Hidden gems of Twitter
Some accounts to follow to improve your experience
As you all know by now, I’m a huge critic of Twitter’s effect on our society. But there’s plenty of good stuff on there too; you can make your Twitter experience a little bit less awful by following the right people. So here’s a list of “hidden gems” you might not know about yet.
There are few people I would honestly describe as a “wunderkind”, but Darrell Owens is one of them. By the age of 24 he has already helped create a pro-housing political group in the East Bay that actually managed to win elections, successfully persuaded the city of Berkeley to experiment with taking police out of traffic stops, and achieved various other things in local politics in an incredibly hostile environment. And that’s just his hobby — he’s studying to be a software engineer, and works part-time for CA YIMBY. One time when I organized a salon about housing policy, it basically turned into “Q&A with Darrell”, since his knowledge was so encyclopedic; he was 22 at the time. He tweets mostly about local politics, but also about dating culture, because…well, he’s in his early 20s.
2) Adam Tooze
I’m not sure what Adam’s field of study is — he understands economics better than many economists and seems to understand history better than many historians. He’s perhaps the only scholar I know who can seamlessly combine politics, economics, military knowledge, and international relations to weave coherent stories about nations and their destinies in real time. His books are excellent, his Substack is excellent, but it’s his Twitter account that introduces me to interesting, novel facts on a daily basis.
The smartest and most thoughtful cultural critic I know is…just some guy who works in the TV industry! It’s hard to explain why Chris is so good at navigating the nuances of modern culture, from music to literature to gender to politics; he just is. And he does it with a sort of Captain Picard-like generosity, thinking about the needs, desires, and perspectives even of people he disagrees with. The wildest thing is that he mostly does his own original thinking, rather than cribbing from sources.
4) Eric Topol
Eric Topol is your one-stop shop for Covid data and info. He’s relentless, consistent, thorough, and measured in his approach. Just the facts, all the facts, all day. He has almost half a million followers, so not sure he counts as a “hidden gem”, but he’s the single best Covid-related account on Twitter, so even half a million is not enough.
5) The Social Science Research Hounds: Ethan Mollick and John Holbein
If you want to read interesting new social science research, these guys post a lot of it.
6) Making Econ Twitter fun: Khoa Vu and Rachel Meager
Econ Twitter isn’t necessarily something you’d associate with the word “fun”, but in fact there are some heroic accounts that manage to combine humor with smart, relevant info on what’s happening in the modern econ world. These are my two favorites. Not coincidentally, they’re both very much applied/stats people, which reflects the direction in which the field is evolving.
7) The Monetarist Teens: Maia, Jason Harrison, and Josh Miller
I know this is weird, but there’s actually a group of Gen Z kids who are really into economics. Somehow they’re mostly monetarists, which is strange, but OK. The thing is, being Gen Z, they’re very good at putting it all into memes, as well as keeping up with the online trends of the day. But of course they’re still quite young, so their feeds also include a lot of young-people stuff.
8) Mansa Keita
Mansa Keita is a doctor who somehow ended up tweeting a lot about culture wars, racial issues, CRT, and so on. He’s ended up being something of a foil for Wes Yang, one of Twitter’s chief critics of wokeness. If all of our culture wars were as civil and reasonable as their debates, we’d be a more stable and prosperous nation than we are.
9) The Economic Historians: Pseudoerasmus and Leah Boustan
Economic history is very cool, and these two accounts will give you a lot of it.
10) Mari Saito
Not enough people outside Japan keep up with what’s going on in that country, but it really is still one of the most interesting places in the world, and it has evolved far far beyond all the old stereotypes. There are many accounts that keep up with Japan-related news (including Bloomberg’s own excellent Marika Katanuma!), but basically nobody beats Mari Saito for consistency and volume of interesting reports.
This guy is just some engineer who knows a ton about hardware engineering. Lately he’s been especially focused on space, but he also knows about a ton of other stuff.
12) Fun stuff: Tokyo Fashion and Rabbits Doing Work
If you want a break from politics and society and research and all that, I recommend Japanese street fashion and rabbits. But then again, I would, wouldn’t I?
13) Random fun people: Nikitha Rai and This guy
These two accounts couldn’t be more different; Nikitha is a hill staffer who tweets about politics and other stuff, and the other guy — who changes his name and handle so often I don’t even know what to call him — is some kind of academic who tweets about very esoteric stuff. But they’re both just so down-to-earth and reasonable that I thought I’d throw them out there.
And of course, don’t forget to follow all the Noahpinion interview alums: Akiko Iwasaki, Claudia Sahm, Brian Armstrong, Paul Staniland, James Medlock, Liam Kofi Bright, David Shor, Patrick Collison, Saikat Chakrabarti, Jeff Yang, Julia Galef, Michael Tubbs, John Lettieri, Marc Andreessen, Jason Furman, and Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman!
Anyway, I hope this makes your experience of Twitter a little bit less shouty and ridiculous. Soon I’ll follow this up with a list of good blogs to read.