If you’ve spent much time on Twitter, there’s a good chance you’ve been exposed to “local Twitter.” The phenomenon has existed for years, but recently, it’s been clearly branded, and as the term has become more widespread, the general concept is being ushered into larger, more mainstream awareness.
Providing a hard-stop definition of “local Twitter” is tricky; much like obscenity, you know it when you see it. Local is tweeting about how much you love pizza and Target, fawning over dogs, or posting Drake lyrics, especially with the caption “mood.” Local is having to ask whether your Twitter feed is local. Justin Belloli, a 17-year-old from California, says via DM that you’ve encountered local if you’ve ever surfed by a basic tweet that is inexplicably popular, like “rt or else.” “They basically take the leftover trends from other parts of twitter and use them until they’re too annoying to get retweets and likes,” he says.
Much like being basic, but online, “local Twitter” describes someone who loves decidedly, even painfully mainstream things. Samara, a 16-year-old from Texas, tells The Verge via Twitter DM that the origin of the phrase comes from following people who live in in your town, specifically because you’re from the same place. “A local is a person who doesn't participate in things like stan twitter or film twitter but instead their account is completely personal and their interests are probably really mainstream,” she says. It could be anyone, of any age. “They just have to like mainstream stuff and are probably uneducated on certain topics (for example only locals would defend the gruesome scenes in 13 Reasons Why).” She adds that there’s nothing wrong with indulging in what’s popular on social media, and that “most people on Twitter are someone’s locals.” Even with the entire world at our fingertips, we’re still largely connecting with people from our schools, our work, our everyday lives.
In fact, local tweets are more likely to go viral because they appeal to such a mainstream audience. Consider HuffPost’s recent investigation on why an innocuous tweet about wanting to throw a Great Gatsby-style party gobbled up more than 330,000 likes and 84,000 retweets. Belloli says most people don’t find these kind of things funny, but they retweet or like them because they share the original poster’s feelings. It’s the same concept that explains the overwhelming popularity of “relatable” meme accounts. “My personal appeal to local twitter is to make fun of it as it is largely cringey and not funny,” he tells The Verge via DM. “You can find that many twitter users post similar tweets to local twitter however they do it ironically (for example the “ladies imagine its 10 years from now and your son is playing t-ball” tweet and subsequent “imagine” tweets from other twitter users).”
A 19-year-old from New York, Brandon Male, says that the problem with local Twitter is that it encompasses people who “aren’t very connected to wide variety of people throughout the world and remain stagnant in their bubble.” There’s a disconnect that makes them miss out on the language and jokes of the internet, he says. By the time local Twitter is caught up, it’s too late. “When they do get to them there is usually a delay and the internet has already moved on from them,” Male says.
Avoiding local Twitter moves beyond just being part of a gag, however. Male credits his growing social awareness and knowledge of global issues to his access to the web. Maintaining that broader worldview sometimes means trading in a few tweets recapping your day or describing your most relatable feelings. “The internet allows us to experience a hugely diverse community with many eye-opening perspectives that many people aren’t able to encounter in their typical lives,” he says.
The concept of local Twitter, much like many online jokes before it, will continue to seep into mainstream awareness. Eventually, it’ll become overused and so wholly divorced from its original meaning, users tell The Verge, that it’ll enter dead meme territory. “Many online jokes and trends tend to be cloaked in layers of irony that not everyone tends to fathom,” says Male, “so when they become popular outside of their origin the aspects that made them funny tend to fade sadly and what was once treasured quickly becomes cringeworthy.”
While Local Twitter might be an eternal attitude (like “normie” or “square” before it), the people who named it will move on. The term will be left behind to be absorbed by the locals themselves—until it’s no longer relatable to anyone.