Do Twitter’s Geographical Suggestions Say Anything About Us?

If you’re reading this, you probably have a Twitter account, so you’re familiar with its algorithm which suggests followers based on your interests when you registered your account. The algorithm also suggests accounts to follow based on your location. It probably takes the top ten accounts followed by people within a state, but there’s certainly more to it than that. (I’m curious to know what shows up in other states, so if you’re creating a new account in a state that’s not Lagos, please take a screenshot and send to me).

It turns out that the suggested accounts in Lagos are reflections of our two major cultural exports — religion and entertainment. Oh, and an orange outlier depending on how you view him — Trump.

Religion:

Lagosians clearly love their pastors, with religious leaders taking 6 out of 10 of the highly coveted spots. Bonus: perhaps it also gives one an idea of which church is killing the social media game.

On a personal note, I grew up breakdancing on the church stage to ‘Do you want a revolution?! Whoop! Whoop!’. 🙈 That was ages ago, so I’m amazed that Kirk Franklin has managed to remain relevant through the years.

The overwhelming number of foreign and domestic pastors that top this list is a reflection of christianity as the dominant religion in Lagos. I’m curious to find out if Islamic leaders on Twitter would show up in this list if I were registering my account in the Northern and more muslim-dominated part of Nigeria.

Entertainment:

Like religion, we enjoy music from both foreign and domestic artists, with John Legend as the sole foreign artist. Clearly, Twitter’s algorithm doesn’t order the list in terms of popularity, considering Nathaniel Bassey (115,000 followers) comes before Wizkid (2.9 million followers). WizKid’s rival Davido doesn’t show up on the list. Even D’banj shows up on the list and he hasn’t been relevant in years.

Donald Trump:

Wish I could say I was shocked to see Donald Trump on that list, but I’m now completely immune to being shocked at the taste of my fellow Nigerians. Ya’ll don’t even follow your president’s Twitter account, but when he’s been absent for half a year, I really can’t judge. On the bonus side, Trump is a far more entertaining alternative.

Thoughts:

I bet you thought I had something deep to say about the predominance of religion and entertainment in Lagos.

Not really.

Data gives us the opportunity to compare who we think we are with who we really are (based on what we do). That said, such data only acts as a proxy — a representation — and clearly picks out the more general aspects of our society.

Moreover, considering we’re not privy to what goes into Twitter’s algorithms, it’s hard to say how accurate the algorithm is. (Twitter’s similar account suggestion is dismal, so no surprise if this is the same case)

Most importantly, you didn’t need Twitter’s algorithm to tell you what we love in Lagos — churches, check. Entertainment, check. Trump? I don’t know. If there’s no light at home, your President is in London and you’d like to laugh at the most powerful leader in the world, then check.