I’m always surprised when people describe Twitter as a cesspool of hatred and garbage. I understand that if you’re a famous person with millions of followers, alongside all the praise and fawning, you’re going to get terrible replies to almost anything you say. Plus, the format of Twitter makes it incredibly easy for people to write things that can be misunderstood through lack of context and it encourages speedy, thoughtless replies.
But most of us do not have millions of Twitter followers and all of us get to decide who to follow. I get news and information and camaraderie from many other places besides Twitter, so I don’t mind curating my Twitter feed so that I mostly see tweets that amuse or enlighten me. For the most part, I follow people who tweet about technology and funny, thoughtful people who I admire and who use Twitter to further causes that I believe in. To prevent Twitter from turning into a dangerous filter bubble, I try to also follow people who don’t think like me or look like me or live where I do or who were born long before or after I was. I try to follow people who disagree with me on political things but do so in a smart and thoughtful way. I don’t unfollow people when they express an opinion that is different than my own, but I do unfollow them if they use Twitter to spread hate.
If you are finding Twitter to be a generally unhappy, dark, boring, or uninspiring place, or if you just joined and you’re not sure who to follow, here are five accounts that will liven things up a bit.
We Rate Dogs and Darth — The truth is that I could fill this whole list with people I follow on Twitter just for the dog photos. Forgive me if I combine my favorites here. Dog Rates is an account that will rate your dog if you send a photo to Matt Nelson, creator of the account. If it sounds harsh, don’t worry. All the ratings exceed 10/10 and the photos and videos are funny and heartwarming. Darth won’t rate your dog but will retweet nearly every dog photo you send or tag with @Darth. Nobody knows who Darth is, but they are hilarious and extraordinarily gifted at Photoshop. Darth sometimes takes long hibernation periods away from Twitter, but so far they always come back. Darth is also more likely to post about progressive politics, french fries, and cats than Dog Rates, so if you don’t like to see those types of tweets, then don’t follow Darth.
Here’s Your Reminder — Sure, Twitter bots might have been responsible for upending democracy, but they’re not all bad. You can follow Here’s Your Reminder @TinyCareBot to get simple suggestions to take a drink of water, lift your arms and stretch, ask someone for help if you need it, and more. Tiny Care Bot was created by Jonny Sun, an affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, and a creative researcher at the Harvard metaLAB. He’s also the author and illustrator of “everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too” and the illustrator of “Gmorning, Gnight! Little Pep Talks for Me & You” by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Sun says he created the bot for himself and for others who needed small but actionable reminders as they scrolled through Twitter. You can also tweet at @TinyCareBot if you need an on-demand self-care reminder.
Best of Next Door — I love social media, but I’ve always been a little bit afraid of joining Next Door, the “private” social network that lets you interact with people who are your neighbors in real life. I understand the site has been helpful with locating lost pets and selling stuff, but I always thought the internet was good for connecting to people far away and in-person contact was best for your actual neighbors. If you want to see what kind of crazy can erupt when people stop talking to each other on the sidewalk and start talking to each other online, check out the Twitter feed for Best of Next Door. From people trying to desperately to find the owner of a lost can of Bush Beans to one neighbor accusing another of washing her cat with “smelly men shampoo,” The Best of Next Door features real posts from the site that users send and are curated by the creator and mastermind behind the account Jenn Takahashi.
Chrissy Teigen — If you follow one super famous person on Twitter, let it be author and model Chrissy Teigen. She’s beautiful, her children and her dogs are adorable, and her husband John Legend has a closetful of Grammy Awards. But that’s not why you should follow her. You should follow her because she is and has all of these things and yet she still seems to be one of the most relatable people on Twitter. She’ll tweet about the problems we all have, like wanting to make banana bread and having no brown bananas or her husband stealing all of her phone chargers. Of course, when she tweets these things, people want to give her all their bananas and phone chargers and why does that NEVER happen to me? Teigen is funny, crass, and political, but also honest about the stuff that people have a difficult time being honest about — like postpartum depression and body image.
KaleSalad — If memes confuse you, but you don’t have enough time to go look them up to figure out why they’re funny, then follow Kale Salad. If you hate kale and salad or even if you feel ambivalent toward kale and salad, still follow Kale Salad. This Twitter account created by Samir Mezrahi has nothing to do with kale or salad unless someone said something funny about them on Twitter. Mezrahi does an amazing job of retweeting some of the funniest stuff on the Internet and he does a very good job of trying to find the original source so you can appreciate where the humor really came from and give credit where credit is due.