An aerial view of Twitter addiction

On: October 15, 2010
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About Megan Adams
I have traded my life of Tex-Mex and warm weather in Austin, Texas (yes I was raised on a ranch and no, George Bush is technically from Connecticut) for the gezelling city of Amsterdam to pursue my MA in New Media from UvA. Since graduating in 2006 with a Bachelor degree in Communication from St. Edward's University, I have thrown myself into the fast paced life of PR working at various levels across the technology and consumer sectors. Why new media? My professional interest in the program lies in understanding how new mediums and tools influence the communication landscape and why. In turn I hope to directly apply this "under the hood" insight to my PR approach. My personal interest is vested in exploring the latest and greatest that the internet gods have bestowed upon us. When I’m not accidentally mowing over pedestrians on my bike I enjoy all things music and travel related. My idea of the perfect blog would combine the finer things in life: sandwiches and Lil Wayne.

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http://imonabike.wordpress.com    

You’ve heard all of the jargon  – “get connected,” “stay connected,” “connect with friends and family,” etc., etc.  Any one of these phrases could be applied to Twitter, Facebook, blogging or you local cell phone carriers marketing tactics.  Clearly this is a rhetorical question, but at what cost do we pay to sign up for said services?  What’s the benefit?  In some cases what is meant to simplify your life actually further complicates it and dare I say, spawns an addiction.

When thinking of what direction I wanted to take with examining microblogging and SMS I started out by focusing on text messaging and Twitter and the unintended effects that both mediums can have with regard to addiction.  However after doing some initial research I realized that while these two platforms are closely related they are difficult to focus on together.  With that in mind I have decided to instead focus on addiction as it relates to Twitter.

If you search for “Twitter addiction” today, one of the first things to pop up is the late breaking news that Lindsay Lohan is currently being treated for email and Twitter addiction at the Betty Ford clinic.  I’m quite sure that Twitter co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone didn’t anticipate people landing in rehab over their product.  Or maybe they did.   Maybe in this case it’s the litmus test for creating a great product.  Something that people feel they can’t live without.  Or as Lev Grossman points out “like any good pusher, services like Twitter don’t answer existing needs; they create new ones and then fill them” (“The Hyperconnected”).  It should be noted that Grossman went on to write an article titled “Desperately Trying to Quit Twitter” in March of 2009.  Perhaps he had foreshadowed his own destiny.

So what is so enticing about telling the internets your thoughts in 140 characters?  What motivates people to try out and then continue to use the service?  What does Twitter abuse look like?  In one example a BBC News reporter, Zoe Kleinman decided to address her Twitter addiction head on by consulting a non-tech saavy colleague, Carolyn Rice to help put her Twitter use into perspective.  The two women decided to do some role-playing and swapped social networking lives.  Prior to this experiment Rice had only tweeted once before and admitted that she didn’t “get” Twitter.  On the other hand Kleinman had tweeted over 2,000 times and counting.  Both women were left feeling anxious by their experience, Kleinman because she felt like she was missing something and Rice because she couldn’t handle the pressure of constantly having something to “tweet” about.  In discussing the behavior patterns of Twitter with a psychologist the expert explained “You can get addicted to thinking that somebody is interested in your every move. You have this idea that there is a virtual audience. But when are you tweeting information, and when is it just vanity?” (Kleinman).

To provide some perspective of its reach, there are more than 17 million people (Americans) who are actively using Twitter.   The behavior patterns of regular Twitter users show addictive tendencies in that they spend on average four hours per day online and almost 80% would prefer to eliminate their television and keep internet access if they have to choose  (Webster).

There are plenty of instances where participating on Twitter has had detrimental blows to users jobs, personal relationships, etc., but that doesn’t seem to deter the curious from signing up and logging in.  What was originally intended to be a platform to provide shorthand communication has instead taken on a life of its own.  As a result I’m quite positive that we are just scraping the surface of exploring Twitter addiction and treatment.

Wondering if you’re addicted to Twitter?  Take this quiz.

References

Grossman, Lev.  “The Hyperconnected”.  TIME Magazine.  Vol. 169, issue 116.  16 April 2007.  Web.  9 Oct. 2010.

Grossman, Lev.  “Desperately Trying to Quit Twitter”.  TIME Magazine. 6 March 2009.  Web.  9 Oct. 2010.

Kleinman, Zoe.  “Could you get by without Twitter?”  BBC News. 14 Jan. 2010.  Web.  9 Oct. 2010.

Webster, Tom.  “Twitter Usage In America: 2010.”  Edison Research. 29 April 2010.  Web.  9 Oct. 2010.

3 Responses to “An aerial view of Twitter addiction”
  • October 16, 2010 at 11:31 am

    it is very interesting actually,that there Twitter addiction can be treated.
    The oatmeal quiz is an accurate diagnosis indeed!

  • October 16, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    World Spinner, I’m interested in following this topic but there seems to be little scientific information about it. I’ve found a lot of information on internet addiction but not on Twitter specifically.

  • October 19, 2010 at 5:10 am

    Thank you for the excellent article. …I have over 100,000 Twitter followers and counting…
    They tried to make me go to Twitter rehab, I said No, No, No!

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