The majority of Northwestern students likely have a Twitter account and use it regularly. Explaining why the social media app is so popular to someone who doesn’t have it or is not familiar with it can be difficult. Since 2010, Twitter, has grown from 30 million monthly users to 330 monthly users.
If you turn on the news it is no longer uncommon to see a panel of pundits discussing what the president of the United States has just tweeted. Most recently, you not only could follow what was happening with Hurricane Harvey and Irma, but people in the area were receiving help through the app from those with boats and jet skis.
If you see something happen on the Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat, odds are it happened on Twitter first.
Most recently, however, Twitter has been taken over by memes. These range from a kid yodeling in Walmart to famous musicians Drake and Travis Scott playing Fortnite with videogame streamers.
On NW’s campus, memes are recycled at the pace of the Twittersphere.
“For a while, the ‘what in tarnation’ one was popular, where people would just rhyme different words with tarnation then put cowboy hats on the picture.,” Darby Skillern, junior and meme-expert said. “Or SpongeBob memes have been really popular all over Twitter this year.”
News and memes, however, are not always battling for people’s attention. Social media teams, journalists and businesses alike have recognized that what gets people’s attention is the type of funny, original content that usually comes in memes.
This has led to occurrences like the city councilor of Toronto tweeting Drake lyrics and starting his own merchandise line. Journalists like Ben Shapiro, Seth Mandel and Jesse Singal all using memes to bring attention to their political discourse. Even corporate accounts like Moon Pie and Denny’s have hundreds of thousands of followers, because they understand what gets attention.
This inside joke culture is why Twitter is both wildly entertaining and, in some ways, necessary for news and culture. It’s fast, loose and unpredictable.