Which city tweets the most?

Jakarta University students during a visit from British Prime Minister, David Cameron. Image: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty.

Twitter is a pretty useful tool for city-dwellers. You can track transit hiccups. You can follow new bars that don’t even exist yet. You can exchange hilarious quips with friends, without actually venturing onto the busy streets to meet up with them.

In 2012, Semiocast, a market research company, decided to study over 1bn tweets sent in June that year, to find out which city tweets most and why. Many of its finding were pretty unsurprising: the US had the most Twitter accounts (over 140 million); English is the most widely-used language on Twitter.

When they looked at which cities tweet the most, however, things got more interesting. Second and third places went to Tokyo and London – but in the number one slot was Jakarta, Indonesia. Badung, another Indonesian city, was also in the top ten. Here's a chart, showing their top 20:

Perhaps excited by this unexpected victory, Brand24, an Indonesian social marketing company, conducted another study in 2013, this time looking at 10.3 billion tweets from January to March of that year. Jakarta made the top spot again. In fact, tweets from Jakarta, which contains 0.28 per cent of the world’s population, made up for 2.4 per cent of the world’s tweets during that period.

This meteroric rise is perhaps surprising for a different reason, too: it’s a relatively recent development. GNIP, another social media analysis company – there are, it seems, loads – found that in 2008, tweets in Indonesian accounted for 0 per cent of the total (we assume they rounded down). By 2013, it was the fifth most commonly tweeted language, accounting for 3.25 per cent of the world’s tweets.

So why are Jakartans so tweet-happy all of a sudden? Here are a few possibilities:

It’s the second largest city in the world.

Neither study on tweet locations adjusted for city size: instead of tweets per resident, they compared raw numbers. Depending on how you define the city limits, Jakarta has a population of somewhere between 10m and 30m; it might be the second largest city in the world; it’s certainly in the top 20. What’s more, half of its residents are under 30. In 2013, 79 per cent of the world’s tweets came from people under the age of 30. Do the maths.

It’s also one of the most densely populated cities in the world.

This is important, but not for the reasons you might expect. When the news broke of Jakara’s Twitter eminence in 2012, an official commented that it was probably because they spend so much time stuck in traffic. In 2010, a city governor even called on residents to tweet traffic news on Twitter, in order to ease congestion in the city. Lots of people in a small area means lots of waiting around, and lots of idle time to spend on your smartphone.

Jakartans “love to chat”.

Budi Putra, ex-editor of Indonesian Yahoo!, says that Twitter is huge in Jakarta because Indonesians love chatting to one another.  He also says many Jakartans use Twitter as a form of messenger, rather than a microblogging platform. This makes it likely that users tweet more often than the average user, as they’re having conversations rather than just airing their thoughts.

Blackberry and Yahoo! messenger are also popular in the city, which seems to back up Putra’s “Jakartans love to chat” thesis.

Tweeting pays.

In 2013, it emerged that Jakartans with over 2,000 followers can be paid upwards of US$21 per tweet to advertise products or events. Confusingly, these sponsored tweeters are called “buzzers”.

The influence of Twitter in Jakarta, and Indonesia as a whole, isn’t lost on those looking for influence.  In the recent presidential elections, one of the two candidates, Prabowo Subianto, had 75 young people running his social media campaign. Turns out, even that wasn’t enough: as of June, he had Twitter 750,000 followers to his opponent Joko Widodo’s 1,600,000. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Widodo (governor of Jakarta and also, incidentally, known for his love of Metallica) took home 53 per cent of the vote.

Joko Widodo: governor; president-elect; king of Twitter. Image: Getty.

Celebrities are taking advantage of Jakartans’ Twitter dominance, too. Agnes Monica, or Agnez Mo, the Indonesian singer and actress, has almost 11 million followers. That’s only a quarter of Lady Gaga’s , but Google trends data shows that Lady Gaga is searched on Google more than than twenty times as often, so Monica is reeling in a bigger following than her popularity would suggest. We can only imagine she’s followed by millions of Jakartans, stuck in traffic and avidly reading her every tweet.

 
 
 
 

Could twin towns bring Britain back together?

An unlikely pair. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Twin towns: an irrelevant novelty to most of us, a peculiar name on a village’s welcome sign. But could linking one British town to another – a domestic reinterpretation of this long-standing European practice – help bring Britain back together in a time of national crisis?

Born in the aftermath of World War II, town twinning aimed to foster cooperation and solidarity across Europe. Communities entered formal alliances, nurturing friendships and shared histories. Coventry forged links with Dresden and Volgograd, then Stalingrad, marking the devastation faced by their citizens during the war.

The democratisation of Greece, Spain and Portugal during the 1970s led to a new wave of twin towns across Europe, as did the fall of the Soviet Union a decade later. Since its inception, the focus of town twinning has been on uniting people through relationships. It is a testament to the initiative’s success that many of these remain to this day; Coventry recently enjoyed a performance at the city’s cathedral by Volgograd’s children’s choir.

While European relations have improved since the 1940s, unity at home has received less attention. As a result, Britain is riven with deep economic, political, educational and cultural divides. These fault lines are increasingly determined by geography, with a growing gap between our big metropolitan cities and almost everywhere else.

In comparison to other European countries, we face staggering levels of regional inequality; six of the ten poorest regions in northern Europe can been found in the UK. As outlined by Alan Milburn, the government’s former social mobility tsar, “the country seems to be in the grip of a self-reinforcing spiral of ever-growing division. That takes a spatial form, not just a social one.”

These divisions are poisoning our body politic. As Adam Smith argued in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, putting yourself in someone else's shoes is vital for developing a moral compass; in doing so "we conceive ourselves enduring all the same torments, we enter as it were into his body, and become in some measure the same person with him..." But this is difficult when we have little interaction or experience of those with opposing views.

This is increasingly likely in geographically polarised Britain, with the places we live dominated by people who think alike. Our political leaders must commit time and energy to bridging these divides, just as the leaders of Europe did in the aftermath of the Second World War. By forging links between different parts of the country, a new era of domestic town twinning would do just that.


School exchanges between sister towns would offer an opportunity for children to be exposed to places, people and perspectives very different to their own. This would allow future generations to see things from an alternative and opposing perspective. It may also embed from a young age an awareness of the diversity of experiences seen by people across our highly unequal country.

MPs would be encouraged to spend time in their constituency’s sister town. First-hand exposure to voters in a very different part of the country would surely soften the views of even the most entrenched parliamentarian, making for a more civil debate in the Commons. Imagine the good this would do for Parliament today, with Brexit gridlocked because of the unwillingness of MPs to compromise.

In 2016 the Carnegie UK Trust launched its Twin Towns UK programme, a pilot linking twenty towns across the UK to examine how they might develop together. Emerging benefits include a reduction of insularity and a greater awareness of the bigger picture. Its focus was not on bridging economic divides – towns with similar socioeconomic characteristics were twinned – but initial outcomes from the scheme suggest a broader programme of domestic town twinning could have a powerful impact.

Looking further back, Camden has been twinned with Doncaster since the 1980s, a relationship that unionised Camden Town Hall workers forged in a display of solidarity with striking miners during the 1980s. Funds were raised to feed families of striking workers at the pit and Camden locals even drove north to deliver presents at Christmas. Though the relationship appears less active today, it serves as a powerful reminder of twinning’s capacity to bring people from very different places together.

As we prepare for Brexit it’s imperative that we protect existing twin town relationships with our European partners. This is of vital importance when we know sadly many of these are under threat from austerity and gloriously un-PC mayors. But we should look to breathe new life into these traditions too, where possible. Domestic town twinning would do just that: a step towards bringing Britain back together, just as a continent was reunited after the devastation of war.

Ben Glover is a researcher at the think tank Demos.