Good news for those subjecting themselves to the toxic atmosphere on Twitter and lamenting the downfall of civilization. A new study reveals that the social media platform is not particularly representative of the broader population.
Twitter has become a dominant space for people to get news, debate politics, keep up on sports and pop culture, instantly politicize tragedies, and to hurl personal insults at strangers with the benefit of anonymity. But it turns out that most of the tweets you're seeing are coming from a small sliver of people.
A study from the Pew Research Center says that just 22% of the adult population uses Twitter, and a further breakdown finds that of those that use Twitter, most don't do so very frequently. In fact, the median Twitter user sends out just two tweets per month.
Pew found that there are 10% of Twitter users who are super active, and they are responsible for 80% of tweets. Meanwhile, those among the 90% of users have a median of 19 followers and follow 74 accounts.
That means that the overwhelming majority of what you see on Twitter is around 2% of the hyper-engaged population arguing with each other.
Also, according to Pew, "Twitter users are younger, more likely to identify as Democrats, more highly educated and have higher incomes than U.S. adults overall."
The limited reach of Twitter helps explain why many journalists, pundits, and academics talking among each another underrated the chances of President Trump winning in 2016. These days, it could help explain why former Vice President Joe Biden still polls at the top of the Democratic field despite the daily barrage of tweets from liberals about how he's too out of touch to be the nominee. It also suggests that corporations shouldn't be so quick to make decisions in response to online outrage mobs.
Twitter can often be a nasty place so it's easy to despair about the state of our world after about 10 minutes on the platform. Though many get this in the abstract, it's comforting to have a quantitative reminder of just how small the Twitterverse actually is.