Editor's Notes

It’s easy to feel that just about everybody is on Twitter sniping at each other and making it clear their side is the only one that makes any sense.

It turns out, though, that writing and posting Tweets isn’t as rampant as I thought.

A study out this week from the Pew Research Center reported that just 25 percent of U.S. adults use Twitter. The study also found that the 25 percent most active Twitter users are responsible for about 97 percent of posts nationwide.

Additionally, it found that 80 percent of all tweets are either retweets or replies to other tweets and that original tweets make up just 14 percent of posts.

In short, that’s a small but noisy group of people talking — not always politely — largely among themselves.

Twitter isn’t all bad. Like all social media, it can be a very useful tool when used responsibly. It can help people stay engaged with what’s going on. It’s also one of the ways The Daily Item brings its content to a broader audience.

Not surprisingly, Twitter was one of the outlets the Pew Research Center used to share its own data. Its tweet, with a link to the report, read: “Nonpartisan, non-advocacy @pewresearch data about global attitudes and trends shaping the world.”

Among other points of interest of the study:

  • “Twitter users report a mix of both positive and negative experiences on the site. For instance, 46% of these users say the site has increased their understanding of current events in the last year, and 30% say it has made them feel more politically engaged.”
  • “33% of users report seeing a lot of misleading or inaccurate information there, and 53% say inaccurate or misleading information is a major problem on the site.”
  • “Nearly identical shares of Twitter users say the site is mostly good (37%) or mostly bad (38%) for American democracy, with 24% saying it has no impact either way. But Republican Twitter users (including Republican-leaning independents) are roughly twice as likely as Democrats and Democratic leaners to say the site is bad for American democracy (60% vs. 28%).”

I have a Twitter account, though I can’t remember the last time I posted an opinion on it. I reserve those for this format.

The most positive thing about Twitter for me is getting breaking news and updates on it from a wide range of news outlets.

I keep a second screen up next to my main computer every day with a program called TweetDeck, a dashboard app that allows users to view multiple Twitter accounts at once.

On my screen, I have several columns set up. One aggregates all the Twitter postings from other newspapers owned by our parent company, CNHI. Another shows me Twitter postings from major news organizations around Pennsylvania. A third is a compilation of major media outlets, including The New York Times, the Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, USA TODAY, CNN, Fox News, etc.

Just as I was writing this Thursday morning, I saw on Twitter news of the latest unemployment numbers — a pandemic low of 268,000 — from AP. An editor quickly posted that story on our site.

As we struggle with a ton of misinformation on a wide range of topics on social media sites, it’s worth noting that beyond the nonsense, there’s a lot of actual news available on Twitter and other social media outlets.

You just have to be selective about who you follow. It also helps to actually read the story, not just the tweet.

Email comments to dlyons@dailyitem.com.


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