If all the coolest people have left and the lamest people have joined, does that make Twitter officially over? Kaput? Done? That's what Vanity Fair's James Wolcott alleges in his musing on the state of the social media site's hipness. Wolcott recently joined the site and playing by Woody Allen rules, he reluctantly belongs to a club that will have him as a member. But deep down he knows that his acceptance says something about the club itself. "The fact that I joined Twitter may be evidence that it has peaked and a long valley beckons," he writes. He is a dad-age man who looks like this, so that is minorly compelling evidence. But he suggests it's not the only warning sign. He claims he is part of a trend, in which more uncool people are latching on to the service, as the cool kids leave, e.g., Ashton Kutcher out, Rupert Murdoch in. Again, convincing, but we're still not sure that indicates a total lost of hipness. To get an accurate reading on that, we will need to employ our very simple cool test: Was Twitter ever cool? And is it still cool?
1. Was it ever cool?
To have lost one's cool, a person, place or thing must have first had some to begin with. What makes something hip is the perfect balance between exclusivity and popularity, as we've learned with Greek yogurt and GIFs. That might sound contradictory, but it just means that the right people liked it and the wrong people didn't know about it. Or, even better: Were never invited to play along.
As for popularity, Twitter reached a critical mass in 2008, they say, when it had 752 percent growth. As this chart shows, people aren't leaving the site in droves, like what happened with MySpace. Nor has it experienced a growth slow down, like Facebook. Rather, it's numbers have been described as "booming" and "on a tear." People like it.
Now onto exclusivity. Unlike Spotify, which sent out special invites, Twitter never had a "digital velvet rope" and was always open to everyone, so that's a knock against it. There are "cool" people on it, like your Atlantic Wire staff members, celebrities, comedians, and some hipsters we know. Some of those people, like Ashton at just the right moment of its popularity explosion, made it seem cool in a certain light. But at the same time, there were always conventional dorks on there, too. First of all, Barack Obama, a middle aged politician who wears dad jeans, has been on Twitter since 2007. And let us not forget all the media nerds. Michael Arrington, a tech blogger (definition of not cool) was one of the top media people to follow on the site in 2008. At no point in Twitter's trajectory did it have an exclusivity factor. For every Ashton there was always a Rupert.
2. Is it still cool?
If it never had cool, it can't still be cool.
So that's it. Twitter was never hip. It's popular with all sorts of people and always has been. If we were in the business of giving superlatives we would award it "most likely to succeed," not "cool kid" -- those things are different. So, Wolcott, don't worry, some moms have been on the site for years and the only significant cool kid to leave is Ashton Kutcher, who looks more like a baby than too-cool-for-Twitter. So, as you say: "Let the good times scroll."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.