Five Years on Twitter, or How I Spent 18.1 Days of my Life

Updated April 5, 2013. Some content previously published.

I’ve been using Twitter for five years. It’s amazing to see how much Twitter has changed over that time. Actually it’s only over the last 24 months or so that they have made significant leaps, with the first years serving as setting the foundation. Twitter is about interests and has content from individuals (mostly), but brands are beginning to use it effectively as well. There are about 450 million Tweets per day with over half of the members active on mobile devices. It’s worldwide and has played an important part in furthering the Arab spring. Can you imagine how the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. would have benefited if we had Twitter back in the ’60’s? has undergone a redesign and is better, but it still falls short for me. I mostly use Osfoora on my iPad. It’s fast, easy to use and enjoyable. I’m not a Tweet Deck fan. On the iPhone I use the official Twitter app.

Here’s my Twitter take

(note some of this content has been repurposed from earlier posts about Twitter)

  1. Serves as a window into what’s going on in someone’s mind. These can run the emotional gambit from joy, disappointment and challenge, to triumph or simply stating a pet peeve. You are there with them as they experience it.
  2. Allows you to visualize what someone is doing at that moment, and one step further, what’s most meaningful to them about that moment. For instance, when someone Tweets that they are in a familiar restaurant enjoying a fine red wine and chatting with their spouse. It’s a rich picture that comes alive, especially when you know the couple and the restaurant.
  3. Can become the catalyst for later conversations. What were you guys talking about over dinner? What did you have? The wine? Etc.
  4. Provides the cadence of someone’s daily life. If they Tweet with regularity it’s a GPS of their thoughts as they navigate their day. They are turning left… right… now on a long straight track. You can sometimes watch them go off road.
  5. Is a rich digital network. In my unscientific study I have observed that Tweeple are generally early technology adopters, tend to be influencers, have fascinating jobs at leading companies and brands and generally love what they do. Of course some are just bored, which is to be expected with a media service with over 3 million channels. Surf past the noise.
  6. Keeps you in the know. Twitterers are constantly scanning the Internet for interesting and insightful ideas; including breaking news. Their Tweets are littered with tiny urls that lead you to a treasure trove of information and value hidden in the cloud. Great for impressing your friends and neighbors.
  7. Accelerates your knowledge. Tweets flow freely from user to user within the ever-growing social graph. Re-Tweeting, forwarding someone else’s Tweet, acts as an afterburner, further propelling that knowledge. A convergence of channels.
  8. Gets right to the point. After all you have to with only 140 characters. Short, sharp observations. Haven’t seen much Haiku though.
  9. Is entertaining. Some people broadcast on comedy central.

This is how I use Twitter

  1. Share my knowledge and experience I’ve collected over the years. I love solving problems and helping people solve problems. If I can give them a nugget or spark that advances their lives I’m thrilled. No great thought exists in a vacuum. If it’s a good idea then several people have it as well. If it’s a revolutionary idea then hundreds probably have it. It’s the universe’s way of improving the odds that great things reach the real world. Doing the work is much harder than having the idea, so share freely. when you share you get it back in large degrees.
  2. Learn from others much smarter than me. Of course not all smart people are on Twitter, and Twitter does not have only smart people. But it’s full of ideas and insights.
  3. Expand my network. All successful people are well connected. Who you know is critical. The smarter your connections the more power you have.

On May 1, 2011, it was announced that Osama bin Laden was killed by a team of Navy Seals in a compound inside Pakistan. The conversation on Twitter exploded.

I took a look at my Twitter bookmarks folder saved on my Safari browser today. Early on, when I earned of a new tool that leveraged Twitter feeds and users, I would check them out and if I found it useful I’d bookmark it. I have 56 bookmarks in that folder today. These days I hardly ever go back to this folder and pull one of them up. They might have been amusing at the time, but it’s only all about the content in the stream.

Time Investment

During those five years I have Tweeted 20,996 times. It takes me about 13 seconds to craft a Tweet, so here’s how it stacks up.

13 seconds x 20,996 Tweets = 272,948 seconds = 4,549 minutes = 75.8 hours = 3.1 days

Doesn’t seem too bad spread over 5 years. That’s the publishing part. Now for the incoming. I spend roughly 25 minutes per day reading (more like scanning) the river of Tweets. I do it on an array of devices; desktop computer, iPhone, iPad, and occasionally my TV screen, but that’s pretty much a pain in the butt, so I don’t do it often. My scan time is spread throughout the day at breakfast to mid-day, and late afternoon, with a break in the early evening so I can spend time with my son. Then comes my favorite time. Twitter After Dark. The night owls are out and many of them are under the influence. I make no judgements. It’s more fun and interesting, but not as professionally insightful. Out of 365 days a year, I’ll say that I check it 95% of the time, so that’s 347 days.

347 days x 5 years = 1,536 days x 25 minutes per day = 43,375 minutes = 722 hours = 30 days

Now to be fair, I’m scanning Twitter while doing something else, like surfing the web, participating in a webinar, attending a boring meeting, waiting in various lines and of course the all time favorite, driving (just kidding on that last one). So it’s not like I’m setting aside dedicated time for Twitter When I adjust for multi-tasking it comes out to.

30 days absorbing Tweets – 50% multi-task benefit = 15 days

Total days on Twitter over the past 5 years = 18.1

Eighteen point one days of my life over the past 1,825, is .9% of my time. Sleeping has taken up 365 days of my life over the same span of time, which works out to 33% of my life! Note to self. Next killer app wil enable me to Tweet while sleeping. Warren Zevon was definitely on to something.

I’ve made some good friends thanks to Twitter and it’s fascinating to observe how those relationships have progressed. Some of them move from Twitter to the off line world. Conferences, business meetings, even just passing through Chicago to pause for a drink or dinner. Others become Facebook friends and we have never met in person. I’m happy to say  that I’ve blocked only one person in the four years. Not a bad record.

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