By measure of active users, it’s a lightweight. Facebook is the behemoth, with more than 2.2 billion people on the platform. YouTube has 1.9 billion, Instagram 1 billion. Twitter is all the way down below China’s Qzone and TikTok at a mere 335 million. But in public influence it punches far above its weight. Why? Because it’s where cultural kingmakers congregate, and thus where conventional wisdom is formed and shaped — often instantly and thoughtlessly.
In other words, Twitter is where the people who care the most spend their time. The disproportionate influence of microbursts of instant public comments from a curated set of people these influencers follow shapes their writing and thinking and conduct way beyond the platform.
Even worse, given the geographic and social sorting that dominates American life, Twitter can present any given activist with a near-exclusive look at the other side of the aisle. Thus, MAGA-Twitter is Trump’s America. Social-Justice Twitter is progressive America. And to the extent that other influencers (CEOs, studio heads, government bureaucrats, etc.) are online themselves, they’re often captured by the same hysteria.
If you’re offline for even a day or two, entire virtual controversies with real-world consequences can come and go without your knowledge. Old tweets surface. People lose their jobs. Politicians advance or retreat. And hardly anyone outside Twitter knows what happened.
Thus the gap between the engaged online few and the real-world many only grows.