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User Burnout Could Threaten Twitter's Prosperity
By Ryan Nakashima, AP Business Writer
AP File Photo: Megan Fox left nearly a million followers dangling when she checked out of Twitter in January, explaining that “Facebook is as much as I can handle.” Twitter burnout among celebrities, athletes and shameless self-promoters poses a risk to the company and its investors as Twitter Inc. prepares for its Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013 initial public offering.
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- They loved it. Now they hate it.
A growing number of celebrities, athletes and self-promoters are burnt out and signing off of Twitter. Many have gotten overwhelmed.
Some people built big audiences on the short messaging service only to have their followers turn against them. Others complain that tweets that once drew lots of attention now get lost in the noise.
As Twitter Inc. prepares to go public this week, the company is selling potential investors on the idea that its user base of 232 million will continue to grow along with the 500 million tweets that are sent each day. The company's revenue depends on ads it inserts into the stream of messages.
But Wall Street could lose its big bet on social media if prolific tweeters lose their voice.
Evidence of Twitter burnout isn't hard to find. Just look at the celebrities who - at one time or another - have taken a break from the service. The long list includes everyone from Alec Baldwin to Miley Cyrus to "Lost" co-creator Damon Lindelof.
Actress Jennifer Love Hewitt lamented "all the negativity" she saw on the service when she quit, temporarily, in July. Actress Megan Fox left nearly a million followers dangling when she checked out in January, explaining that "Facebook is as much as I can handle." Pop star John Mayer deleted his account in 2011, saying Twitter absorbed so much of his thinking, he couldn't write a song.
"I was a tweetaholic," he told students during a talk at the Berklee College of Music.
If Twitter turns off celebrities who have a financial incentive to stay in close contact with fans, how can the company prevent average users from becoming disenchanted?
For some users, Twitter tiredness sets in slowly. At first, they enjoy seeing their tweets of 140 characters or less bounce around the Web with retweets and favorites. But new connections soon get overwhelming. Obligation sets in - not only to post more, but to reply to followers and read their tweets.
Many users conclude that Twitter is a time-sucking seduction and turn away. One who calls herself patrilla$$$thrilla excitedly tweeted "first tweet, wocka wocka" just after she joined in July.
On Wednesday, 161 tweets and 27 followers later, the romance was over. She quit to "fully enjoy the little details in life I miss because I'm too busy here," she tweeted.
The cacophony creeps into everyday life. Twitter fanatics tweet from the dinner table, during a movie, in the bathroom, in bed. Vacations can seem like time wasted not tweeting.
The over-doers suffer from a "fear of missing out" (or FOMO), says Tom Edwards, vice president at themarketingarm, a Dallas-based advertising agency. "Managing our virtual personas, including all of the etiquette that comes with, can be tiresome, especially for those with large followings."
It happens -even to people who ought to know better. Just ask Gary Schirr, an assistant professor who teaches a course on social media at Radford University.
In August, while vacationing on a beach, Schirr felt a pang of withdrawal because he had stopped tweeting to his 70,000-plus followers. Then he saw an old condemned house about to be washed away and posted a photo to Facebook and Twitter. He felt relieved when the likes and retweets rolled in.
"You feel forgotten if you're not out there," he says. "It's another sign of addiction. You feel bad if you don't tweet."
Prolific tweeters stay engaged partly because there are real benefits to a big following, which usually requires tweeting a lot.
Journalists who have large Twitter followings have used them to land better-paying jobs because every click on stories can make more money for their new employer. Actors can land roles on TV or the movies if their digital audience is expected to tag along.
Matt Lewis, a columnist with The Week magazine, says his Twitter following is like "portable equity" that gave him an edge over more established writers earlier in his career. He's now got nearly 33,000 followers.
Even so, one of Lewis' more popular stories is titled "Why I hate Twitter." It goes into why the social network became, for him, "a dark place" overrun by "angry cynics and partisan cranks." He became demoralized by the criticism, but he couldn't pull himself away.
"It's also like a prison. You can't check out," he says.
Today, Lewis rarely interacts with his followers and hopes the service will come up with new ways to filter out the hate tweets. "Why should I be harassed if I look at my (at) button?" he says.
But he remains amazed at how Twitter has helped him reach new readers, and after some 67,000 tweets, he isn't giving it up.
Others find that as more people join the service, the deluge of tweets can drown out individual voices.
So says Bob Lefsetz, a music industry analyst who writes an email column titled the Lefsetz Letter.
Twitter, he wrote in July, is "toast." "Over. Done. History." His follower count isn't rising as quickly as before, although it's still a respectable 57,000-plus. And his tweets don't see as much action as in the past, which he attributes to too many people tweeting "too much irrelevant information."
"In the old days, I'd get 20 retweets. Now I'll get none," Lefsetz says. "It makes me not want to play."
Along with the potential for burnout, there's also the risk that Twitter becomes uncool to the younger generation, especially when services such as Pinterest and Instagram are a tap away.
Devon Powers, an assistant professor of communications at Drexel University, says many of her students have moved on to Snapchat. But there can still be pressure to keep up with the other services.
"There's all these new obligations to update and report and check in," she says. It can make dropping offline feel like a relief.
"If I get really busy, the first thing I stop doing is checking Twitter," she says. "I'm living my life. I'm not having a commentary about it."
Follow Ryan Nakashima on Twitter at https://twitter.com/rnakashi
More Business News
Last Update on September 18, 2014 17:14 GMT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Strong stock market gains and higher home prices boosted Americans' net worth in the April-June period to a record high, a trend that could encourage more spending.
U.S. households also took on the most new debt in five years, driven mostly by student and auto loans. More borrowing can be a sign of confidence, although greater student debt can pose a burden for younger households.
The Federal Reserve says household wealth rose 1.7 percent in the second quarter to $81.5 trillion. Americans' stock and mutual fund portfolios gained $1 trillion. The value of their homes increased $230 billion.
The Fed's figures aren't adjusted for population growth or inflation. Household wealth, or net worth, reflects the value of homes, stocks, and other assets minus mortgages, credit cards and other debts.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits dropped by a sharp 36,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 280,000, a sign that the job market is strengthening.
The Labor Department says the four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, fell 4,750 to 299,500. The total number of people collecting benefits during the first week of September was 2.43 million, the fewest since May 2007.
Applications for unemployment benefits remain at pre-recession levels. The number of people seeking benefits has been trending downward for the past four months.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. When fewer people seek benefits, it suggests that employers are keeping their workers, likely because they are more confident about economic growth and poised to hire.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. home construction plunged in August, led by steep decline in the pace of building apartments.
The Commerce Department says construction fell 14.4 percent in August to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 956,000 homes. This reverses the sharp gains in July when the rate of new construction rose to 1.12 million homes, the highest annual rate since 2007.
Last month's decrease primarily came from builders starting fewer apartment complexes, which plummeted 31.5 percent compared to July. Apartments have propelled much of the growth in residential construction over the past year, but the pace has been volatile from month to month.
In August, the building of single-family houses fell 2.4 percent.
Applications for building permits, a good sign of future activity, dipped 5.6 percent to an annual rate of 998,000.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen says the Great Recession showed that a large number of American families are "extraordinarily vulnerable" to financial setbacks because they have few assets to fall back on.
She says a Fed survey finds that an unexpected expense of just $400 would force the majority of American families to borrow money, sell something or simply not pay.
She says the bottom fifth of households by income -- about 25 million households -- had net worth in 2013 of just $6,400 and many of these families had nothing saved or negative net worth.
In a speech delivered by video to a Washington conference, Yellen says there is a critical need to encourage people to take small steps to boost their savings.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates surged this week, marking their largest one-week gain this year.
Mortgage company Freddie Mac says the nationwide average for a 30-year loan jumped to 4.23 percent from 4.12 percent last week. The average for a 15-year mortgage, a popular choice for people who are refinancing, rose to 3.37 percent from 3.26 percent.
At 4.23 percent, the rate on a 30-year mortgage is at its highest level since the week ended May 1, though it is still at a historically low level.
Mortgage rates often follow the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. The 10-year note traded at 2.62 percent Wednesday, up sharply from 2.54 percent a week earlier. It was trading at 2.63 percent Thursday morning. Bond yields rise when bond prices fall.
NEW YORK (AP) -- The leader of Gatorade maker PepsiCo is urging the National Football League to "seize the moment" and put domestic violence and child abuse policies in place immediately once it conducts its review.
PepsiCo Inc. Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi said in a statement that the NFL has a chance to "effect positive change with the situation presented to them."
PepsiCo is one of several NFL sponsors watching closely as the league investigates how its executives handled evidence in the domestic violence case of former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice. The Minnesota Vikings Adrian Peterson is also facing a felony child abuse charge that has placed more attention on the NFL.
Nooyi also expressed confidence that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would "do the right thing for the league."
NEW YORK (AP) -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. says it plans to hire 60,000 temporary holiday workers for the crucial holiday season, an increase of 10 percent from last year.
The world's largest retailer also says current workers who want more hours during the holidays will get priority for them. The retailer, based in Bentonville, Ark., has been criticized by labor groups for low pay and intentionally keeping employees' hours low.
The news follows similar announcements from UPS, FedEx and Kohl's, which are also making more temporary hires this year.
A retailer's hiring plans can indicate its expectations for the holiday shopping season, which accounts for 20 percent of the retail industry's annual sales, according to the National Retail Federation.
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Chevron has become the first energy company to meet a new set of voluntary shale gas drilling standards that aim to go beyond existing state laws in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.
The Pittsburgh-based Center for Sustainable Shale made the announcement Thursday morning. The center is a partnership between major energy companies, environmental groups and charitable foundations.
The certification process consisted of an independent review of 22 Chevron sites. The program is meant to work much like Underwriters Laboratories, which puts its familiar UL seal on electrical appliances.
The review was conducted by Bureau Veritas, an international testing company that also handles the LEED review process for the U.S. Green Building Council.
Some major environmental groups say the Sustainable Shale program is no substitute for tougher state and federal laws.
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