What Makes Twitter Great

“I’ve got better things to do than broadcast a message to the world about my lunch.”

An uncountable number of people have said this or something similar to me about Twitter. I’ve stopped responding. It’s the same kind of faux snobbery that causes people to look down on Facebook, YouTube, Angry Birds, smartphones and the whole of digital life generally.

Of course, these days, hardly anyone puts down the Internet in total, but this was common 10 years ago. Today, it is more common to put down popular applications of one sort or another, always with the message that my time is too valuable, I’m too serious for this kids’ stuff, I don’t go for the superficial fripperies that have enchanted Generation Mindless.

I’ve already discussed Facebook, LinkedIn and Pandora, and why their popularity is not only justified, but they have also made gigantic contributions to human well-being. They all use the power of individual volition and the self-organizing dynamic of free association to offer services, methods of learning and means of connecting with others that break through barriers that have existed since the beginning of time.

Let’s take on Twitter, the service that people love to hate the most. Among the nonusers, the word alone is almost always said with a sneer. It is the most transparently easy of all the popular social applications, but also the hardest one to integrate into your life if you are not already part of a set people using it.

Adults sign up to it and then sit and stare at it. Having no followers and following no one, the thing looks and feels as dead as Marley’s ghost. Of course, you could always send out news of the sandwich you ate for lunch, but what’s the point? In this sense, Facebook provides that much-more-immediate satisfaction that adults (ironically) demand from websites. Twitter is an application that has to be built by you.

But consider… when the unemployment numbers come out, I usually get an email from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This most recent time, even before that email arrived, I knew the numbers before. I knew the grim truth behind the numbers. I had a sense of how several major newspapers were spinning the numbers. I had access to charts that were being posted, showing how labor trends interact with other trends. And I was able to react to the news myself by reposting what I appreciated and then adding my own thoughts. Then, finally, the email arrived from the Bureau.

This is an example of an everyday use of Twitter. But it is only one of an infinite number of possible uses. And once you start and get the hang of it, downloading the app and following things you care about, you begin to realize something absolutely astonishing about this seemingly superficial thing. Twitter has radically individuated, democratized and universalized the consumption and production of all forms of information, turning the whole world into a customizable communications bazaar like no generation in history has ever seen.

This customizability is what gives rise to the caricatures of the tweeter as a superficial twit, wasting time blabbing on about nothing to other similar types. But when you see people in revolutionary political situations organizing themselves, using tweets and evading the boot of the dictator by using Twitter to communicate, strategize and outmaneuver the most-powerful armies, it should make you stop and think.

As a means of producing of information, every user has potentially the same influence as every other user. The only possible difference concerns the number of followers you have (I have 700, while Lady Gaga has 20 million), but even that is not really a final determinant, since every message can be re-tweeted and a message sent to one person can turn into a message sent to 140 million people in a split second.

What this means that is The New York Times and White House have exactly the same technical power to influence as the person who just took my order for beer at the pizza shop. The difference in the reach of messages is entirely determined by other users of Twitter, thus resulting in a crazy meritocracy of distribution.

As a means of consuming information, you have access to the instant thoughts of every star, mogul, institution, official or whomever and to the exact same extent as the big-time reporters or other institutions. And it turns out that people like Lady Gaga really like this. Every public figure does, except perhaps the dictators threatened most by this powerful means of instantaneous truth telling.

Currently, Twitter is handling 1.6 billion search queries per day and being used to send some 340 million tweets in the same period. It’s consistently in the top 10 most-popular websites. The service is offered to every person on the planet at no charge. The revenue model is to charge companies for promoted tweets in search results, as well as to charge large Internet companies for the use of applications that display Twitter feeds on their websites.

There’s a rude awakening, however, for anyone who thinks he or she can jump onto Twitter and make a splash. You cannot invite others to follow you. People have to reach out to you, and therefore, in this sense, Twitter can be a more-difficult nut to crack than Facebook.

Your first step should be to follow institutions or people you care about. They will be notified that you have followed them. One hopes, then, that they will respond by following you, but there is no way to make them do so. If you seek followers, your best approach is to find someone who is already deeply embedded in this world to recommend you to their followers. But even then, it is a long haul to get to the point that you have a substantial number of people caring about what you are saying.

Why should you bother at all? There might be someone who has no interest in what anyone has to say and also has nothing to say himself, and plans to maintain this attitude from now until death. That person has no use for Twitter. For everyone else, it is great source for acquiring and relaying information on anything and everything, and therefore, there are few people on the planet who would not benefit.

For career builders, a war chest of Twitter followers is part of the personal capital that you accumulate and carry with you wherever you happen to live or work. In this sense, this can be an essential part of your freedom and personal empowerment. It reduces your reliance on institutions and helps you gain control of your life.

For public personalities, it is obviously rather indispensable. But the same is true for any business. If you assemble followers (I love to follow businesses!), you can immediately reach them with special deals and announcements and do so at zero cost. What could be better than that?

For any individual, there are always times when you need others and it becomes important to get information to them. You might be in danger. You might have amazing news. You might need to send for help. In those times, you will be glad that you have prepared by assembling a valuable network of people who care whether you live or die. Certainly, the state doesn’t much care, so it is up to us to form associations that do.

This is why I’m most interested in Twitter, in its uses of building a global movement for human liberty against the despotism of the state in every nation. Twitter disregards borders. It disregards states and their pretensions. It follows no one’s plan. It obeys no authority. It proves the capacity of free people to be self-ordering. Even the company deserves congratulations for not even into pressure from government authorities to cough up user information.

Twitter enables individuals to be self-governing units with an important element of empowerment in their hands: the ability for one person to reach the globe in any instant in time with the most-valuable commodity in existence — namely, information.

That’s why Twitter is amazing.

By the way, follow me @jeffreyatucker

Jeffrey Tucker

Written By Jeffrey Tucker

I'm executive editor of Laissez Faire Books and the Chief Liberty Officer of Liberty.me, an innovative private society for publishing, learning, and networking. I'm the author of four books in the field of economics and one on early music. My personal twitter account @jeffreyatucker FB is @jeffrey.albert.tucker Plain old email is tucker@liberty.me

  • Fitness Games Don't Work. Here's What Does...

    Fitness Games Don’t Work. Here’s What Does…

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Feb 9, 2015

    A mysterious alien race is invading planet Earth. And those “in the know” are splitting into two camps. You might not know it, but you and your health are in danger. Chris Campbell reports. Read on…

  • The Great "Digital Nomad" Challenge (Are You Game?)

    The Great “Digital Nomad” Challenge (Are You Game?)

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Jan 22, 2015

    What is a digital nomad? Why is this strange creature guilty of "currency arbitrage"? Why is it awesome? Chris Campbell investigates. Read on...

  • Motorbikes, Cockfights, and Laser Beams

    Motorbikes, Cockfights, and Laser Beams

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Jan 20, 2015

    The adventure begins. Chris Campbell reports in from Bangkok. And you’ll never believe what he’s already gotten himself into. Read on…

  • Blowing Smoke Up Your Butt

    Blowing Smoke Up Your Butt

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Jan 7, 2015

    Do you know where the expression “blowing smoke” comes from? From an old -- and very strange -- medical device. You won’t believe what else Chris Campbell has unearthed from the olden days of strange medicine. Read on…

  • SPACE: The Final Frontier Begins

    SPACE: The Final Frontier Begins

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Nov 18, 2014

    Would you leave Earth to help colonize another planet? This might sound like an absurd question, but, according to many leaders of thought, its one we might have to confront sooner than later. Chris Campbell explores our journey from air to space, and ponders where we’re off to next. Read on…

  • HowToGrabYourPiece

    How to Grab Your Piece of the $240 Million Secret Market No One Knows About

    Ryan Cole

    by Ryan Cole
    On Feb 9, 2015

    In December last year, a lot of people were laughing off an inept thief. Not only did Charles Jennings, a cargo worker, quickly get caught — but his $1.5 million haul was snicker-worthy. Who’d want his product? How on earth could he sell the 7,500 pieces — or move them anywhere near that $1.5 million retail price tag? How dumb could he be? Here’s the thing — all the people snickering don’t know what they’re talking about. The $1.5 million stash? On the open market, it could easily be worth twice that. Heck — it could be worth 10 times as much or more. And moving it would be easy.


  • How to Blow the Whistle (and Not Live to Tell the Tale)

    How to Blow the Whistle (and Not Live to Tell the Tale)

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Sep 29, 2014

    If you’ve ever wanted to expose some heinous crime against humanity, here’s your chance. In today’s Laissez Faire Today, Chris Campbell shows you how to make sure the world accesses to your leaks, even if something happens to you. Chris also shares why this is probably a terrible idea. Read on…

  • Edison’s Secret Energy War is Back (Here’s How to Cash in)

    Edison’s Secret Energy War is Back (Here’s How to Cash in)

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Sep 23, 2014

    Over a century ago, a hidden energy war began. The bad guys won. For 100 years, man has been a slave to the energy monopolies. But now, miraculously, the good guys are throwing a punch -- and they’re inviting you to fight the good fight. Even promising riches if you do. Chris Campbell fills you in on the full story. Read on…

  • Thrive in Chaos: The Ancient Secret to Self-Sufficiency

    Thrive in Chaos: The Ancient Secret to Self-Sufficiency

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Sep 22, 2014

    An ancient guide has been in hiding… until now. As it dusts itself off, some early adopters are calling it “the definitive text on self-discipline, personal ethics, humility, self-actualization and strength.” And, according to Chris Campbell, it could be the only thing you need to thrive in our day-to-day life of modern chaos. Embrace it, and become the hero of your own story. Ignore it, and risk living a whimper of a life on someone else’s terms. Read on…

  • The 3-D Printing Story You Weren’t Told (and How it Ruined My Face)

    The 3-D Printing Story You Weren’t Told (and How it Ruined My Face)

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Sep 18, 2014

    “What… is… that?!”That’s what one colleague asked when she saw this on my desk…My face, according to 3-D printing“My face,” I said. “What does it look like?”“Uh…”OK, sure. It’s a rough depiction. Eh. It’s pretty choppy…And, as you can see, the glasses didn’t really take well… making for an eerie sunken eye look.Didn’t really turn […]

  • VC Barrel Tasting with Cris

    The Wine World’s “Hatfields and McCoys”

    Joe Maga

    by Joe Maga
    On Feb 4, 2015

    Among red wines, two varietals are often latched onto by certain enthusiasts. “I only drink cabs,” or, “I only drink pinots.” Such statements are common surrounding these wines. Pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon: two wines with very different bodies, styles and flavor profiles. In my experience, those who “only” drink one usually cannot relate to those who “only” drink the other. The Hatfields and the McCoys of the wine drinking world.


  • Bitcoin: Buy Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

    Bitcoin: Buy Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Sep 17, 2014

    Bitcoin has been pretty quiet lately. But that doesn’t mean big things aren’t taking place behind-the-scenes for the digital currency. In today’s Laissez Faire Today, Chris Campbell pulls back the curtain and shows you how Bitcoin is quietly slipping into the mainstream. He also shows you why now could be the time to buy now, or forever hold your peace. Read on…

  • Net Neutrality: The Story Not Being Told

    Net Neutrality: The Story Not Being Told

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Sep 12, 2014

    In an odd mix of fate, protesters and corporations are holding hands. They both have one common goal: save the Internet from the evil cable companies. We all have a common hate for them. But what if the cable companies aren’t as evil as once thought? What if there’s an even bigger evil lurking behind them? There is. Read on…

  • The Only Way to Get Rich: A Zen Proverb

    The Only Way to Get Rich: A Zen Proverb

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Sep 10, 2014

    Want to get rich? Don’t listen to financial “gurus,” says Chris Campbell. In today’s Laissez Faire Today, Chris shares a Zen proverb and shows how understanding it is the only real way to get rich (and live a rich life). Read on…

  • HappyFamily

    One Free Website to Keep Your Family Safe

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Sep 9, 2014

    Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In today’s Laissez Faire Today, you’ll learn about one FREE website that has the potential to not only keep your family safe – but also open your eyes to what’s happening in your own neighborhood. Chris Campbell has all the details. Read on…

  • BiggestLandlord

    Triple-Dip on Profits With America’s Biggest Landlord

    Zach Scheidt

    by Zach Scheidt
    On Feb 4, 2015

    Last month, when renewing our health insurance, our carrier screwed up, leaving the entire Hill family without dental coverage... Their incompetence, however, opened our eyes to burgeoning alternatives in the health care space. To be specific, we were able to save $88 on our recent dental visit despite not having insurance. And it was all thanks to a little slip of paper that took us five minutes to acquire and cost us nothing.


  • Youre_Incredible

    Use “Power Gaps” to Build Your Own Empire

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Sep 8, 2014

    All over the world, power is dying. The dictators and tyrants of the world are no longer able to wield it like they once used to. And they’re losing it to the “little guy.” Chris Campbell shows you how to be the king of your castle by taking advantage of this fact. Today, you’ll learn how to grab “power gaps” in the market and channel them into your product idea or project. Read on…

  • http://pro1.lfb.org/257033?email={emailaddress}

    Cash in on the Hidden Sex Boom

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Sep 5, 2014

    Chris Campbell got more than he bargained for during Sunday brunch. In a packed restaurant, he learned about a hidden sex boom that’s taking the world by storm. You won’t believe how much money ordinary Americans are making in this boom. It’s so much…you may even consider cashing in yourself.

  • Hacker

    Celebgate: Your Pictures Are Next

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Sep 4, 2014

    Hundreds of pictures of nude celebrities were leaked onto the Internet last week. The mainstream is blaming twenty-something hackers, but according to Chris Campbell, everyone must’ve already forgotten what we learned about the NSA only a year ago. Read on…

  • Free Markets and Malaysian Fireflies

    Free Markets and Malaysian Fireflies

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Sep 3, 2014

    The fireflies along the tidal rivers of Malaysia show "feats of synchrony that occur spontaneously, almost as if nature has an eerie yearning for order." Chris Campbell tells you where else this might occur in the world. Also, new technology may revolutionize the agriculture industry and what we think of as a farm.


  • Smoking Pot in the Governor’s Mansion

    Smoking Pot in the Governor’s Mansion

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Sep 2, 2014

    Jeff Davis is running for Governor in Hawaii and has an interesting campaign strategy. Also, what motivates hackers is revealed and the findings might surprise you. Finally, Ferguson is discussed in a new light. Chris Campbell has more...

  • The End of Money

    The End of Money

    Bill Bonner

    by Bill Bonner
    On Aug 22, 2014

    When the government pumps trillions of dollars into the economy, they’re not actually printing the money. It enters as digital entries in banks across the country. It’s made the system fast, responsive, and, unfortunately, vulnerable. Now our money is no longer something we hold in our hands, but something that exists on a very susceptible network.

    An article in , ,

  • Time to Take the Plunge in Juniors

    Time to Take the Plunge in Juniors

    Doug French

    by Doug French
    On Aug 19, 2014

    When’s the best time to invest in something? When everyone else is trying to get their money out of it. It might go against conventional thinking, but following the crowd usually makes you miss the real opportunities. At one monetary metal conference recently, the smartest guys in the industry sat down to discuss where these real hidden gems lay.

  • The Moral Case for Self-Driving Cars

    The Moral Case for Self-Driving Cars

    Ronald Bailey

    by Ronald Bailey
    On Aug 18, 2014

    Say goodbye to your boring morning commute. New technologies are changing the way people drive their cars. It’s making them safer, more fuel efficient, and could reshape the way America builds its roads and cities. The only thing that could stand in the way...

  • Beef


  • Central Planning by Central Bankers

    Central Planning by Central Bankers

    Gary North

    by Gary North
    On Aug 15, 2014

    In a 2009 article, the Huffington Post went into considerable detail about the number of people with PhD degrees in economics employed by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. This is the government’s branch of the Federal Reserve. It is not one of the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks, all of which […]

  • The Only Email System the NSA Can’t Access

    The Only Email System the NSA Can’t Access

    Hollie Slade

    by Hollie Slade
    On Aug 11, 2014

    When the NSA surveillance news broke last year it sent shockwaves through CERN, the particle physics laboratory in Switzerland. Andy Yen, a PhD student, took to the Young at CERN Facebook group with a simple message: “I am very concerned about the privacy issue, and I was wondering what I could do about it.”There was […]

  • Don’t Ignore These 3 Big Sells

    Don’t Ignore These 3 Big Sells

    Greg Guenthner

    by Greg Guenthner
    On Aug 1, 2014

    Remember that correction we’ve been quietly talking about over the past couple of months?Well, it might be right around the corner. Stocks waited until the last day of the month to nose-dive. The S&P 500 posted its first 2% down day since April — and the Dow wasn’t far behind. Early this morning, futures continue […]

  • Why You’re Probably on an NSA Watchlist

    Why You’re Probably on an NSA Watchlist

    Mike Leahy

    by Mike Leahy
    On Jul 30, 2014

    I was talking with one of my colleagues the other day, and he raised a very interesting question, one that deserves consideration by anyone worried about their digital privacy. He read an article that championed the idea that the more steps one took to protect their privacy by using anonymous Web-browsing tools like Tor, the […]

    An article in ,

  • GMOProblem


  • Smart Apps vs. Obamacare

    Smart Apps vs. Obamacare

    Greg Beato

    by Greg Beato
    On Jul 23, 2014

    Health care costs in the U.S. have been rising so steadily for so long that containment barely seems possible. Even optimists don’t dream of cutting the price tag. As its official name — the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — suggests, Obamacare aims for affordability, not radical reduction.But at a time when we’re all […]

  • The Bitcoin Billion-Dollar Discount

    The Bitcoin Billion-Dollar Discount

    Dominic Frisby

    by Dominic Frisby
    On Jul 17, 2014

    When you type a website address into a browser, you might have noticed that the letters “http” appear at the front. “HTTP” stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. In typing a Web address, you are actually sending an HTTP command to transmit that website to you. Hypertext Transfer Protocol is the means by which information is […]