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Volume One, Issue Thirty-Nine: The One About The Shaky Demographics Of A Twitter Feed

Because Tinyletter is mostly for mail, it’s nearly impossible to find old newsletters. So I’m posting all my old newsletters here so they can be searched, indexed, all that. You’re still better off just subscribing.

Illustration for article titled Volume One, Issue Thirty-Nine: The One About The Shaky Demographics Of A Twitter Feed

Zora Neale Hurston died at the age of 69 on January 28, 1960.

January 28, 2017.

In the wake of the relentless parade of horrors that has been the last week of our lives, I’ve been thinking a lot about bubbles. I haven’t found anyone yet who isn’t at least slightly terrified of what is happening in the United States right now. (Most are a lot more than slightly.) It is a constant cloud over every conversation, the family tragedy you hold off on talking about as long as you can before finally relenting. I honestly do not know anyone, including many people who voted for Trump, who isn’t concerned.

But are these just the people I’m surrounding myself with? I don’t think of myself as some sort elitist media snot, but hey, who does think of themselves like that?

*** Works for several New York media companies.
*** Has never worked in the service industry.
*** Is unable to fix a leaking sink.
*** Thinks people who voted for Trump made a potentially catastrophic mistake.
*** Has a Brooks Brothers credit card, and occasionally uses it.
*** Put the word “labyrinthine” in one of his pieces last week.
*** Pays more than $10 for a haircut.
*** Has unusually strong feelings about the films of Lars Von Trier.
*** Has no desire or need for a pickup truck.
*** Says things like “I have no desire or need for a pickup truck.”

*** Mostly watches sports.
*** Usually forgets to put his napkin in his lap at dinner.
*** Enjoys essentially the same foods he did when he was 10.
*** Actually eats pretty much the way Trump does, though he would never, EVER order a steak well-done.
*** Owns three pairs of shoes: Running shoes, walking-around shoes and dress shoes.
*** Owns a personalized Bible.
*** Can change a tire.
*** Grew up in Mattoon, Illinois.
*** Has no particularly complicated taste in beer and is really just fine if all you have is Bud Light he’d probably rather drink that than your weird craft brew anyway to be entirely honest.
*** Dislikes Twitter.

Ah, Twitter, which brings me to this week’s newsletter topic. Twitter, for better and (mostly) worse, has become the single greatest driving force for information today, from the Oval Office all the way down. I wrote a long feature about Twitter eight years ago, and I signed up for the service while actually in Twitter’s offices in San Francisco. I love this photo that accompanied the piece. Twitter is like putting yarn into your ear!

Illustration for article titled Volume One, Issue Thirty-Nine: The One About The Shaky Demographics Of A Twitter Feed

I’ve never fully embraced Twitter, to be honest: I am way too caught up in my own head to trust my off-the-cuff responses to anything. When I look at Twitter, I’m mostly taken aback by how certain of everything everyone seems to be. Are people really so certain of everything walking around during the day? Or when they’re lying in bed at night? From my experience, people are uncertain and confused and sometimes overwhelmed by the mystery of the world. But on Twitter, everybody’s got everything all figured out. I find it intimidating, and counterproductive: It just feels like people taking their private thoughts and making them public, and then acting surprised that not everyone lives in their brain like they do.

But I of course still use it, primarily for promotion of my own work (including this newsletter). I also can’t help but look at it during times like these. I’d taken a break in the days leading up to the inauguration, but last Saturday, when the Women’s March was taking everybody’s breath away, I spent hours refreshing and refreshing: I couldn’t get enough of it. I immediately regretted this decision when Monday came around. I’ve taken to limiting myself to checking two or three times a day. To make certain I don’t miss the things that are exclusive to Twitter, I get mobile notifications for accounts of high interest to me personally, mostly close friends, St. Louis Cardinals beat reporters and local traffic alerts. Otherwise, I’m trying, for my own mental health, to keep a little bit of distance.

Still, my world can’t help but be filtered by whom I follow on Twitter. Part of the problem so many of us have communicating with one another is that we have carefully chosen our messengers: If your messengers are different than my messengers, then of course our messages are going to get crossed. If I’m using Twitter as my primary news source — and when it comes to breaking news, I absolutely am — then obviously I’m going to get a self-selected view of the world, one that is different than the way the world actually is.

So if I’m going to continue to use Twitter as this news source, no matter how much I try to cut down, I need to know who the people are I’m following. So I have decided, right here in this newsletter, to do a Twitter audit. I’m gonna see how skewed my world is.

As of this moment, I am following 1,265 people/entities on Twitter. Here is my attempt, culled from a bunch of notebooks I just spent about an hour scribbling in, to break down those 1,265 entities.

It was very depressing.

First off, we have to separate the “people” from the “non-human entities.” It is one thing to follow Derrick Goold, Cardinals beat reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; it is another to follow the Cardinals themselves. (I follow both.) So let’s eliminate the non-humans: There are 129 non-humans. This leaves us with 1,136 humans.

So let’s break down the demographics:

MALE 846 (74 percent)
FEMALE 290 (26 percent)

Good God, I’m worse than the Senate.

WHITE 1,003 (88 percent)
AFRICAN AMERICAN 85 (7 percent)
LATINO 15 (1 percent)
INDIAN/ASIAN/ESKIMO 33 (3 percent)

This is also worse than the Senate.


I think this is the most humiliating exercise I’ve ever undertaken. I’m coming away thinking not only is Twitter horrible, but so am I. I am curious what you would find in a similar study, but after this, I am not going to encourage you to do so. I need to stay off Twitter. And I need to reevaluate how I see the world, subconsciously and otherwise.

(It is also possible that I follow too many baseball-related accounts. Which is its own, different problem.)

Also — and here comes the Saturday add after I wrote most of this newsletter on Friday afternoon — I’m so deeply ashamed by what is happening right now I can’t even fathom it. I mean, read this:


The lawyers said that one of the Iraqis detained at Kennedy Airport, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, had worked on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq for 10 years. The other, Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, was coming to the United States to join his wife, who had worked for a U.S. contractor, and young son, the lawyers said. They said both men were detained at the airport Friday night after arriving on separate flights.

The attorneys said they were not allowed to meet with their clients, and there were tense moments as they tried to reach them.


“Who is the person we need to talk to?” asked one of the lawyers, Mark Doss, supervising attorney at the International Refugee Assistance Project.

“Mr. President,” said a Customs and Border Protection agent, who declined to identify himself. “Call Mr. Trump.”


I do not recognize this place in which I currently live. And it has been A WEEK. I am ashamed. We all should be.

Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. (This is an attempt to have an objective look at the value of my work in a way that I suspect will be difficult to sustain.)

1. It’s Tough to Escape the Coaching Death Spiral, Sports On Earth. This is something I’ve noticed for a long time but finally figured our a narrative for. Poor John Groce. Poor Mark Fox. I hate when coaches get fired. It feels gross.

2. Does Any NBA Team Want Carmelo Anthony? Sports On Earth. I wrote a long profile about Carmelo for New York magazine years ago. The day before I was supposed to interview him, my wife and I found out she was pregnant with our first child. The second person I told, before my parents or any of my friends, was Carmelo’s stylist. I was very excited. I doubt she remembers.

3. “Gold:” How To Get Rich Quick, The New Republic. Fat and bald Wooderson!

4. Tom Brady’s Greatness Makes Us Forget About His Age, Sports On Earth. Still younger than me.

5. Super Bowl Host Cities, Ranked, Sports On Earth. I still haven’t been to a Super Bowl in New Orleans. I should probably try to do that sometime.

6. Book Recommendations for Every Baseball Fan, Sports On Earth. I really could use some baseball this week.

As I say every week: If you are the sort to subscribe to a weekly newsletter, I would have to think it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle to subscribe to one of the three podcasts I do. You don’t even have to listen to them! Just download them. Here they are:

Grierson & Leitch, discussing “Split,” Sundance 2017 and “The Third Man.”

The Will Leitch Experience, no show this week, Super Bowl preview next week.

Waitin’ Since Last Saturday, there’s some sort of interview with some beer guy that I wasn’t a part of.

Also, here’s a fun Pro Football Now video made in our house.

Illustration for article titled Volume One, Issue Thirty-Nine: The One About The Shaky Demographics Of A Twitter Feed

Alexa Stevenson Interior Decoration, for all your home needs.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Be safe out there, all of you, the best you can.


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