What I Learned from My 48-Hour Twitter Fast

On Friday morning of last week, my friend Anne Jackson (aka, “@Flowerdust”) challenged me to a 48-hour Twitter fast. At first, I said, “no.” But the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. I thought it would give me some insight into Twitter and the role it plays in my life.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Inkout, Image #9511825

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Inkout

So, I accepted the challenge at 11:29 a.m. on Friday, December 18th. I posted this tweet:

My Twitter Status from December 18, 2009 at 11:29 am

Unfortunately, I had scheduled a tweet via SocialOomph.com to post at 12:10 p.m. and forgotten about it. Not aware that this was an automated tweet, some followers called me out on it. So I re-set the clock and began my Twitter fast from that point.

At 12:10 p.m. on Sunday, December 20, I posted this tweet:

My Twitter Status from December 20, 2009 at 12:10 pm

I would think I learned three things from this experiment:

  1. Posting frequency affects your follower growth rate. In reference to blogging, I have observed that there is a correlation between posting frequency and traffic volume. In other words, the more you post (to a point), the more traffic you will generate. In fact, assuming you write posts that people actually want to read, this is the single most important thing you can do to grow your audience.

    However, I had no idea this same phenomenon would apply to Twittering. It just didn’t occur to me. Once I stopped posting, the growth rate dropped from an average of about 380 per day to less than 100. It has also taken a day to begin to recover. I am still not back to my previous growth rate.

    Twitter Counter Growth Rate

  2. Twittering really doesn’t take that much time. We all know that surfing the web or responding to email all day can be a huge time suck. When you want to increase your productivity, you go offline. I do this frequently when I need to focus and work on important projects.

    But, as I have argued elsewhere, Twittering just doesn’t take that much time—even if you post 12-15 times a day, as I do. I didn’t experience increased focus or any big productivity gains as a result of my fast. I also didn’t suffer any significant withdrawal pains. No twitches or night sweats.

  3. Twittering provides an opportunity for sharing insights. I love discovering new ideas and tools. As a result, I do a lot of reading and listening. A key part of that process is Twittering out the links to what I have discovered. But I also enjoy reading other people’s insights. In fact, several people I follow are like “human search engines.” They bring interesting stuff to my attention.

    But without Twitter, I didn’t really have a way to share my discoveries. Several times I found myself reading something and thinking, This is great. I need to Twitter a link to it. Then I remembered, Oh yea, I can’t do that. I’m on a Twitter fast. I also missed reading other people’s tweets and learning from them.

My experiment was hardly scientific. Maybe I am unique. Regardless, it was interesting and worth doing. Thanks to Anne for challenging me to do it!

Question: Have you ever fasted from social media? What did you learn?

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