Top 20 most followed Twe**ers

September 28, 2015 • 2:30 pm

Submitted for your approval: the top 20 Twi**er accounts with the most followers (go here for the top 100). I don’t think of myself as an intellectual snob, but I’m still disturbed by the list.  With the exception of Barack Obama, YouTube, and CNN (how did that get on there?), all are pop-rock stars, with the rest comprising one sports star (Ronaldo) and one talentless hack (Kim Kardashian). What a world! What a world!

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116 thoughts on “Top 20 most followed Twe**ers

  1. I think it says much more about Twitter than it does anything else. It’s not like the medium even pretends to be suited to anything other than the lightest of fluff.


          1. Cynic that I am, I am optimistic that most of those crowding the nadir are actually aiming for the zenith, but misguided, delusional, or just plain wrong. The population who are targeting the nadir is much smaller.
            I hope.

          2. “Dear Tw*ps, I have had my anus super-glued shut for a week while I builded this special “unleashing the torrent” toilet with 4D 8k iMax camera so I can bring you the low-down and dirty on …”
            I need to hold my nose before descending further. But it’ll involve pickled-egg vindaloo and three prototypes of “smelli-vision.” Oh, and the old standby of 8 pints of “old Peculiar” beer (which gives “Guiness bottom” a real run for it’s money.
            There are things that cavers have done in wetsuits, which didn’t ought to be done in wetsuits – particularly one-piece wetsuits – particularly not in bits of cave that you and your friends have no choice but to travel through again – which give us a profound advantage in any race to a conversational or sartorial nadir.

          3. Quoth Voltaire : “I am sorry to write you such a long letter ; I did not have time to write a shorter one.”
            Well, allegedly.

          4. @Diane G.

            I’ve thought this three times in the past several weeks: your wit reminds me of the radio show Says You!, which describes itself as a “game of bluff and bluster, words and whimsy.”


          5. LOL you guys!

            Thank you, charleen, though I suspect you might still be thinking of Diana–she’s the real quipper.

      1. It used to be taglines, but they were limited to 85.

        My favourite: “I have a firm grip on reality. Now I can strangle it”


    1. Well, yes and no. I’ve discovered lots of great stuff on Twitter through various science sites and in-your-face atheists (who tend to post a lot of good stuff). And then there’s @TakeThatDarwin who generally posts (or reposts, I should say) some of the craziest anti-evolution remarks he can find. Very entertaining!

      Although he’s not in this list, it’s good to see someone like Neil deGrasse Tyson has a lot of followers. It would be nice if Lawrence Krauss had a few more followers.

        1. And this from a few days ago:

          The Pope is here. He can celebrate the Catholic Church’s use of religious freedom to endanger women’s lives.

          He doesn’t hold back. There was another one that day from him about Carson too:

          Wow! Ben Carson is not just awful Presidential candidate, he is a scientific crackpot! An dangerous charlatan.

          Go Prof Krauss!

    2. I disagree. I can’t claim to spend a lot of time on Twitter, but I find it a pretty good resource for finding out what is going on in the world (it’s faster than CNN’s breaking news by miles) and to see what scientists and skeptics are arguing about / agreeing on. Add to that a mix of hand-selected atheists, journalists, bloggers of the legal persuasion, comedians, gamers and my Twitter is both entertaining and educational.

      That said, I don’t follow a single one of the top twenty. In fact I follow 1 in the Top 100: NASA.

      1. I follow 1 in the Top 100: NASA.

        Watch out Grania – the Thought Police will be out to get you. “Thought Police” in the same sense as Ray Bradbury’s “firemen”.

  2. Just out of interest who are the top twenty populisers of science. I mean is Dawkins more popular than Bryan Cox? (Yes, I know it’s all a bit trivial but I’d really like to know. )

  3. Indian celebrities in top 100 – 4 Bollywood actors and one politician (Prime Minister),with the 70’s superstar (Amitabh) ahead of the other three actors (Khans).

    Some case of time warp!

    1. with the 70’s superstar (Amitabh)

      That probably explains why our 30-something Indian Data Engineer is “Amitabh”.

  4. and one talentless hack (Kim Kardashian). What a world! What a world!

    What’s up Jerry? Cat got your “Oy Vey!” ?

  5. Perhaps we should spend more energy trying to influence the opinions of this lot, since everyone seems to listen to them?

    1. I felt similarly, but then, as an experiment, I went through and followed a swath of people followed by the Wellcome Trust (Sanger), Salk, many of the cancer institutes, etc…My Twi**er feed is so interesting, I have to pull myself away from reading the articles scientists from all over the world post. I’ve also made connections with researchers who could be potential collaborators in the future.

      But, I whole-heartedly agree that it is disheartening that most pop-stars dominate what can be a medium of literacy.

  6. Coming in at #87 is Mohamad al-Arefe, a Wahhabi theologian from Saudi Arabia who, according to The Independent:

    “…has in the past accused Shias of being responsible for kidnapping, cooking and skinning children before placing their remains outside the family home for their parents to find, and recently called for Muslim women to travel to Syria to offer their bodies to fighters seeking to overthrow Bashar al Assad’s regime.”

    He’s the most followed tw*tterer in the Middle East, with more than 3 million more followers than the Pope.

    But remember, it’s OK, he doesn’t speak for Islam.

  7. Twi**er is my favorite venue for spying on the intellectual world. For instance, I love that the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) tw**ts articles before they are mailed to my Inbox as a table of contents list.

    Who’s Kim Kardashian? 🙂

    1. Just turn on your TV, she’s all over it.

      As Roger Waters said, “Got thirteen channels of shit on the TV to choose from”. Of course that’s out of date, these days it’s more like 130 channels. The rest is 100% accurate though.


      1. Oh, no tv at present. But, I did just google her. Seems there is a woman with striking features under all the makeup. But after a while, isn’t particularity and nuance more interesting, even physically? I do understand the attraction to symmetry from a biological perspective, but there is something gross here. Why do people tune in to what she thinks? Has she become a sex meme, like a taboo word that triggers something in the mind?

        1. I feel an intense desire to edit my last comment to correct a particular type of grammatical error, the subject-verb agreement issue around the word isn’t. (The other potential errors don’t bother me, as much.)

          It should be ‘aren’t particularity and nuance more interesting’. Not isn’t.

          I’ll be able to sleep now.

        2. I believe Kim Kardashian is (was?) a model. But now mostly famous for being famous. ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’ is one of those ‘reality’** shows that pervades TV. The best you can say is that it’s less painful to watch than the cop-chasing ‘reality’ shows that pillory those unfortunates who fall afoul of petty authority.

          (** for sufficiently small values of ‘reality’).

  8. That’s pathetic, shameful. And most of them I have never heard of. No authors (well, Obama), no scientists, artists, comedians, philosophers,journalists….
    the media, the educational system are to blame for lowering standards…with no changes in sight.
    Solutions, anyone?

  9. Twitter is for soundbites and is meant for everybody. So that is stuffed with fluff is no surprise.
    What does surprise me — no, irritates me – is that Justin Bieber is ahead of Taylor Swift. That just shows how shallow are the Tweeters on Twitter.

    1. The most surprising to me, by far, is Brittany Spears. I don’t think Twitter even existed the last time she was relevant. But a lot of followers are not real people and there are ways to game the system, so who knows?

    1. It worries me I know them all except for Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato; never heard of them.

      We know for Wikipedia that only 15 percent of its hundreds of thousands of contributors are women.

      There a lot of women in this list, would be interesting to know if there is also a big gender gap with Twi**er.

      1. Fascinating observation, peepuk.

        Sounds like something Nazneen Rahman would notice.

        Distribution of Twi**er users by gender and type of tw**t would be interesting. Who has this data?

  10. It’s not that disturbing. Consider a Tw**ter top list form the 1980s. The list is too embarrassing to think of, but with time, unmemorable and almost all but historically insignificant.

    The good news is most of the things we remember and care about have nothing to do with the zeitgeist.

        1. That would be RFC … (googles) 1149? “A Standard for the Transmission of IP Datagrams on Avian Carriers
          Old feathers, sir. They’ve been doing that – with QualityOfService – since last millennium. RFC 2549.
          It’s all very sophisti-cat-ed : “3D ether space available to the carriers, in contrast to the 1D ether used by IEEE802.3. The carriers have an intrinsic collision avoidance system, which increases availability. Unlike some network technologies, such as packet radio, communication is not limited to line-of-sight distance. Connection oriented service is available in some cities, usually based upon a central hub topology.
          I don’t keep up with modern technology, but I suspect that hackers are woking to break this protocol with advances (?) on traditional attacks. Instead of launching a man-in-the-middle attack on the protocol, there is a potential vulnerability to a protocol-in-the-middle-of-a-cat attack on the datagrams. That could knock it off it’s perch as the Norwegian Blue of communication technology.
          (Needless to say, a lot of the work on the fundamental technology did actually take place in Bergen, Norway. I’m fairly sure that was deliberate.)

  11. Don’t know about the snob part but I’m too old to get it or use it. If you had time to send 20,000 tweets, what kind of life are you living? Maybe something Trump can do when he finishes with his present work.

    I try not to go to the bathroom or get naked in public as well. Possibly not old enough?

      1. Or, for PCC’s case, a robot. Something in the bowels of WordPress generates a tw-14-14-t (under ProfCC’s imprimature) each time he posts a new post here. I expect a lot of other traffic is generated by similar methods.

    1. Oh dear. I’ve tweeted way over 20,000 times. Think my life is OK ish, though I should probably be a vegetarian, give more money to charity etc… Not sure they are really connected with the tweeting though! @matthewcobb

      1. Seriously? Over 20,000 times?

        Twitter has been in existence just shy of a decade. If you signed up the first day, that’d be an average of well over five tweets per day, every day, since then. Call it a tweet every four hours, or every hour and an half during working hours.


        That’s…um…an awful lot….


        1. A lot of them will have been retweets (I joined early, in 2007, which is how I got my name as my handle), and most of them are trivial, but some are interesting I think. More to the point, like Charleen below, it’s what I read on Twitter – mainly science – which stimulates me, and even leads to lots of posts on WEIT. For example, Erika Laksawalla’s discussions yesterday about the Mars water discovery were absoluetly fascinating. It isnt all gossip and pictures of breakfast. MC

          1. Quite so. Who would want to miss this?

            Matthew Cobb ‏@matthewcobb 20h20 hours ago

            Got through the first lecture of the year (500 students) with only one Freudian slip. And they applauded at the end! How nice!

          2. Ohhh, she’ll un-friend you for that. EMILY!
            I wonder if there’s a tool for tracing the proverbial “six degrees of separation” network. Very likely there is, already, and I’m just unaware of it.

      2. Today, as I’ve sat in a Python programming boot camp, Twitter has kept me awake. A very small sample of my Twi**er activity today:

        1. Reread a popular press piece discouraging universal breast cancer genetic screening. (I disagree with their analysis.)

        2. Learned that Gates just gave $5.8 million to genetically engineer an HIV vaccine (I want to read the actual piece. So far, just caught the headline.)

        3. Saw that in 2013 a team sequenced a 560,000-700,000 year old horse bone specimen. I wondered about the fidelity of the data and what kind of DNA degradation issues they encountered.

        I’m also starting to use Twi**er to interject parts of myself, but have some reservations about doing this. Thus, this is in (beta) experimental mode; I may amend my personal policy on this matter, but for now, anyone who wants a glimpse into my (micro-bloggish) thoughts mingled in with my science and medicine retw**ts, can have at them.

      3. And I’ve forwarded tweets I found interesting or amusing (mostly cat related) to Matthew at least four or five times, and they’ve almost all ended up as posts on this very website.

        1. I tend to email PCC himself, pre-pending the subject line with “[WEIT]” in the event that he uses automated filtering.

      1. Of course. But it seems clear that number of Twitter followers correlates much more strongly with popularity than with interestingness.

        I still don’t see why this should come as a surprise. There are any number of reasons why people click the Follow button on Twitter, including contests, promotions, event alerts, in-group signaling, and so on, and most of them have nothing to do with how interesting the tweeter is as a writer or public speaker.

      2. You too, are lining up with Grania for the cattle-prod attentions of the “Thought Police”. > G < (and where has my collection of cat character entities gone?)

  12. Most people use the internet for porn. That doesn’t make it any less of a revolutionary communication device capable of transforming the word for the better. Most people use television to watch Survivor and American Idol while we use it to watch Nova and National Geographic. We’re not most people.

    1. Nice observation. We all bad mouth Television, that great waste land, but if you look around, there are a few good things in there. And speaking of that — what happened to the history channel. At one time, it actually had programs about history? Now it’s just garbage.

    1. Exactly so, and I won’t refuse to read books on that basis. Twitter is very useful IF you follow the right people/entities: I doubt if any I follow are in the top half million. I follow 116 and have just 13 followers so I see a vanishingly small percentage of Twitter fluff.

  13. Given that Twitter is largely used as a tool for self promotion, the list of top tweeters is hardly surprising. And certainly not disgusting by that measure.

  14. Tw*tter is made for and suited for social media, it’s not designed as a suitable platform for intellectual discussion.

    Not that people can’t say smart things on tw*tter of course. But it’s not for nothing that even incisive thinkers like Sam Harris end up posting a lot of social-media-like personality-conflict stuff on twitter.

  15. I don’t know a thing about that technology so I’m wondering what the difference is between “followers” and “following”.

    I note, for example, that Obama and Taylor Swift have almost identical numbers of followers but he has ~2800 times as many followings.

    1. As an example, if Satan has a million followers, one of whom is God, and is following three people, one of whom is Grumpy Cat, Satan will receive all of Grumpy Cat’s tweets in his (Satan’s) timeline, while God and 999,999 other “people” will receive all of Satan’s tweets in their timelines.

    2. but he has ~2800 times as many followings.

      For someone “in” or around politics, there is probably significant cachet to having Obama “following” you. That probably translates pretty directly into campaign contributions for the … which party is Obama again?
      I would not be surprised if, in dark alleyways around Washington there are transactions along the lines of “for 50 dollars you get Obama as a follower, and for another 25k you can get a used Trump hairpiece for your cat. WITH a certificate of authenticity!”
      I’m just wondering what the fee for a night of playing “hide the cigar” with Bill Clinton was.

    1. As I always say it: Strugeon’s Law applies to everything. However, for the internets, with no quality control, it’s Sturgeon’s Law squared: 99% of everything on the internet is crap.

        1. No, I think in this instance JBlilie is right about the maths – it is 99% (if you take it as referring to the 10% or 1% which is valid) – and he’s right in actuality too. 🙁


          1. Yes, but I reckon it implies that only 10% is worth reading – that’s the significant quantity IMO – so squaring that gives 1%. (Or 99% crap).

            A bit like our low-fat milk which advertises “98% Fat Free”. I always do my best to find the fat-free 98% and leave the 2% that has fat in it. (What, it doesn’t mean that?)

            Obviously some marketroid has concluded “less than 2% fat” sounds too negative, so they have to resort to this stupid and paradoxical-sounding description.


  16. Actually, Ellen Degeneres might have some worthwhile things to say. But otherwise, I assume Jerry was quoting the Wicked Witch of the West, and I have to agree.

  17. I don’t get the hate for entertainers lots of people follow but I don’t find entertaining. There are a billion other webpages to click on, millions of other video streams, hundreds of channels. These aren’t the old days when there was CBS, NBC, and ABC and something bad meant something good wouldn’t see the light of day.
    If some entertainer is not to your taste, ignore them. If they entertain someone else, this is not a problem for me.
    Do I wish my favorites were more popular? Yes. Would Kim Kardashian’s retirement help that? No.

  18. Twi**ter is fabulous! It’s like a huge index to interesting information, discussions, debates and lots of humour.

    Just follow the Professors! Also avoid the pop garbage – yes, this is a crazy world – celebrity intoxication.

    I have great appreciation for this site and its huge variety of fascinating topics. Many thanks.

    1. Just follow the Professors! Also avoid the pop garbage – yes, this is a crazy world – celebrity intoxication.

      There are some interesting sidelines. For example, someone has populated a robot with daily excerpts from Darwin’s diaries on the Beagle, and once a day something pops out. Which is an odd but strangely fascinating thin line between celebrity drivel and historical education.

  19. What depresses me most is that one social media channel has its own account on another social media channel.

    How far does this go? Does Twitter also have a YouTube channel? Do they both have Facebook pages? Does YouTube’s Twitter account have a separate Facebook page, which in turn has its own Twitter account? This makes my head hurt.

  20. I read an Article that postulated the Hypothesis that Homo Sapiens is Evolving or should that be Devolving into Stupidity, after looking at that List I see no reason to disbelieve the Hypothesis.

  21. Can someone please tell me why anyone pays attention to these Kardashian people? Seems to me they are only famous for being famous.

    Hmmm, where is my copy of Gibbon …

    1. Your question answers itself. Simply by asking it, you’ve raised their Google hit count and helped ratify their legitimacy as a topic of conversation.

    2. I think some TV exec had the idea of a ‘reality’ series about some minor celeb and hit on Kim Kardashian (who I believe was a model before that but I’m not sure) and her family as subjects.

      Also notorious for starting everything with a ‘K’ – if they have a feline it will certainly be named ‘Kat’.

      While they rate zero on my TV-watchability scale, at least they don’t rate minus as in “Aaaargh turn it off, my brain can’t stand this” like most ‘reality’ which features totally mindless slobby morons. You want really bad, try those duck destroyer rednecks (somebody will know who I mean).

      Also I think they have to have credit for rescuing the letter ‘K’ from the depths of suspicion to which the Klan had sunk it.

      Oh, and some Israeli ultra-orthodox rag photoshopped her out of a photo, which has to be a point in favour of anyone that it’s done to.

      That’s far more than I meant to say about KK…


  22. I now have, in the palm of my hand, a device that allows me to access almost all of human knowledge.

    And I use it to look at pictures of cats and to argue with strangers.

    1. @jblilie, ha! Yes, I was thinking similarly. I’m glued to this website. I could be using the time to teach myself something in depth, maybe a language. But, instead, I’m commenting here. Part of this is that I do learn a lot from this website. But part of this is the community. It feels genuine, good, and smart!

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