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How is Twitter influencing public health

Among the people I follow on Twitter there are some who seam to be always present. They have a large number of updates, which are more or less evenly distributed throughout the day. It is pretty obvious that these people basically spend their entire days on Twitter. How they manage to do this is a mystery to me, but right now I am interested in something else. I am interested how this affects their health. 

Sure you can use Twitter on your mobile device, like iPhone. You could maybe be standing while doing so, but probably not running. Still I believe people mainly use Twitter while sitting down in front of their computers. 

Number of Twitter users

The fact is that the official Twitter statistics are not available, so we can only speculate about the actual number of users. In March 2008, TechCrunch presented Twitter usage stats which they claimed originated from a source close to the company. At that time Twitter had around 1 million users out of which 200 000 were active every week, sending 3 million tweets per day (15 tweets user/day). These numbers cannot possibility still be the same, because numerous parameters show that Twitter has seen huge growth since last year. According to Compete, number of Twitter visitors grew astounding 752% in 2008. As a result Twitter had over 19 million unique visitors in April 2009. Does this mean Twitter has 19 million user? Yes, No? More, Less? I don’t know, probably more. Daniel Scocco from Daily Blog Tips thinks that there are around 5 million users, based on the unique user ID that each account has. On the other hand, eMarketer estimates there were roughly 6 million Twitter users in the US in 2008. A lot of different figures, so let’s use the most pessimistic one for our analysis, 5 million users sending 75 million tweets per day.

Time spent on Twitter

Twitter users do two things, they tweet and read other people’s tweets. Let’s say that the average Twitter user types at the speed of 70 words per minute and that there are on average 20 words per tweet (5 characters per word, 100 characters per tweet). This means that the average time to type a single tweet is 30 seconds. If we were to include time needed to let’s say reread the tweet before posting, check spelling or paste a link, average time needed to post a tweet would probably be longer. However, since we are underestimating things from the begging, let’s go ahead with 30 seconds.

How much time do all Twitter users spend per day writing tweets?

number of tweets per day x time needed to type a single tweet
75 million x 30 seconds
= 2 250 000 000 seconds
= 37 500 000 minutes
= 625 000 hours
= 2 6041 days
= 71 years

How much time do all Twitter users spend per day reading tweets?

As I mentioned Twitter users also read other people’s tweets, not just write their own. I for example spend more time reading tweets than writing my own. However, let’s say that twitterers spend the equal amount of time reading tweets, as they do writing them.
= 2 250 000 000 seconds
= 37 500 000 minutes
= 625 000 hours
= 2 6041 days
= 71 years

How much time in total do all twitterers spend per day on Twitter?

The most pessimistic estimate would be that all twitterers together spend 1 250 000 minutes or 5 2082 days on Twitter every day.

Incredible figure, isn’t is? Just keep in mind that it is probably underestimated. First of all, we underestimated the number of users and then also the amount of time average users spend on Twitter. There is more activity on Twitter, like direct/private messages, which is not included in this calculation. However, this figure is still nothing compared to time spent watching TV. Clay Shirky, whose brilliant keynote you must watch, has calculated that in the US alone TV viewers spend 200 billion hours per year watching TV. Twitter users spend only little bit more than 228 million hours per year. But, there are 5 million Twitter users included in my calculation and 290 million TV viewers in the US. If there were 290 million twitterers, they would spend 12 billion hours per year on Twitter.

Is the majority of twitterers taking TV viewing time and transferring it to Twitter? Or do they still watch the same amount of TV plus using Twitter? Maybe they are watching TV and tweeting at the same time? Who knows? But there is a lot of sitting going on. According to my calculation, average twitterer sits in front of his/hers computer using Twitter 15 minutes every day. That isn’t so bad. Nevertheless there are those which I mentioned in the first paragraph that seem to be spending 12 or more hours on Twitter. People like @surgee. He has been using Twitter for 294 days during which he posted 120 180 updates. This means he spent 3,542,970 Seconds or 59,050 Minutes or 984.16 Hours or 41.01 days only writing tweets. This is something around 3.5 hours a day. Another underestimation if you ask me, cause you definitely need to spend more than 3.5 hours on Twitter to post 408 tweets each day. And if you take a quick look at Surgee’s Twitter stream, you will see he is basically there from the moment he wakes up until he goes to sleep. According to Tweetwasters, online application which calculates how much time twitterers have “wasted” on Twitter, he is the champion.

Impact on public health

No doubt, Twitter is contributing to the sedentary lifestyle. You have TV, all other stuff already on the Internet and now Twitter to allow your bum to get acquainted with your chair. Using Twitter while sitting will burn around 100 calories per hour. That means you will need about 5 hours to burn one McDonald’s Big Mac (570 calories). And if you are an average American, 37 hours to burn what you ate in one day. The FAO (UN Food and Agriculture Organization) in the latest USA yearbook shows a per Capita Daily Consumption of 3,790 Calories for the 2000-2002 years. Sleeping on the other hand will burn 50-60 calories per hour, light exercise 250, lawn mowing 300, dancing to Rock and Roll music 400, jogging 600, and heavy running 700 calories per hour.

Twitter Kills

Should we be worried? Surgee, the twitter champion, appears slim and health on the photos. But there apart from obesity other disorders like heart disease, colon cancer, diabetes and hypertension are also linked to sedentary lifestyle. And in addition, mood disorders are also more common in those with sedentary lifestyle, as well as substance use and abuse. There are some studies showing that sedentary lifestyle is even more dangerous than smoking. Do we need to put health warning messages on TVs, computers and Twitter just as we do on the packaging of cigarettes?

treadmill deskOK, don’t get all depressed. If you really cannot get off Twitter, I suggest Rock and Roll dancing while tweeting. Or maybe designing your own Treadmill Desk. This is the idea of Dr Levine from the Mayo Clinic, whose research revealed that on the average his subjects burned 100 extra calories every hour while walking slowly — at 1 mile per hour — than while sitting in a chair. Also, there are numerous fitness and nutrition experts on Twitter. Follow them for tips and inspiration. After all several studies have showed that the Internet can be excellent for delivery of weight loss programs. What ever you do, jut remember to invest at least an hour every day for your health. Get out, walk your dog, do yoga, whatever, just get off the Internet and Twitter.


RT @ivorkovic: Twitter homepage parody

Twitter is getting more popular every day, and a lot of people around me started using it. I published this Twitter parody months ago, just when I started my blog and maybe two people were reading it. Now I got like five people reading my blog, so I was thinking why not publish it again. Nothing has changed, the joke is as fresh as ever (read – it is lame).

You all know people who write about each and every thing happening in their lives…I just eat a banana….I just updated my Twitter page…..I just typed a letter A and a dot. You know, something like James Joyce on Twitter. I mean even people behind Twitter suggest you use their service like that. So, I made a little parody regarding the Twitter homepage, more precisely the part where they explain why you should use their service.

Here is the actual screen shot of the Twitter homepage.

Twitter homepage

And here is my version of the Twitter homepage.

Twitter modified parody page

Hope you like my version better.


Wasting your life online

Are we all spending too much time on the Internet? It seams that a lot of people I know, the people whose blogs I am reading, the people who I follow on Twitter, are actually some kind of electrical beings living inside the biggest web of all. They are constantly online. Seriously, when they are not behind their computers, they are using their mobile phones just to always stay connected. Is this too much. Is there a limit. I mean, the next time I design some sort of a web survey, I am not going to ask how much hours a day you spend online, but rather how much hours a day you spend living in the real world. And sure, I confess, I am no much different.

Ahhh just forget about it, this great Joy of Tech cartoon got me thinking. Don’t worry, I’ll be myself again once I check my Twitter, and MyBlogLog, and Facebook, and LinkedIn, and Delicious, and my RSS reader, and Gmail, and …..

Joy of Tech

By the way, you can read the interview with the artist behind the Joy of Tech at the Croatian blog for Macintosh users I actually write for. Just scroll down, the English version is there somewhere.

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Kill Your Blog

tweetAt least this is what Paul Boutin suggests you do. He is a blogger himself, writing for the Valleywag blog, and for The New York Times, and for The Wall Street Journal, and for Slate, and for Wired magazine. And in the latest issue of Wired magazine he wrote a provocative and interesting article about why you need to stop blogging.

“It’s almost impossible to get noticed, except by hecklers. And why bother? The time it takes to craft sharp, witty blog prose is better spent expressing yourself on Flickr, Facebook, or Twitter.” – writes Boutin and adds, “That said, your blog will still draw the Net’s lowest form of life: The insult commenter.”

He thinks Twitter is the way to go these days and finishes off with a tweet – @WiredReader: Kill yr blog. 2004 over. Google won’t find you. Too much cruft from HuffPo, NYT. Commenters are tards. C u on Facebook?

Photo: Todd Tankersley

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Medicine 2.0 Blog Carnival Edition #33

Medicine 2.0 blog carnival
Welcome to the 33rd edition of Medicine 2.0 blog carnival that focuses on the integration of web 2.0 with our current practice of medicine. I am delighted to be your host this time around and would like to thank Berci Mesko for this opportunity.

I love numbers and 33 is a very beautiful number with many meanings. For this occasion I decided to play around with Medicine 2.0 blog carnival logo, so my dear iMac computer used numbers and complex calculations to transformed it. I took snapshots of specific segments from all of the blogs participating in this edition of Medicine 2.0 blog carnival and from these images a new mosaic image resembling the carnival’s logo has been assembled.

Thanks to the submissions from various bloggers, we have some pretty interesting articles for you. Lets begin immediately, cause I know you are curious.


Amy Tenderich, author of DiabetesMine, wanted to know, among other things, if mainstream commercial health platforms from companies like Google and Microsoft are really useful for people with specific chronic illnesses? She conducted two interviews to satisfy her curiosity. First she interviewed Missy Krasner, Product Marketing Manager for Google Health, and later she did the same with Keith Toussaint, Senior Program Manager with Microsoft HealthVault.

People from SugarStats talked with Jennifer McCabe Gorman, one of Health 2.0’s most ‘visible’ online evangelist as they called her. By the way Jennifer wants you to know that her blog, Health Management Rx, is not dead. The reason her posts have been slow is because she is intensively preparing for Health 2.0: User-Generated Healthcare conference, which will be held in San Francisco, California from October 22nd – 23rd 2008.

I have on the other hand conducted an interview with Dr. R.A. Brest van Kempen. This gentleman happens to be the CEO of RS TechMedic, a Dutch company producing medical devices. In the interview he has announced the development of software which will enable physicians to monitor their patients in real time using only an iPhone.

Personal Health Records

Canadian EMR draws our attention to an article published in the Globe and Mail which highlights clinical information that will soon be available to patients in Alberta.

John Sharp, publisher of eHealth blog, has informed us that Google Health has added some web accessibility features to support text readers and enable access to the blind.

Bob Coffield, a health care lawyer and blogger has posted a very interesting article on his Health Care Law Blog. Title of this article, which he co-authored with Jud DeLoss, is “The Rise of the Personal Health Record: Panacea or Pitfall for Health Information” and it has been originally published in the October edition of the Health Lawyers News, a publication of the American Health Lawyers Association (AHLA). Be sure to read it if you want to learn more about legal issues around PHRs.

Social media

Ves Dimov of Clinical Cases and Images Blog shows us the beautiful flower of Internet conversation and dares us to count how many petals we have.

Kevin Pho, better known as Kevin M.D., found an article in Newsweek that talks about the potential of Web 2.0 applications in patient-physician communication.

Digital Pathology Blog asks and tries to answer the following question: Is image sharing “social networking” that should be blocked?

Scott Shreeve writes about his relationship with Twitter in Aint that Tweet?

Berci Mesko thinks you might like and find useful the Twitter directory called Just Tweet It.

Gunther Eysenbach, Editor-in-Chief and publisher of the Journal of Medical Internet Research, presents the research paper “Examining the Medical Blogosphere: An Online Survey of Medical Bloggers” and reflectes on the presentation of Kevin Clauson at the Medicine 2.0 congress in Toronto.

New websites

Medgadgdet informs about Pediatric Care Online, designed around the daily clinical needs of pediatric offices.

Joshua Schwimmer tells us about the new nephrology blog named Precious Bodily Fluids.

Change for the better

Dave deBronkart of admires extraordinary bravery and integrity of the people from Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center who performed a procedure on the wrong body part and openly shared what happened on their blog.

Medical Education Blog presents a new approach to thinking about how we teach medical students called Application Oriented Curriculum.

There you have it. You read some interesting articles and during the process have boosted your brains, according to new research suggesting that the simple act of Googling may be good for your brain health.

For the end, I would like you to just think about two things. Submitting your articles to one of the future Medicine 2.0 blog carnivals or even hosting one yourself. Everything you need to know can be found on Medicine 2.0 blog carnival.


Stop smoking with qwitter

Are you struggling to stop smoking? You tried all sorts of approaches, but none of them worked. Maybe you can try qwitter, it’s not like you have something to lose (except your nasty habit).

Qwitter is a social tool powered by twitter and created, you guest it, to help you stop smoking. It does that by allowing you to:

  • easily keep track of how many cigarettes you smoke each day
  • keep a journal of your thoughts & feelings as you strive to smoke less
  • view your progress over time
  • share this information with others who can support you (or insult you)

qwitterI like certain things about it, mostly originating from twitter working in the background. It is very easy and simple to use, it allows your friends/family/shrink to subscribe to your grumbling and it produces some nice looking stats, representing number of cigarettes you smoked each day. This way you can expose your personal failures on the Internet for everyone to see, and if this doesn’t get you to stop smoking nothing will. 

I don’t know if qwitter actually helped anyone, but I saw today that there were 474 people using it, so if you want to stop or start smoking (wouldn’t that be original) why not become the registered user number 475. I just hope you don’t get addicted to qwitter/twitter.  


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