Twitter is Far Too Expensive

Published on June 10, 2019 • 2 min read

Twitter introduced me to my best friend, investors in my startup, and many super smart people. I attribute a lot of the success I've had to Twitter. It did a better job of advancing my career than LinkedIn. It let me share weird ideas with eccentric people better than Facebook could ever dream of. It even gave me direct access to countless researchers, journalists, and billionaires. As a nerd, using Twitter to tap into the consciousness of hundreds of smart people can be as rewarding as heroin. Posting an insightful tweet that sparks a meaningful discussion feels like being the host of a mini dinner party! Shouldn't that reason enough to use Twitter?

Not quite. While Twitter does have substantial benefits, it's far too expensive to use. I made the mistake of justifying my use of Twitter only by looking at its benefits, while ignoring all other associated costs. Cal Newport talks about this in Digital Minimalism. In the case of Twitter, the costs are my time and attention, which are particularly valuable. Yet, somehow, the engineers at Twitter managed to install a background process in my brain, forcing me to constantly think about generating new tweets. I can't learn anything new anymore without this message popping up in my head: Would you like to share this on Twitter? (Y/n). Attention costs aside, the time costs are huge as well. Screen Time says I spend about two hours per day on Twitter. Try asking yourself, what's the main reason you use Twitter? Now, is using Twitter the absolute best way to meet that need? If I used Twitter to learn about how smart people think, wouldn't it have been a more effective use of my time to spend two hours a day reading the biographies of Jobs, Einstein, Da Vinci, and Carnegie?

I'm not arguing Twitter is useless; I'm arguing Twitter's substantial benefits don't outweigh its time and attention costs. My decision to quit Twitter wasn't as straightforward as my decision to quit Facebook. Unlike Zuck's side project, Jack's turned out to be quite useful. But, I have to ask, is spending my time and attention on Twitter the absolute best way for me to achieve the things I want out of life? Twitter does provide a large amount of value, but that value comes at a cost. Surely my time and attention is worth far more than a steady stream of nerdy quips.