Ten Reasons Why Using Twitter Will Boost Your Happiness.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day, or List Day.
This Wednesday: 10 reasons why using Twitter will boost your happiness.

I’m a huge fan of Twitter, and last night I was trying to persuade some friends, and later my sister, to give it a try. I think there are many ways in which Twitter can boost your happiness.

As a side note, it’s very appropriate to talk about happiness and Twitter, because the blue bird is the symbol for both. In fact, the blue bird on the cover of my soon-to-be-published book bears some resemblance to a few of the Twitter bird-logos.

1. Twitter allows you to pursue your passion – even if only in your imagination. A key to a happier life is to have fun – people who regularly have fun are twenty times as likely to feel happy. As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi noted in Creativity: “When something strikes a spark of interest, follow it.”

But sometimes, you just don’t have time to pursue your passion as much as you’d like. Many of my happiness-project resolutions are aimed at helping me make time for my passion. But if you can’t find the time, or if you’d like to spend even more time on your passion than you do, Twitter is a great source of conversation and ideas. If you love great food, Mad Men, green technology, college football, knitting, kidlit, writing paranormal erotic romance fiction, Apple — or, like me, Virgina Woolf’s The Waves — you can find other people who are interested in the same thing, day or night. And for that reason, it also makes you happier because…

2. Twitter distracts you if you’re feeling blue. Studies show that distraction is a powerful mood-altering device. (In fact, men’s greater tendency to distract themselves from bad feelings may be one reason they are less prone to depression than women.) If you’re following a bunch of people whose posts interest you, you can always count on finding something that will catch your attention. It can distract you, and also…

3. Twitter can get you laughing. If you follow some people who are very funny, you can count on getting a little mood boost when you need it. Reading 140 characters takes just a few seconds, but it’s enough to re-direct your mood. My current favorites: @borowitzreport and – forgive me, my beloved Laura Ingalls Wilder – @HalfPintIngalls.

4. Twitter helps you maintain loose relationships and strengthen strong relationships. One hot debate is whether technology will change Dunbar’s law – can you really handle more than 150 friends? Maybe not. But whether or not you can have more “friends,” technology certainly allows you to keep a better handle on acquaintances and virtual acquaintances. Far more than ever before, I’m vaguely aware of a huge number of people, some of whom I “know” and some I don’t “know,” and although that sounds overwhelming, it makes my life warmer and richer. Twitter, along with Facebook, blogs, Tumblr, and all the rest, allow you to keep a little connection with lots of people without much effort.

5. Twitter lets you help other people. Do good, feel good. If you have friends who own stores or restaurants, who write books or articles, who perform music, who advocate for a cause, or otherwise want to direct attention someplace – or if you want to help strangers who are doing these things — Twitter lets you shine a spotlight on their activities. Writers often say to me, “I don’t want to use Twitter because I don’t want to promote my work all the time.” Fine – so support the work of people you admire! Tweet about them. Speaking of which…

6. Twitter gives you a bully pulpit. I try to persuade people to commit to being organ donors. Through Twitter, I can repeatedly send this message out to a lot of people – and who knows, maybe I persuade some people to act.

7. Twitter lets you conquer a device. Mastering a new technology – whatever the technology is — contributes to the atmosphere of growth in your life, and that boosts happiness. Because social connections are a key (perhaps the key to happiness), the fact that Twitter technology connects people makes this effect even more intense.

8. Twitter lets you feel like you’re in on the current thing, and that’s satisfying. Sure, something may replace Twitter, or it may lose popularity and fade away. Right now, though, a lot of people are using it and talking about it. It’s not possible to keep up with everything new – new music, new video-games, new TV shows, new iPhone apps – but Twitter is easy to use, so it’s a good place to start if you want to feel current.

9. Twitter lets you share those funny little observations that float through your head. Some people scoff at Twitter, saying “I don’t want to read about what other people eat for breakfast.” Well, it’s true, people post too much about their airport travails – but in fact, it’s very amusing to read people’s comments on their everyday lives. And it’s even more amusing to think of your OWN comments! In the same way that carrying a camera sharpens your eye, knowing that you can communicate your clever aperçus makes you more observant and wittier.

10. Twitter makes gathering information easier. If you follow people who share your passion, they’ll help you keep abreast of everything happening in that area. And if you have a general question, crowd-sourcing it to Twitter is a great way to get an answer. When I wanted to know the PC equivalent for iMovie, and the definition of “steampunk,” I got answers right away. Most of all, Twitter is a super-efficient way to find out what other people find interesting.

These are all ways that Twitter can boost your happiness. Now, Twitter has one major drawback for happiness: it uses up time, and time is in short supply for most of us. It’s true, it’s an efficient way to scan headlines, keep up with passions, and connect with people, but the fact is, it may tempt you to spend too much time using it, or to use it to procrastinate from other, less enticing work.

Like most things, Twitter is a good servant but a bad master, and you have to figure out how to keep it under control. No staying up past your bedtime reading the #twilight stream. That said, it’s worth figuring out how to work it into your life.

If I’ve convinced you, but you don’t know how to use Twitter, here are two additional tips:
— Use Tweetdeck. I never could get the hang of Twitter until I started using Tweetdeck to access it. Go to Twitter, sign up for an account, then go straight to Tweetdeck and enter your account information.
— Here’s a quick read on the basics of using Twitter. Even better, ask someone to walk you through it in person. Using Twitter isn’t hard, but you need someone to explain the key features (direct message, re-tweet, hashtags, 140 characters). For more great info on using Twitter, try Twitip by ProBlogger’s Darren Rowse.

Once you’re on Twitter, follow me at @gretchenrubin.

* Ah, someone has a blog crush on me! I’m thrilled.

* It’s Word-of-mouth day, when I gently encourage (or, you might think, pester) you to spread the word about the Happiness Project. You might:
— Forward the link to someone you think would be interested
— Link to a post on Twitter (see above for why you should be using Twitter!)
— Sign up for my free monthly newsletter (about 30,000 people get it)
Pre-order the book for a friend (or yourself)
— Put a link to the blog in your Facebook status update
Thanks! I really appreciate any help. Word of mouth is the BEST.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • #9! YES! i agree. haha

  • Meg

    Really fun post — and I totally agree! Twitter really does make me happy, and I love finding other people who like the random things I do. Plus it’s a great way of fostering a sense of community amongst people with shared interests… in my case, books. Awesome!

    • gretchenrubin

      Yes, I love all the bibliophiles on Twitter. I’ve gotten tons of great
      suggestions there. I’m glad to hear that Twitter makes you happy, too.

  • Twitter is great for spreading happiness, humor & information. I am often amazed at what a great support group I have with my twitter friends.

    I also love that it allows me to interact with all of the passions of my life, reading, cooking, crafts, etc. Not many social networks are really great canvases for everything like twitter.

  • In my experience I have to disagree with you overall. I’ve only ever found it useful for your point 1 in that it has put me in touch with interesting people, material and events. As a happiness-making pursuit in and of itself however it has never really worked for me. There’s just too much ego, self-publicity and self-importance. (I’ll admit that I’ve been guilty of all three at times). I’ll keep giving it a try though.

    • gretchenrubin

      The great thing, though, is that you can so easily un-follow people who bug
      you — though I admit, I’m not vigilant enough about keeping up with that.

    • Its definitely all about your perception. If you see it as useful you will find the useful things in it…if you think otherwise you probably won’t see the good stuff. I also agree about unfollowing annoying people. It’s easy.

  • heatherconroy

    Thanks for the link to the source of your blog crush! I’m glad you are thrilled Gretchen because you give so much of yourself everyday here at the Happiness Project. It is much appreciated. I love The Twitter tips as well because I have a Twitter account but I am a bit ambivalent about it. Your tips help me out a lot!

  • I love Twitter for all of the reasons you mention and for keeping my brain from atrophying to the size of a peanut due to my boring days at work. It keeps me entertained and informed. (I love that you can find out about breaking news from people on Twitter before you see it on news sites.)

    I also like it because I have among my followers a nice little interconnected online community of fun, interesting, smart, funny people who actually live in my city. It’s great to ‘meet’ people from other parts of the world, but there’s just something really nice about knowing if you wanted to, you could meet one of these people for a coffee. I have met a few of the people I follow and would like to meet more of them. I see it as a way of making friends in the real world, not just online.

    I do, however, find that Twitter can sometimes impede my happiness. If I’m feeling a little cranky, having an opportunity to vent and give voice to every little complaint that enters my head can intensify my bad mood. I can get stuck in a whiny, grumpy groove that’s hard to get out of. I need to develop the self-control not to do that but…my god, sometimes it’s just so satisfying to let rip.

  • eternalvoyageur

    Ummm… I’d say that for me Twitter is a huge distraction from real life. It’s escapism, and it’s way more shallow than blogs and forums. And it’s a gigantic time-sucker.
    The biggest problem with Twitter is that there is so much of it, and the good stuff is mixed with so much mindless BS and so much banality. I don’t want to wade through that, and I don’t want to open hundreds of “must read” links that people just mass-Tweet.
    All of it: from point 1 to point 10, I get from blogs and forums. Even point 9: I prefer Facebook, at least I’ve just the people there who actually know me and care. Besides, I don’t want to sift through hundreds of tweets to find the good stuff.
    Re#1: Hoopdancing for 5 minutes makes me happier than tweeting about it all day long. If I’ve got no opportunity to hoop, I’d still prefer to watch a hooping video or read a hooping forum for goo, deep, conversations.

  • “Do good, feel good.”

    Doesn’t get more appropriate than that… especially on Thanksgiving.

  • Jess

    Happier, I don’t know, but Twitter definitely can make you stupider, as is very well described by Chris here: http://www.pandalous.com/topic/ubiquitous_facebook

  • I love this article and agree with it 100%! I feel like whenever I have any question, all I have to do is ask my friends on Twitter and I get a response right away. Its wonderful.

    @ohsheglows

  • What a great post! I actually listed Twitter as one of the 100 things I am thankful for on the post that’s on my site today because it really does provide a great outlet for boosting happiness!

  • Randy

    Do you see any relationship between time management and depression?

    I would far prefer to read articles about becoming more disciplined, focused, and skilled at long-term happiness than the ‘druggish’ addition that could easily become Twitter.

    Another online distraction is just not what I need… I’ve spent most of my whole life on distractions and this is not about happiness but about a very short-term escape pleasure tool.

    • gretchenrubin

      This raises a very interesting question — what’s a “distraction” and what’s
      a worthwhile brief visit to a passion? I guess the degree to which we aren’t
      dealing with more pressing concerns. But in my experience, at least, a brief
      time-out helps my productivity, overall. But I can see that this wouldn’t be
      true for everyone. People have different susceptibilities to being
      distracted, in a bad way.

  • Name

    OH GOD I HATE TWITTER.

  • I freakin’ love Twitter. 🙂

  • brainygirl

    I’m scared!! I already spend too much time on Facebook and GChat…will I get sucked into the tweetvortex???

  • Maureen

    I was enjoying Twitter, and then started getting a lot of porn links. I am not particularly uptight, or religious, but I don’t like these people hunting me down and putting porn in my inbox, so it is making me want to drop it all together. Is there a way to block this?

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m not sure about if there’s a way to block it. I don’t get porn links,
      myself — though I’ve heard that a lot of people do — but lately I’ve been
      getting all these “what’s your I.Q.” messages. Ah, the internet! So much
      fun, but the spammers rush in at every turn.

  • Caf

    What a refreshing change, to read someone sharing the positive aspects of Twitter rather than simply writing off a medium that they haven’t figured out how to use to their own advantage.

    I suffer a chronic pain condition (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome), Twitter has allowed me to connect with other sufferers and the support we are able to give one another in 140ch is invaluable. I have also been able to help spread awareness about my little known condition simply by chatting with interesting people about a variety of different topics, from TV shows to news events or simply local goings on. By following other Melbournians I am able to still feel a part of this city, even though I don’t get to go out and get around in it like I used to.

    Real life meetings with folk I have met through Twitter have proven that this is not just a ‘waste of time’ medium, it is a new way of connecting. Like you say, Gretchen, it is so simple to unfollow anything that pollutes your personal tweetstream, the only way that spam and morons can interfere with you enjoying your updates is if you let it.

    I shall now go and tweet a link to this fabulous post…which I have found uplifting and which came to me via a link on Twitter from @sairbear, thus reinforcing the points above!

    • Pete

      I appreciate what you are saying particularly the first paragraph, but someone must have replied to at least one of your tweets at sometime in order for you to get started. Is this not the case?

  • finallyfreetobeme

    Excellent summation of the benefits of twitternation! LOL! I have been following your blog for just over a year now and can’t wait until your book is ready. 🙂

    You have inspired me to launch my own blog site http://www.finallyfreetobeme.com take a peek when you get a chance. I’d love to hear your feedback.
    🙂 now off to twitter-land I go.

  • I much prefer Twitter. Facebook has become overrun with people that don’t understand social media etiquette (or even proper human etiquette) and often exemplify the most stereotypical traits. Whereas people on Facebook tend to complain and talk about being stuck in traffic or mad at the post office (or whatever), I find Twitter to be a more useful medium. Twitter is the best place for breaking events and just news in general. For me it’s definitely a happier and far more useful place!

  • I completely agree with you about Twitter. It’s both a tool and a treat that can brighten the day and refresh my mind by taking it in an entirely different direction for a few minutes. I just have to discipline my information gluttony!

  • Jon

    Uhhh, is this post serious? If so, you’re basically running on air.

    Let’s get back to the stuff that actually contributes to a satisfying life and ditch this hyperbolic nonsense like “twitter allows you to pursue your passion.” Sheesh. The connection between passion and twitter is so tenuous that the author could just as easily have written about why “coffee allows you to pursue your passion.”

  • kate724

    Gretchen, I wish you were around when I was younger. I still enjoy reading your blog. Regardless of age, happiness is a worthy search.

  • I have too much free time.Sometimes I wish a day had only 16 hours. Maybe If I start tweeting I might not feel so bored

  • Thank you so much for this post! Just the other day, I was talking with a friend about how to explain twitter as a means of growth. I never even connected happiness, but you are so right! Great blog, great writing! I look forward to reading more. Follow me on Twitter LRgrad2008 !

    • gretchenrubin

      Great to connect with you on Twitter!

  • I realized that I have a Twitter addiction when I found myself anxiously evaluating Twitter’s business model in the hope they will find a way to ensure long-term viability. Twitter makes me happy, too!

  • TC

    After reading this blog, I started a Twitter account, and I’m glad I did! I just started following topics that I’m interested in, for example, health and wellness. One of the health and wellness experts I decided to follow is Dr. Andrew Weil. In following him, I discovered he’s involved in a restaurant concept, and one of these restaurants he’s involved in will be opening a location not too far from me this summer! The restaurant’s menue will be full of healthy options, all organic – even the wine! Thanks to Twitter, now I know this restaurant is coming. So, yes, Twitter is boosting my happiness already! Thanks for the tip!!

  • riazahmad

    I Riaz’ love Twitter. 🙂

  • marisma

    Just earlier today I was thinking “Being on twitter makes me happy” so reading this I was nodding all the way through! I agree with it all!!!

  • Pete

    Oh so that’s what Twitter is for! shame I cannot access it during the day (IT AUP Policy) and in the evening when I log on I do not seem to find anything of interest in the 30 mins or so I can look at it. I haven’t made any connections with any one I know and there is no-one I know in this country that uses it! So I keep looking, hoping something will click one day but after four months of looking at Twitter it just makes me more depressed.

  • Amy

    Gretchen, can you share some of the more interesting people you follow on Twitter? I’m just starting and I don’t know who to follow. Thanks.

  • excellent post! this is by far one of the most comprehensive posts i’ve seen here and look forward to more of them!

  • Twitter is one of the most positive platforms of communication I have ever encountered. Truly it can and does boost happiness.

  • Lol! I never heard of a blog crush before. I love it! Probably I have a crush on a blog or a blogger myself. This list rocks! I especially love twitter for connecting me with women who enjoy my passion for mixed martial arts. I know very few women in the real world who love the sport as much as I do. Thanks to twitter, I tweet with women all over the world when live events are on TV. Who knew tweeting could be so much fun?

  • donna

    i also love twitter and facebook and all of your posts gretchen.  I also have a blog and a website…literally my hobby but I so enjoy it. I dont have to many people with crushes yet but Im just beginning…www.50plusstickingtogether.com  if any onterh 50 something ladies would like to connect please take a peak:)