8 Reasons Why Twitter Can Boost Your Happiness.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day, or List Day.
This Wednesday: 8 reasons why using Twitter can boost your happiness.

I’m a huge fan of Twitter, and I’ve tried to persuade several people to give it a try. (My greatest triumph: convincing my sister to use it. Seeing my sister in my Twitter feed — that makes me very happy.)

We’ve all seen how Twitter can play an unprecedented role in world events and in news communication. But on a very personal, routine level, there are several (other) ways in which Twitter can boost your happiness. After all, is it just a coincidence that a blue bird is both the symbol for happiness and the symbol for Twitter? Probably yes, I know, but still, it’s a happy coincidence.

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: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention: “When something strikes a spark of interest, follow it.”

But sometimes, you don’t have time to pursue your passion as much as you’d like. 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 cheese, Mad Men, green technology, college basketball, gardening, kidlit, or just about anything else, 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 boost when you need it. Reading 140 characters takes just a few seconds, but it’s enough to re-direct your mood. My current favorite – 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 number – 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 me 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 raise money for a charity, 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 or on issues that you think are important. I periodically try to persuade people to commit to being organ donors. 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.

6. 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.

7. Twitter lets you share those funny little observations that float through your head. 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.

8. 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 a suggestion for artists who create miniature scenes, or an explanation for “steampunk,” I got answers right away. Most of all, Twitter is a super-efficient way to find out what other people find interesting.

HOWEVER

These are 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. It may eat up your time so that you have less time for face-to-face encounters with real people.

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 to read your feed. That said, it’s worth figuring out how to work Twitter into your life.

If you’re intrigued, but you don’t know how to use Twitter, check out Twitip by ProBlogger’s Darren Rowse.

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

* My younger daughter and I were reading the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, The Nightingale, and it occurred to me that although I’d often read about the nightingale’s song, I had never actually heard a nightingale sing. And here it is! I love the internet.

* Need an idea for a good gift for Mother’s Day? Let me suggest…you guessed it…The Happiness Project! Can’t resist adding: #1 New York Times bestseller.
Order your copy.
Read sample chapters.
Watch the one-minute book video.
Listen to a sample of the audiobook.

  • http://losingweightinthecity.com Theodora

    So, wait. Is there a Happiness Project Tumblr???? :)

    • gretchenrubin

      No, but I’ve been tempted!

  • http://www.faithpermeatinglife.com Jessica @ FaithPermeatingLife

    My husband loves searching Twitter while he watches TV. For him, there’s something really satisfying about knowing that 20 other people had the same exact thought about a commercial or something that happens in a football game. I do the same thing when I encounter a problem, like a website is down or when half the scenes in the Harry Potter 7 Part 1DVD were too dark to see what was going on. No, it’s not just me, other people said the same thing! That affirmation gives me a happiness boost :)

    • gretchenrubin

      Yes! Great additional points.

  • http://onethousandwordsormore.com Megan

    Love the Twitter! I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve gotten more than one breaking news story via Twitter rather than through an actual news source. And it’s been a great source of support and laughter when I’ve needed it.

  • http://www.twitter.com/nataliebid Natalie

    I love this! I enjoy scanning Twitter for interesting news stories of the day and random information. It’s a great dashboard for what’s going on in the world!

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Maureen-ODanu/193281680703022 Maureen O’Danu

    I finally wandered over here after hearing about you for awhile. I’ve been on my own “happiness project” for the last twenty years or so of my life, and find it really interesting, the very different ways people can experience and write about happiness. “Liked” you on Facebook, followed you on Twitter, all that jazz. Glad you’re out there.

    I was an early adopter on Twitter, and it amazes me how a dry sense of humor, some retweets and a penchant for sleepy haiku can garner a “fan base”. I’ve also been amazed at the power of Twitter on the political front.

  • http://www.arrangedinlove.wordpress.com Tharisi

    I have yet to sign up for a Twitter account..but your post makes me want to!

  • The Red Angel

    This is an excellent post, Gretchen! I have actually been weighing over the Big Question: To tweet, or not to tweet? I used to really dislike Twitter and feel that it is nothing more than a useless time-waster, but as I’ve learned more and more about it over the past couple of years I have found fewer and fewer reasons to NOT have a Twitter.

    I will have to make one sometime this summer. :)

    ~TRA

    http://xtheredangelx.blogspot.com

  • guest

    I suggest tumblr is also applicable under these 8 reasons :]

  • http://tivimania.blogspot.com/ Tivi Mania

    I love this! I enjoy scanning Twitter for interesting news stories of the day and random information. It’s a great dashboard for what’s going on in the world!

  • Biodagar

    Love it. And on the flipside, Facebook seems to make people *un*happy. In my experience anyway. I love it that my regular twitter mates miss me when I’m offline for a period of time, and start to wonder where I’ve gone.

    • http://www.manifestconnection.com Kari

      I agree. I personally come out of facebook feeling upset or negative more than I do come out of it feeling happy. And I think that facebook takes up more time than twitter – at least more time is wasted looking at ex-friends or people you don’t really know. At least on twitter you generally are looking at topics of interest to you and not reading about how “Fred is going to party like a rockstar tonight!” when you don’t even really know who Fred is.

    • anginlewat

      so i’m not the only who feels that going through facebook makes me unhappy

  • http://www.poweredbyintuition.com Ange Artemis

    Gretchen,
    I’d never even considered half of the reasons you mentioned. I’m going to have to take a closer look at Twitter. Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/DagmarBleasdale Dagmar Bleasdale

    Hi Gretchen,

    yes, yes, yes! I love Twitter because of all those reasons you mention. I get to pursue my passion – advocacy and telling people about my blog, Dagmar’s momsense. And I can make a real difference in people’s lives, be that helping a mom who struggles with breastfeeding or informing people about how toxic air fresheners are, or telling people about local happenings. I share a lot of info with my followers as a service to them.

    I also want to mention that Twitter is my new Google — when I need help with something, I just ask on Twitter and many will write back with great info (if you have a lot of followers, like me).

    And using Twitter has led to a whole new career and income stream for me — I’m now a social media consultant.

    Love Twitter, can’t remember my life without it. But it surely takes a lot of time to tweet as much as I do :)

    Dagmar
    @DagmarBleasdale
    DagmarBleasdale.com

  • Bramblejam

    In the UK we have a radio soap called “The Archers” , an “everyday story of country folk”. It’s been going for more than 60 years and has a devoted fanbase. On New Years Day they decided to kill off a major character and have a tweetalong. Now we all tweet along to the Sunday morning omnibus and it’s great! A real little community has been formed.

  • http://www.GenuineThriving.com/ Jeremiah Stanghini

    Regarding Dunbar’s number…

    I saw a post by David Dobbs on Wired Science that had an interview with Dunbar himself who recently answered the question about social media affecting the “number.” I’m not sure if you allow links in your comments, so I’ll just offer the title of the YouTube video where it can be found: “Robin Dunbar: How many friends does one person need (Dunbar’s Number)?”

    With Love and Gratitude,

    Jeremiah

  • shopgirl

    And twitter lets you stalk celebrities like @KrisAllen! The fandom goes crazy when he replies. Of course, to properly stalk celebs you need TweetDeck. 

  • Julia

    Thank you Gretchen for a great post! I smiled reading some of the reasons why twitter can boost one’s happiness as I recently found myself ‘justifying’ my twitter use to a friend and fell on similar arguments.

    Regarding the downside of twitter, that one can end up spending too much time on it, I was wondering whether you’ve come across an application that would automatically time-out and log one out of twitter after some time.
    The ‘effort’ to log again might be minimal but just enough to stop me from spending time on twitter as means of procrastinating (which is an idea you’ve mentioned previously that might boost self-control)… I searched Google but didn’t find a straight-forward way of having twitter log me out…

  • http://www.insanemamacita.com/ Brandy InsaneMamacita

    I signed up for Twitter a few years ago when it first came to be and then left because I was scared of my tweets being so “out there.” But then I started blogging last October (love it!) and have been connecting with many great people on there. It truly does make me happy on days I am feeling not myself. And I have also been taking part in a Project Happy of sorts on my blog each week. It’s great to find little happy moments throughout the week and share them with everyone.

  • hahazmen

    Flott Side ! Det eneste som jeg savner her er noen omtaler av Aass`s produkter, samt en tappekran…. tørst…

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