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.


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  1. “By signing off social media, I have reclaimed about 1 or 2 hours every day.”

    1. Were the opinions of hundreds or thousands of people really that important to you?
    2. Or are you so important/enlightened that you absolutely had to spend all that time imparting your knowledge upon mankind?

    1. And you so rarely spend any time reading/posting comments.

  2. Dude, give it a rest.

  3. Zero.

    Anything important that happens on Twitter will be reported elsewhere. One doesn’t have the bathe in the sewers to gain adequate access to the occasional useful tidbit floating therein.

    Twitter delenda est.

  4. “How much time do you spend on Twitter?” None.

    And I have already spent to much time on this post.

  5. Remember, Twitter is the single most aptly named social media service. The vast majority of their users are twits.

    Friends don’t let friends tweet.

  6. Hey, didn’t you write an op-ed for the NYT?

  7. I don’t spend any time on social media, and don’t miss it. I also don’t spend so much time staring at a phone that everybody who knows me can recognize me by looking at the top of my head.

    Actual human interaction… assuming you can find someone else who is ALSO not absorbed in their portable communication device… is awesome.

  8. I guess you can assume zero time spent thinking after reading and before responding. But that’s only valid because it’s Twitter.

  9. Or you could just look at an app which tracks the time you spend on a particular site; make the math a lot easier.

  10. I do not use any non-anonymous means of communication, Twitter included.

    1. I agree with awildseaking – I would never give a big tech company like twitter my real personal details.. I noticed they nearly all require SMS verification, something which I actively avoid by using free temporary phone number services (e.g quackr.io) . These allow you to sign up to twitter without using your real number… although companies are catching on and trying to block these sorts of numbers!

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