This article pulls together some of what we’ve seen coming out from the research, but I think it’ important to keep in mind as we look at Twitter, or talk about Twitter:
“Tweets have become a routine part of the national conversation in the U.S. They are discussed on shows ranging from network newscasts to late-night comedy. Sometimes a big event is announced on Twitter before it is mentioned anywhere else. Tweets can even ignite or fuel social movements; #MeToo is an example.
What do we know about this platform, where so much is happening, and about the people who use it? The Pew Research Center looked into those questions and found some interesting answers. The Twitter users they studied were adults in the U.S. Here are 12 key findings.”
The key for me is understanding just how much Twitter doesn’t represent the overall population. Twitter reactions to news are dominated by a small group of people, who skew Democratic more than the overall population, have more money than the overall population, and are younger than the overall population.
So when a news show starts using Twitter reactions as a substitute for public opinion, they are actually being very misleading. It’s not a substitute for public opinion, it doesn’t represent the vast majority of us. And I say this as an avid user who doesn’t fit the “typical” Twitter user. (I’m male, over 50, not political.)
What ends up happening is we get lazy. There’s a breaking story, and we take to Twitter to see how people are reacting, because they will absolutely react there. Then we’ll see people arguing, sometimes rather harshly over issues, and assume that is where we are as a society, when it fact it’s only where a small segment of society is.
Most of us are not what you see on Twitter, because most people aren’t on Twitter.
That’s my key takeaway from these results, what’s yours?