The strange habits of Twitter’s Jack Dorsey

Kind of blue: For his birthday he went on a 10-day meditation retreat in Myanmar. © Getty

Every morning he meditates for an hour, takes an ice bath and breakfasts on salt juice. And that’s just the beginning. Is the man with a mission to fix Twitter onto something? Or just weird?

Jack Dorsey is the $5 billion CEO of two major technology companies, including Twitter.

Every weekday morning, he meditates for an hour, takes an ice-cold bath to give him “mental confidence”, and has a breakfast of “salt juice”: water mixed with Himalayan salt and lemon. Unless he is working from home, he walks five miles to work. If he’s at home, he uses a standing desk and an infrared lightbulb.

He does not eat until the evening. It will be “a meal of fish, chicken, or steak with a salad, spinach, asparagus or Brussels sprouts”, explains an article on his wellness habits by CNBC. “He has mixed berries or some dark chocolate for dessert.”

At weekends, he does not eat at all between Friday and Sunday night. “The first time I did it, like day three, I felt like I was hallucinating,” he told a fitness podcast last month. When he tried again, he noticed that “time really slowed down”. At night time, he tracks his sleep using a Oura ring.

For some, he is seen as a guru. Last weekend, The New York Times published a profile calling him the “Gwyneth Paltrow for Silicon Valley”. According to journalist Nellie Bowles, “An endorsement from Mr. Dorsey can put products out of stock for weeks.”

But others are worried about the message his habits are sending. National Eating Disorders Association CEO Claire Mysko told Mother Jones that his endorsement of fasting is “potentially dangerous”, particularly to those who are vulnerable to eating disorders.

The science about the benefits of fasting is confused. One 2017 study found “no significant advantage” over simply eating healthy, regular meals, when it comes to losing weight.

Meanwhile, the neuroscientist Mark Mattson has suggested that some forms of controlled fasting may help stave off brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Most scientists conclude that more research is needed.

All of this matters. Dorsey is not just any tech CEO. Twitter is a hugely influential website, with a lot of problems — from online abuse to the disruption of democracy.

So what should we think of him?

Not so fast?

You don’t have to follow his advice (and you should definitely not go for days without food), but he is clearly committed to hard work, say some. These elaborate wellness routines may look strange, but they come from a place of wanting to be healthier and more productive. Better that than the reckless behaviour of Dorsey’s opposite, Elon Musk.

He is a worrying figure, argue others. His routines are not inspiring, they are obsessive and unhealthy — and they set a terrible example for those who admire him. Dorsey acts more like a cult leader than a man in charge of a website that is changing the very fabric of society.

You Decide

  1. Has Twitter made the world a better place?
  2. What makes a good leader?

Activities

  1. Tweeting is an exercise in brevity — you have just 280 characters per post. Summarise what you think of Jack Dorsey in the length of a Tweet, and share your thoughts with the class.
  2. You have been tasked with creating a new social media site for 2019. Consider some of the problems that Twitter, Facebook and others have faced. How would yours work? How would you prevent the same things happening again?

Some People Say...

“Make every detail perfect and limit the number of details to perfect.”

Jack Dorsey

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Jack Dorsey is the founder and CEO of Twitter and a payments tech company called Square. His estimated wealth is $5 billion. He often tweets about his diet, meditation and other health routines. He also explained them in more detail to the Ben Greenfield Fitness: Diet, Fat Loss and Performance podcast last month. He says he is shifting his focus on Twitter from growth to “conversation health”.
What do we not know?
Whether he is up to the job. He has been criticised for his lack of urgency when it comes to Twitter’s problems — concerns which are only exacerbated by his outwardly calm manner. We also do not know whether he really has an eating disorder, as this would be impossible to diagnose based on Tweets and descriptions alone.

Word Watch

Infrared lightbulb
Dorsey said this helps him to sweat more, presumably as a way to get rid of toxins. According to the company SaunaSpace, which makes these bulbs, they prevent aging and illnesses. However, some studies suggest too much infrared radiation can be bad for the skin.
Oura ring
A $300-1,000 ring which also tracks daily activities.
Gwyneth Paltrow
An actress and the founder of Goop: a lifestyle and wellness website. Last year, it was fined $145,000 for making unproven claims about the health benefits of jade and rose quartz eggs.
Online abuse
Last year, a study by Amnesty International found that a problematic or abusive tweet was sent to a woman every 30 seconds.
Democracy
Along with Facebook, Twitter has been blamed for helping to spread fake news during elections. Last month, it released a tool to make it easier to report misinformation.
Elon Musk
The founder of Tesla and SpaceX was fined $20 million for tweets with false information about Tesla’s market shares. He also got in to trouble for smoking marijuana on a live podcast recording.