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Or what did I learn from having a banger on Twitter
Hey folks! 👋🏽 Kavir here. Welcome back to another edition of The Discourse.
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Last week, I published a tweet that went like this:
People who are from India might get the joke. For those outside of India, let me explain.
I took what’s a popular tweet format of “the best city has the combination of A from X, B from Y, and C from Z”.
In India, it’s universally accepted that Bangalore has the best weather, Bombay has really good people and is known for the spirit of Mumbai, and Delhi as the capital has the best infrastructure and an interconnected metro system.
If you don’t believe me, here’s a tweet from someone 10 years ago.
Now I decided to play with people’s minds and break their patterns. I tweeted out a combination that was, let’s just say, less than ideal. I don’t want to offend my Delhi friends and readers to say that I picked the worst out of all the cities, but you get the drift.
So I flipped it around and voilà, that was the tweet.
The tweet hit 212K impressions, with ~1700 likes, 219 replies, and 239 retweets (most of which were quote tweets dunking on me). While it might not fully classify as viral by established patterns, it was pretty outsized compared to my 3.2K followers.
Here’s what I learnt:
Sarcasm, not everyone gets it
Some people might say that sarcasm is a higher form of humor because it requires a certain level of intelligence and quick thinking.
It’s about identifying an established pattern and breaking it. That’s also the premise of standup comedy.
If you post a sarcastic tweet, 50% of people will get it, 50% will be outraged. Shantanu in a reply to one of my tweets summed it up best:
And this combination works best for virality on a platform like Twitter. Because it prompts people to react, leading to the algorithm thinking that this is something more people need to see.
The sarcasm has to have a tinge of believability. If it is too direct, people won't buy into it.
From the beginning, it started getting replies which went on either end of the spectrum (I don’t get it, and you're wrong).
The few that got it, really enjoyed!
People just love correcting!
If you spend time on Twitter, you may have noticed the ‘bad math’ subgenre of tweets, where someone will intentionally miscalculate something to a large order of magnitude. Here is an example of one such tweet:
People see this folly and want to chime in and correct it. The people who get that the bad math is intentional step in to correct those who don’t get it.
In my example, many were like no, this is the correct response.
People are overly attached to their cities
Moreso than other topics, the city you choose to live in (or are born in) is very integral to your identity. It’s in your bio, it’s what you tell people when they ask you where you live.
I don’t know what other topics (apart from sports and politics) are as divisive. Maybe the phone device camp you're in (iOS vs Android) or the desktop (PC vs Mac)
From this experiment, I have learned that sarcasm can be used to engage people on Twitter, as long as it has a tinge of believability. It’s fun to see people’s reactions, as long as you don’t take it personally.
The replies to the tweet showed that while some people did not get it, there were others who understood the sarcasm and even corrected those who didn't.
It all boils down to identifying a familiar pattern, and then breaking it.
Thanks to Yihui, Sena Gürdoğan, Dhrumi Savla, and Danver for providing feedback on early drafts of this piece.
📘 Read of the week: My Philosophy of Product Building - Nathan Baschez (11 min)
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