Home > Misc > How Tweeting About “My Stupid Breakfast” Creates A Lifestyle Of Continuous Learning

How Tweeting About “My Stupid Breakfast” Creates A Lifestyle Of Continuous Learning

January 3rd, 2010

“I don’t want to hear about your stupid breakfast!” is loudly proclaimed as a-priori proof that status updates, using Twitter, and in some cases blogging in general are a waste of time. Could it be that this apparent nonsense, including Tweets that explain why you woke up late, status updates that shout that a movie is stupid, and comments that some person is a dork, are actually a sign of something good?

Much of the content on the web is far from trivial. It is published in blog, status update and long form, and continues to grow in depth and breadth. I believe these apparently trivial and self-focused uses of social media are side effect of the fast and constant influx of new users of these technologies, and not a sign of a problem of any sort. Large numbers of new people continue to start along a developmental path that leads from triviality to personal learning, synthesis, creativity and personal development.

Lots of people publish status updates and blog posts to share personal “what’s happening to me this minute” thoughts. Over time, people start publishing different kinds of material, and end up in a very different place than the one in which they started.

Based on study of the public output of others, many discussions and personal experience, I believe that there are consistent phases of personal development that mark growth through levels of personal publishing facility, capability and goals. It would be interesting to see statistically significant study results in this area – but lacking that, here’s my shot in the dark. What do you think? Does this match your experience? Does it match what you see in the experience of other people?

The 7 Developmental Phases Of Personal Publishing (continued below the fold…)

1) What’s Going On Around Me?

After wondering “what is this all about?” you decide to open an account that has status updates, whether it’s Twitter, or Facebook or MySpace or one of the hundreds of others doesn’t matter much. It’s something that prods you to “say something” by asking you to update your status.

After ignoring the “say something about what you’re doing or thinking” prompt for a while and watching the stream of status updates from other people, you finally decide to say something. Here’s the tricky part… you think to yourself “What do I have to say? I have no clue… so I guess I’ll point out something going on around me that I think might be funny or interesting to someone else.” Thus starts the path… and a “Man, my breakfast is stupid today.” post is born!

2) What Do I Think Of What’s Going On Around Me?

For a while, pointing out things going on around you is fun, but after a while that gets a bit boring. You think “what else could I talk about?” Here and there you decide to tell people who are following your updates what you think about things going on around you. This takes a jump in public confidence level, because after all they can comment back, and they might not agree! Advancing through these phases both builds and indicates the growth of confidence in personal publishing… bit by bit.

3) Look At These Things I’ve Found That I Think Are Interesting

As you gain confidence and realize that you aren’t getting yelled at for telling people what’s going on around you and what you think of it (sometimes), you decide to tell people about interesting things you’ve found. Here you’ve graduated from just “saying something” to pointing out something interesting, and you start posting updates with links to articles, videos or blog posts that catch your fancy. By now you might have a bit of a following, and people comment on the things you’ve found, or even re-send them to their followers.

4) Here Are Some Things I’ve Found That I Think Might Be Interesting To You

A realization hits… People are actually interested in some of the things you talk about, but not all of them. It’s at first puzzling to figure out which things they like and comment on and which ones don’t generate any reaction. After a while more, though, you start to get a sense of what people in your network respond to, and you start in a light way paying attention to the things you stumble on, or thoughts you have, that you think your network might actually be interested in. You start to develop “a voice” that is a blend of your interests with a bit of tailoring to make sure to include the things your network responds to. Now your updates often include pointers to other things on the web that you’re pretty sure your network (or networks – since many of us have followers with varied interests.)

5) Here Are Some Things I’ve Thought Of

Up to this point, most of your output has been to point at other peoples’ work, or to comment on your reaction to other peoples’ work. In this phase, that emphasis starts to shift, as you start to synthesize your own thoughts and ideas, and frame and publish them to see what other people think of your work.

6) Concepts And Things I’ve Created That I Hope Will Be Interesting To You

After a while of publishing your own thoughts and concepts, you start to get a feel for your followers’ interests. You might start to think about new concepts and ideas that your followers would be interested in, or perhaps purposefully start to publish in an area that attracts new followers. At this point, you’ve started to develop a more sophisticated voice, and are focused more of your efforts on creation of new, original work.

7) Researching, Learning and Developing Content That Is Of Interest To You And Others

By now, you’ve gotten used to the idea of publishing regularly, and are finding that you want to go out and research some of your topic areas to fuel new ideas and new things you can talk about. You’ve integrated the idea of researching and learning so that you can contribute back original work into your normal flow, and are starting to gain a following who are intrigued by your work, interests and positions on key issues.

One day, you wake up and realize that you’ve made on-going learning, research, synthesis and writing a basic part of your everyday life. It’s become reflexive and gives benefits back to you and to those who follow you. Oops. How did that happen? Last you knew you were Tweeting about your stupid breakfast!

Hopefully, the next time you see someone Tweeting about their stupid breakfast, or hear a complaint that Tweeting, doing status updates and maybe even blogging are a stupid waste of time (… and no, the parallels between those comments doesn’t escape me!) maybe a small voice in your head will say “Maybe that’s not such a bad thing – bring it on, because I can’t wait to hear what’s coming next!”

  1. Michael Klein
    January 3rd, 2010 at 18:01 | #1

    Spot On…I am just getting to the point where I am realizing it my be good to get my original thoughts out. Very perceptive and nicely condensed.

  2. January 3rd, 2010 at 18:27 | #2

    The writing & research is really a great way to keep yourself menatlly active and to be a lifelong learner, one of the greatest goals of a good education, I think. The need to communicate is so intrinsic in the human being that yes blogging, tweeting and even laughing out loud has a great place in our tools of engagment. What I find even more important is when we want to read and understand what other people are saying.

    My need to communicate what I ate for breakfast (oatmeal with honey) is strong. My need to know what you had for breakfast, somewhat less so to be honest. This is some of the irony of social networks and even communication between our species human. (Unless I am with Kellogg’s, then I must know and will even pay to have someone find out for me, and yes on twitter.)

    What really is wonderful though is when what you are communicating makes me stop and think, or smile or gain on any level. I got all of this from your blog post today. Thank you!

  3. January 3rd, 2010 at 20:02 | #3

    Wow, thanks Michael and Pooky! It’s great to hear that this resonated with you, and thanks for taking the time to let me know.

  4. January 4th, 2010 at 10:54 | #4

    Great analysis. The more people that find that their personal voice…the more people that will find themselves and celebrate being an individual. 21st century media encourages story telling, diversity, collaboration and co-creation.

  5. Cindy Harris
    January 5th, 2010 at 15:12 | #5

    This is not so different from the development of corporate web sites from 1993-1998 (which is when I first noticed URL’s on billboards and the sides of trucks). Early on they were individual efforts, and they only gradually developed from “I need a web site because my competitor has one” to “I need to say something unique about my business.” There are other spectra too, but that was the most obvious one at least to me. Gosh, I could write an entire thesis about this too…maybe I should have put “Start that PhD” on my list of resolutions for 2010 🙂

  6. Mary-Frances
    January 6th, 2010 at 12:07 | #6

    I think this is fascinating (and put succinctly!). As a psychologist, I can’t help but recognize the comparison to development of other types of social learning (language, emotional intelligence, etc). Tell us more!

  7. January 12th, 2010 at 20:26 | #7

    I never thought of the social media as a learning curve, but now I’ve seen the other side of the coin. Great post and interesting angle to look at development through social Medias.

  8. January 12th, 2010 at 20:41 | #8

    Great post, Joel. It really provides an excellent framework/overview to understand our experience with twitter and social media.

    What’s interesting as well is that once we’ve connected with other people around “valuable” ideas and topics, we actually *might* care about their stupid breakfast, or other things in their personal lives. I think these “trivial” posts help us feel a personal connection with people, and help us develop deeper online relationships (or at least make us feel that way).

    Still trying to assess if the seven phases are a standard linear progression (my brain is trying to process), but either way the distinct phases seem “on target” and insightful. I started using twitter as a communication tool to connect with people who were already using it, so I’m not sure I started with phase 1. That said, I find myself jumping around the various phases constantly.

    Again, nice job….! I have to stop writing and eat dinner. I’m having chicken 🙂


  9. January 13th, 2010 at 12:07 | #9

    Thanks @Steve Cherches (and everyone else who’s commented so kindly!) I have been thinking about the linear nature of this explanation as well, and I suspect that the real answer may be “both.”

    At first, it seems that people progress through these stages, getting comfortable enough with each to take on the next level. I use the term level purposefully here, as I suspect that the model is more like leveling up in a game of proficiency than a progression where you can never go backwards.

    Once comfortable and proficient with a level of complexity and generativity, many people will end up publishing in the highest and previous modes. (I occasionally follow @JeffCutler’s humorous “what would Jeff Cutler eat series #wwjce” and have been known to Tweet with a pic of #wwjfe just for fun.

    Hope your chicken was great. We had swiss cheese stuffed burgers with a pepper-ish rub – that got two thumbs up around the table 🙂

    Thanks for your thoughts and best regards,


  10. January 22nd, 2010 at 16:07 | #10

    Great post Joel and so true with me and many of the people I follow. It’s my experience that it doesn’t take long to make that evolution, and far less for people to make judgements, so as always, it’s best for people to do/monitor/adjust theory.

  11. January 23rd, 2010 at 01:43 | #11

    Totally agree with your insight – helping people to take the next step is always a challenge

  12. January 23rd, 2010 at 01:49 | #12

    Totally agree with your insight – helping people to take the next step is always a challenge

  13. MarillaAnne
    February 1st, 2010 at 00:32 | #13

    Well … I’m the flip back ackwards of this … I started serious … and now … all i do is goof off in SL … and post incidental irritations to FB.

    But, in general, i could be persuaded to agree.

    But … Soooo …. why should i Twitter?

  14. March 15th, 2010 at 07:41 | #14

    I am not using Tweeter just because I think it is a time waster.

    I would like to know your opinion though….if that is ok.

    How many tweets do you read a day?

    When was the last tweet you found very helpful?

    How does twitter help you or your business?

    Does having a lot of followers make you feel important?


  15. March 15th, 2010 at 09:10 | #15

    To answer your questions, follower count is completely meaningless to me. Some people use it as a way of feeling important, but the count itself has no meaning or value to me. The only value is the relationships built, and whether they are with people who you value individually as friends, or those who will potentially be valuable as collaborators or clients.

    It has expanded my social and business sphere dramatically, and as a consultant am now in the position that 80% of my new business and leads can be sourced originally to Twitter contacts. I found a previous full-time job directly through connections built with people who use Twitter. Based on these results it would be hard for me to call Twitter a time-waster – far to the contrary.

    To your question about number of Tweets and value – I don’t count, but do spend 10-15 minutes reading and replying to Tweets a few times a day, and find many Tweets every day that turn out to be useful in terms of pointers to interesting articles, products, concepts or new contacts.

    Twitter itself is only a tool, and your strategy for using it will determine your effectiveness, just as with email or any other communications tool. Putting a link to a hard-sell pitch landing page as your profile link on a provocative blog comment is, in terms of Twitter etiquette and culture, pretty far over the edge, and I considered tagging this comment as spam for that reason, but decided to respond in good faith.

    In general, the Twitter community is focused on creating long term relationships and person to person networking. That strategy can help your business, whereas the classic high pressure or broadcast hard-sells will often yield very little or negative results on Twitter. The Twitter community is much more about building authentic trust relationships than a place where people to go to find high pressure advertising.

    I hope this has been helpful. Please feel free to get in touch directly (info on my Contact page) if you’d like to talk more about developing a Twitter outreach and marketing strategy.

  1. January 4th, 2010 at 11:25 | #1
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