Boston, We've Been Out-Tweeted

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In a recent study, Boston didn’t rank among the top 20 most active cities on Twitter, according to social media research firm Semiocast, though this strikes us less like a sign of our social ineptitude and more like a sign of Twitter’s global growth and the fact that there are some very populous cities when compared to Boston.

The study released this summer ranked cities based on the number of tweets posted per day in various cities around the country and found that Jakarta, Tokyo, London, Sao Paolo, and New York led the way. These are, of course, cities with very large populations. Some have been surprised to see Jakarta top the list, but with 8.5 million people (compare that to Boston’s 625,000 or so) we’re not that surprised. We’re also not shocked to see a lot of non-American cities at the top when we consider the way the social media company has expanded to support multiple languages and seen its membership grow to about a half billion.

We’d love to see the data controlled for population to get a sense of which city’s Twitter users actually spend the most time using the service. In the meantime, we can’t exclusively blame population for our non-ranking. Among the American cities that made the top 20 are a few with smaller populations than Boston, like Atlanta and Miami.

There’s no denying that those cities’ residents send out more tweets than we do. Why? It’s hard to say, but we’d chalk the differences up to demographics and culture. On the other hand, when Men’s Health compared cities by examining more than just Twitter, Boston scored highly as a socially connected place. The other key question is whether it would be bad for Boston to fall behind. Isn’t life for the living, not the tweeting? It depends who you ask. Many argue that social networking improves transparency and government responsiveness for cities, but some—like New York City’s mayor—worry that it trips up our long-term thinking. It’s probably way too early to know the full extent of its effect, and we imagine it will be mixed, but in the meantime, it is interesting to see how cities embrace these networks differently.