets and replies. Calculating reading time is more complicated. Perhaps one measure is to add up the length of all the tweets you retweet, favorite, or reply to. Presumably, people will only engage with a tweet after reading it. I understand that presumption may not be accurate–lots of people will retweet something without actually reading it.