• People are debating what the best tweet of the decade is.
  • Many are from celebrities or brands.
  • We set out to determine what the top tweet from a normal person is using certain parameters. 
  • This is what we found.
  • Read more stories like this on Insider.

A war has been raging in the trenches of the internet. This war, born out of the need for constant discourse, often seems like it will never end. Recent battles include “Is Baby Yoda truly a baby or Yoda?” and “Will the Joker movie destroy the fabric our democracy?”

But the latest battle is different. It offers a finality where, upon completion, the legacy and collective identity of the past ten years of online culture can be decided. It started from a deceivingly simple question: “What is the best tweet of the decade?”

—spoilers are good actually (@ldrinkh20)November 13, 2019

—Fairytale Of NY [CLEAN VER] (@bombsfall)November 17, 2019

Most users might decide their favorite tweet using arbitrary constraints, like how “funny” or “good” it might be, but this type of analysis cannot rise to such an important occasion. An average of 6,000 tweets are sent out per second, making it impossible to rate them all subjectively. To get a definitive answer, more rigorous and standardized testing is required. 

Let’s start by collecting the data.

Our raw information will be coming from theTop 30 Most Retweeted Tweets list on Wikipedia. Fortunately, all of these tweets are from the last decade, definitively proving that 2006-2009 are the weakest years in Twitter’s history.

The data then has to be examined, which involves adding a few constraints to our sample. Rather than just picking the most retweeted tweet and calling it the best, we have three main rules that our algorithm will follow. 

Twitter is a fundamentally bottom-up platform, where ordinary, humble users continually shovel their hot takes into the digital engine to fuel the website another day. Without them, Twitter would mostly be an empty webpage, populated only by public figures trying to sell their bathwater andwishing the purge was real. The ire directed at celebrities, brands, and verified accounts has since boiled over at the end of the decade, and smaller users create the bulk of the site’s content. This brings us to the first rule: the best tweet of the decade cannot be from, or even mention, a celebrity or brand.

—Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow)March 3, 2014

Whether you are Taylor Swift or Applebee’s, being a celeb or brand gives an undue influence on Twitter’s metrics. For better or worse, determining the best tweet of the decade means removing their tweets from the data. Before this constraint is applied, the top tweets are absolutely riddled with celebs. PresidentBarack Obama, for example, has three of the most retweeted tweets. South Korean boy bandBTShas four. This simply will not do.

After applying the first rule, the field is narrowed substantially, but not enough. The second rule is then applied: the best tweet of the decade cannot ask for retweets or shares. It makes sense that the best tweet of the decade would get there on its own merit, without having to beg to be noticed. This constraint would normally apply toCarter Wilkerson, the chicken nugget guy from 2017, but, unfortunately, he was previously disqualified under the first rule for mentioning Wendy’s. This rule also removes any posts where people promise gifts, money, or to prevent “the worst month of your life” in exchange for a retweet.

—Nicholas Hollywood 👑 (@nicholastmusic)November 15, 2018

Under the rules outlined so far, we are left with only two tweets in our data.

—Ma ( Zak bn Othman ) Wada (@wa_wado)August 22, 2019

—Naj📿 (@Zencsss)November 19, 2019

Both of these tweets are from the past six months, but, more importantly, they are both reposts of videos from TikTok. Our third and final rule: the best tweet of the decade has to actually be a tweet. 

We are then left with nothing. The battle rages on. Tweets, like many great works of art, are not always recognized until long after the artist has passed. Maybe the science to determine the best tweet of the decade isn’t here yet. Maybe it will take generations of computing breakthroughs before such calculations are even possible. Or maybe it’s just a random @dril tweet.

—wint (@dril)August 3, 2016


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