Horrifying link between twitter and butt-size

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It wasn’t so long ago…

You wanted to talk to someone down the hall, so, rather than tweeting, IMing or e-mailing, you got up off your butt, walked to their office and, stay with me, you actually stood in front of them and had a conversation. A real live, eyeball to eyeball, face to face, mannerism-twitching, body-language-revealing conversation.

God bless technology…

It’s made it so that we don’t have to move more than a mouse-click to share our message. All this has been great for productivity (not too great for stress and expectations) and allowed us to talk to people all over the world all day and night, even when they’re just down the hall.

But what about our asses?

Advancements in communications technology has slowly, but surely, removed the need to move our bodies beyond the occasional head-fake to scan one of the three monitors that keep us humming along at maximum productivity, but minimal exertion. Multiply out the effect over a period of years and we start to come up with some pretty frightening conclusions.

How fat is communication technology making us?

I began to do some calculations and here’s what I came up with:

E-mail: Over the last 4 years, I’ve sent 13,537 e-mails, that’s about 3,384 e-mails per year. Scanning the subject-lines, I’d estimate about 25% of those replaced conversations that’d would’ve been face to face, before e-mail (yes, there was a time where people didn’t e-mail).

That’s 846 conversations I had sitting in front of my screen, rather than getting up and walking somewhere. At 10-minutes per conversation, that’s 8,460 minutes I spent sitting in front of my computer or 141 hours a year.

Twitter/IM: Though I barely ever use IM, I’ve become a recent Twitter-addict. I tweeted about 400 times in the last month and, at 10 seconds each to compose, that’s 4,000 seconds a month times 12 months, that comes out to 48,000 seconds a year or about 13 hours. And, honesty almost all of those conversations would never have been had face to face.

So, between twitter and e-mail, I spend about an extra 154 hours a year in front of my screen, instead of having live conversations.

Now, here’e where it gets really interesting.

Recent studies have shown that the more screen time we have, the more weight we gain. At first, the theory was that we were replacing active-time with screen time and burning fewer calories. But, research now shows that not to be the case. Because, we tend to replace screen time with some other form of passive entertainment, like reading, so we’re not really burning more calories.

Then, why do we we get fatter with more screen time?

It seems the answer is screen-time eating habits. When we’re in front of a screen, we tend to eat less consciously, we eat more food as we graze for hours (witness the giant bag of chips that mysteriously vanishes during a heaving online session) and we consume foods that are worse for us

So, what’s the answer?

Well, these days, it’s unlikely that many of us will be pulling back from screen time, especially since more and more of it is being spent tapping communication technology that allows us to stay connected with our virtual friends.

A better approach might be to make a more conscious effort not to graze so much or to keep healthier, less caloric snacks around so that we can satisfy our screen-time grazing jones with baby carrots, rather than Red Bull and bonbons.

So, what do you guys think?

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18 responses

18 responses to “Horrifying link between twitter and butt-size”

  1. I agree–when we spend more of our social time in front of the screen rather than out, it’s not doing us much good. Although at least Twitter is a more mobile technology…so some of that could be from elsewhere.

    That said, I don’t think healthier snacks are the real answer. Exercise and getting the heck out are the only solution. I don’t think TweetUps and blogger conferences are enough.

  2. That is why I am SUCH A FAN of your walking desk. 25 days countdown to closing on the house and an office I can do that myself in!

  3. […] Horrifying link between twitter and butt-size | Awake At The Wheel | Personal Growth | careers | ent… Related Posts […]

  4. Naomi Niles says:

    Now that picture is what is horrifying, lol. You should put a warning up first!

    I make a habit not to eat at the computer often. Hubby and I work together, so usually we eat a couple things for breakfast and have our morning tea and then we eat at the table for meals. Every once in awhile we have a snack, but it’s something small. For example, if you are going to have chips, don’t bring the whole bag, just a small bowl.

    More than anything though, I think it’s about being conscious about what you eat and making good habits. We eat every day at the same time and as I mentioned, always at the table.

    I’m still a fan of the walking desk thing too. I also like this standing desk that I saw the other day on the 37signals blog: http://www.37signals.com/svn/posts/1001-standing-versus-sitting

  5. Tim Brownson says:

    It looks like the guy on the bike always has his own parking space with him. He can just slot the front wheel in his ass anytime he wants. Anyway, I digress.

    I think we’re in and evolutionary about turn as we slide back into the sea because we can’t walk anymore. I think there’s a spiritual awakening juxtaposed with a physical shutting down. No idea what to make of that. Maybe we’ll be really enlightened fish or even Dolphins, who knows?

    I love all this techie stuff but the question I can’t help but continue to ask myself is, “are we any happier?” and the answer I always get

  6. Natasha says:

    I don’t think it has to be one way or the other. Personally, I use twitter and email, but not nearly as excessively as you. I update twitter about three times a week and send about 3 emails a day. Also, I rarely eat in front of the computer. Don’t blame technology for your unhealthy habits.

    I really like the idea of a treadmill desk.

  7. Linda says:

    It wasn’t too long ago . . . I found myself saying to my 18 year old son and husband, “Should we watch a movie together after dinner, or just go to our respective computer screens for the night?” Hmmmm.

    Luckily, we made a rule when my son was little — no food upstairs in our house (and only drinks with lids near the computers). Since our computers are all upstairs, that keeps us from grazing. Guess we’re lucky!

    I’m also conscious about getting out and exercising, dancing, or walking every day.

    Now that my son has a laptop and we’re sure to follow suit, we’ll definitely have to watch the food & technology combo. So thanks for the heads up, Jonathan!

    All of that being said, I am going away with friends for the weekend and I may go into withdrawal b/c all I’ll have with me is my cell (not hooked up to the internet) and iPod. Wonder how I’ll do?? LOL


  8. Life before Twitter, … yes.. yes.. I remember. I think. It was just a few short weeks ago. Oh oh. Time to get on the scale. Ok. Thanks. Tweeted this post

  9. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ everyone – love the comments. let me clear up a few things.

    One, the person in the studies was not me, I am the guy who actually eats carrots, while computing on a treadmill desk. So, I am not blaming technology for “my” unhealthy habits, but rather reporting on a growing trend.

    Two, while my volume of e-mail and twitter might seem “excessive” for someone who is not professionally online, it’s actually quite light for someone who is a “web-worker.” While I certainly earn a chunk of my living offline, my online activities are a critical element of my living.

    @ Jared – great point about twitter being a mobile technology. I haven’t gone there yet, still tweet from my seat.

    @ Tim – dude, the comments actually continued past yours, the streak has ended. 😉

    @ @ Michelle – can you believe it, life before twitter. We all actually had one! 🙂

  10. Once I stop laughing I ‘ll tell you you just made my new subscription here the best choice of a read this week. Thanks….
    Maybe treadmill powered computers?

  11. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Janice – Trust me, I’m working on it as we speak!

  12. Kelly says:


    Funny. Though I worry about not moving enough when I have weeks where I’m more tied to the screen, I never worry about my eating habits. I’m totally paranoid about crumbs on the keyboards, so I don’t ever eat in front of the computer. At home, the rule is eat at the dining table only. One of the first rules I made in my own house, because I came from a family of eat-all-day-and-don’t-realize-it people. So my daughter, thankfully, has no thought of eating in front of the computer at home, either.

    That was a real surprise that others are getting fat that way.

    Oh, and “funny,” funny, too. Well-written as always.



  13. This sounds like one of those studies designed to elicit fear to sell something.

    Also, my guess is that there are other variables that need to be factored into our understanding of the study:
    – Where are you working? Is it at a company that provides free soda pop? What about free food? I’ll bet that every time a new person walks in the door who was not working at a free soda/free food place, they gain 10 lbs in the first year. 1 extra can of soda per day per year = 10 lbs (unless you work out more).
    – Are the people in question snacking on high-carb, high-glycemic foods (yes, carrots are included in this category)? What about those who eat other types of snacks?
    – What about people who snack + workout? Changes there?

    I wanna see the study. Link? Source material?

  14. Lane says:

    Since I’ve already tried Twitter and found it wanting, your excellent reason to leave it alone wasn’t needed. But it’s always nice to have one’s decisions strengthened.

    I’ll second what others said about how great a treadmill desk is. With my treadmill, all I had to add was a finished shelf from Lowe’s; the height was just fine as is.

  15. Peter Blue says:

    We have a friend who has a weight problem. He is gaining weight all the time. And he does everything online, from his flat on the 4th floor.
    We talked about it and came up with this solution: If he could get his e-mails delivered to his snail mail box in the yard, he would walk up and down the stairs many times a day.

    My office computer is on the first floor, so I’m constantly moving between office and recording studio all day. Good exercise. And I never eat snacks or food when I’m at the computer.

  16. esther says:

    we were thinking at work of replacing our chairs with those big stability balls from the gym. anyone ever done that?

  17. OMG Johnathan! What a wakeup call. I have online businesses and teach an online class, so I am indeed on the computer a lot. In the interest, of sanity,I’ve resumed walking to the park and daily (well almost.)

    I’ve had to make deals with myself–walk first, read a “real” book for an hour, eat a “real” breakfast, then I can get on the computer. If I hit the computer first, the day just melts away. I can’t eat and work on the computer very well, and a very nasty coffee spill on the keyboard years ago taught me to keep my coffee cup far away. So for me, computer time doesn’t drive me to snacks as much as it consumes a disproportionate amount of my time.

    To balance my life and enjoy the real world away from the computer I joined a small theater lovers group. We go to productions almost every week. We have dinner, conversation and enjoy a play or musical. I must admit, however, I learned about this group on the computer.

    I also like to have dinner parties, etc. We had a great party last night even though I confess that I was tempted to pull out my laptop to show pictures. My daughter reminded me “Let’s be here now.” So I resisted that urge.

    We’re not going to toss out our computers any time soon, but it seems balancing online activities with real-life relationships (even if it’s just communing with nature daily) will help us avoid the fate of Rippled Butt Man.

  18. Susan RoAne says:

    Good show! I, too, had read the research about the “weighty” issues of not getting up and walking over to talk to others. In fact, this health article said that not emailing anyone within 400 feet will help us achieve the 10,000 steps a day we need. Having just finished writing Face To Face: How To Reclaim the Personal Touch in a Digital World, I know that connected with people face to face is beneficial and it’s now good for our hearts and our tushes!