Like many people, I thought twitter usage was going to decline in 2023 due to all of the shenanigans of Elon Musk. While it seemed like usage was dropping off, I wanted to take some measurements to be certain.
To measure usage, I started by creating a list called good_twitter. It contained 98 accounts. I figured if the users on this list stopped tweeting, I would stop too. Then I wrote some python code to call twitter’s API and count the number of times each person on the list tweeted. I started counting at the beginning of January.
My first thought was that people would tweet less and less each day. However, as you can see from this chart below, on average the people on my list tweet around 250 times / day. Some days it’s over 350, some days it drops to around 150. (And one day my program died and I only counted 50. :)) So people are not tweeting less as time goes by.
My second thought was that some people were dropping off, but other people on the list were tweeting more, and hence the total amount of tweets was not dropping. To measure this, I counted how many people on my list tweeted once or more per day. The chart below shows approximately 50% of the 98 people on the list tweet at least once a day.
Given these two results, my final thought is that people are not giving up on twitter, even with all the problems we all have with it. I found that surprising. I expected a big decline initially. Then I expected a gradual decline. I don’t see either.
I don’t know why only 50% of users in the good_twitter list tweet while the other 50% does not. I am sure some people have quit twitter. But the hard core — like me — seem to be sticking around.
P.S. A fascinating byproduct of this study is how individuals tweet. I would have thought everyone uses twitter the same way. Wrong! Look at this chart below:
It turns out most people on my good_twitter list (and me) tweet/retweet 0-10 times a day. We are all part of the Long Tail to the right.
However there are two other types of people on the short end of the tail to the left. There are power users who tweet/retweet between 20-50 times a day every day. And there are a number of super users who tweet/retweet 50-100 times a day. (Power and super users are my nicknames.)
Some of the power users are obvious: they are mainly news and government accounts. Less obvious ones tend to be activists. They use twitter as a soapbox, pulpit, what have you. I have a few super users I follow: Shawn Micallef, Anthony DeRosa, Deray and a couple more. For power and super users, retweets make up most of that content.
All that said, it’s been an interesting experiment, but I am not sure if I will continue to track usage. It may not be up to me: I expect Musk and company will turn off my free access to the API, and that will be that. And I am satisfied with my final thought that usage is staying constant for now.
Like any study, YMMV. But besides my good_twitter list, I also measured a few of my shorter lists and I found roughly the same result: at least half of the people on the shorter lists tweeted once a day.