Earlier this week, Twitter started rolling out a new feature to some users that shows “tweets per month” on profiles, alongside total tweet numbers. People’s reactions to seeing this sometimes-jarring information have ranged from denial, to shame, to acceptance.
For verified users, this information is already available in an analytics tab on their profiles, where tweets are broken down by month. But that’s not data that’s available publicly; this feature puts everyone’s tweeting habits on full display, for better or worse.
A spokesperson for Twitter told Techcrunch that this is “part of an ongoing experiment in which we want to learn how providing more context about the frequency of an account’s Tweets can help people make more informed decisions about the accounts they choose to engage with.” The purpose of this, then, sounds like it might be to keep people from accidentally following someone who tweets 30 times an hour, if they’re not prepared for that kind of deluge.
This feature has been in the works for at least a month. It seems to be calculating an average, but it’s not clear what time range that average is based on.
My own numbers, for full transparency, are 1,320 tweets at 54 tweets per month (my total tweets number is lower than realistically should be; I delete my tweets periodically, for privacy and shame purposes). Fifty-four tweets per month sounds like a lot, to me—that’s about two tweets a day. What the hell do I have to say to the world once a day, let alone twice?
As for the rest of Motherboard’s staff, the least-frequent tweeters who responded to my requests for comment are managing editor Jordan Pearson at 34 tweets per month, and senior staff writer Aaron Gordon at 20 times per month. “Every day I wake up and pray and post a single tweet,” Pearson said. Gordon, however, emphatically claimed that the numbers were incorrect, and his should be lower. Maybe the feature is still buggy.
Motherboard’s executive editor Emanuel Maiberg tweets about 76 times per month, and is at peace with that. “I feel pretty good about my numbers and think that they would be even lower if I did the sensible thing and deleted my tweets on a regular basis,” he said. “I understand and respect all the arguments to the contrary, but I stand firm by my belief that tweeting is generally a bad idea and I struggle to think of a tweet I don’t regret.”
So far, these are on the low end of the spectrum compared to other people on Motherboard’s staff, who are racking them up by the hundreds and thousands of tweets per month.
Audience development manager Rachel Pick clocked in at 677 TPM. “That’s actually a lot less than I thought it would be to be honest, so my first feeling is relief,” she said. “What can I say, I’m frequently bored and probably think way too much of myself.”
Patrick Klepek, senior reporter at Waypoint, was similarly unsurprised by his tally. “355 sounds right. After my kids were born—my oldest is almost six now—I made a decision to start weaning myself off the endorphin hits that social media so easily provides, and view it more as a way to cruise the news, doomscroll, and promote the work I'm doing,” he said. “I stopped viewing it as a chat room, because it's a chat room that makes you feel like shit.”
Renata Price, a producer for Waypoint, also said that her 134 TPM average felt correct. “Despite being a relatively Online person, I don't think I'm much of a True Poster. I have a pretty intense filter for ‘Is this feeling I have valuable for other people to see,’ and a pretty light filter for ‘Do I find the thing I'm about to say funny,’” she said. “This means that I pretty rarely lean into discourse.”
Most people clambered for their numbers, since this feature is only accessible to a few users right now. Staff writer Gita Jackson, however, did not want to see their number at all. “I have been posting since like 1999. I have learned to process my thoughts through posting online,” they said. “I try not to be too judgmental towards myself when I don't meet my own standard or get fixated on a weird piece of drama and can't let it go."
Like many of Twitter’s features recently, this is another one that no one asked for, or really even seems to want. It’s difficult to imagine what purpose this serves for Twitter’s assumed motivations of keeping people using the app and posting as much as possible, either. For power-users who are posting thousands of tweets per month, facing this information can only be like grabbing a mirror to look at one’s own asshole, or willingly doing the math on how much money you spend every month on Seamless. It’s information not many people seek out unless they’re trying to change or fix something.
And for those who tweet in the double-digits or less, it doesn’t seem to be motivating them to tweet more. I personally would use this as Twitter seems to intend it: to back away slowly before hitting the follow button on someone who tweets 3,000 times in a month. For me and a lot of other people, Twitter is just a work surface, a place to keep tabs on what’s going on in some small subset of an algorithmically-sorted world, and promote your own work in this content-driven, engagement-thirsty, self-promotional capitalist hellscape social media has created for us, and not much more than that.
“I’m there either reading news or seeing stupid shit people say, which I then copy/paste into Slack to show you and say ‘have you seen this stupid shit?’ All of that is fine,” Maiberg said. “Tweeting, however, is almost always embarrassing.”