One of Twitter’s unique features is how quickly news can be disseminated to millions of users. The volume and variety of perspectives tweeted in response to circulating news can get varying responses from shared praise to overwhelming hostility.
However, the virality of a post does not make a standpoint any more or less correct. All opinions shared on Twitter should be taken with a grain of salt.
Even if the masses appear to disagree with one user’s opinion, most Americans aren’t on Twitter. If someone feels like the odd one out because 35,000 people retweeted a post stating that pineapple belongs on pizza, rest assured that less than .01% of the U.S. population retweeted that opinion.
Unsurprisingly, Twitter has become a platform increasingly dominated by the youth. According to a 2019 study conducted by Pew Research, 44% of Americans ages 18-24 use Twitter.
For the age bracket between 25-30, that drops to 31%. Overall, only 22% of U.S. adults immerse themselves in Twitter.
It’s easy to perceive viral tweets as accounting for a large part of the world. However, even the most liked opinions on Twitter do not hold as much weight in reality as some may think.
If a user opts for a non-chronological timeline, the Twitter algorithm will place posts from various times of the day at the top based on engagement, according to SproutSocial, a social media management and optimization platform.
Essentially, the platform promotes viral tweets because its algorithm determined that’s what its users want to engage with.
Taking a quick scroll through the average Twitter feed, it’s easy to see how viral tweets are shared and quote-tweeted ad nauseam. On average, around 350k tweets are sent out per minute, exposing users to potentially millions of opinions in a single day.
For example, after sports championships or nationwide TV events, billions of people will often flock to the popular app to read insights from journalists, analysts and fellow fans.
However, this is where things begin to go awry. Controversial tweets from relatively unknown accounts will make their rounds across the platform, potentially diverting from the expertise of analysts and experts with less attention-grabbing statements.
Every niche community on the internet has a similar approach that stirs up disgust, from politics to gaming and sports. Regarding the latter, fans have been quick to call seasoned players washed up and hesitant to crown a player talented.
Moments after gamer Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf took home the Fortnite World Cup Solo Finals, fans worldwide declared him the greatest player in the world. A year removed from that event, a vocal minority of viewers online called him washed up despite his high fifth place ranking in the online event earnings leaderboard for the North American East region.
This is just one example of the argumentative discourse that constantly makes its way through the app, leading to more verbal disputes and trolling between accounts.
Despite the rage that many may feel after encountering viral tweets that hold little to no merit, it’s important to remind themselves of the minuscule percentage of U.S. adults on Twitter that endorsed that opinion through a like, which may help to ease their nerves and show that 280-character posts on social media should not be taken too seriously.
Similar baseless comments pitting people against each other have made their way to music, where Twitter users compare rappers like XXXTentacion and Tupac Shakur.
Presenting differing perspectives is necessary to provoke thought and expand the horizon of possibilities in a given situation. However, quick and uncalculated measures severely lower the value of controversial opinions, which tend to impede intelligent conversations from transpiring.
Twitter has the potential to be a prime marketplace of ideas, but the lack of nuance on the platform will prevent it from ever reaching that threshold.
If we all focus on presenting informed and thought-out viewpoints, hopefully, the rest will follow suit.