If done well, Twitter threads make for irresistible reading. The long strings of connected Tweets on one topic—whether political analysis, an explanation of the origins of the word “dotard,” or live-tweeting a surreal experience—are an invitation to shake off Twitter’s rapid-fire rhythm and focus. Journalist Virginia Heffner, writing a tribute to the thread form in Politico, described it as “a call to something that Twitter culture, in its far-off playful days, used to condemn implicitly: earnest commitment to a train of thought.”
Admittedly, now that Twitter has made threading even easier by making it an official feature, it’s possible that the form will begin to feel less special and fade out of fashion. (There are already signs of thread fatigue.) For now, we can safely say that the thread was a powerful force in 2017. Here are some of the best of the year:
A highbrow dive into a lowbrow topic
A game developer promises a guide to a “postmodern design hellscape” and delivers.
One idea, many proofs of concept
Tufts University professor Daniel Drezner is probably still waiting for evidence that Donald Trump has grown into his presidency.
Context missing from the public discussion
Melissa McEwan, editor-in-chief of the feminist website Shakesville.com, leverages her shock and anger over a new book about Hillary Clinton’s so called “joyless” campaign in this deconstruction of a Washington Post story.
And Manilla-based writer Rin Chupeco describes the cultural backdrop not fully realized in a controversial Atlantic story by author Alex Tizon
The #MeToo thread that revived a movement
This list is almost entirely limited to single-person threads as opposed to conversations or call and response yarns, but we could not ignore the #MeToo tweet posted by Alyssa Milano on Sunday, October 17. It picked up a movement started 10 years earlier by Tarana Burke, which asked women to share their stories of surviving sexual assault and harassment, and amplified the conversation around disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein. The thread made #MeToo a culture-changing force of its own.
Thousands of other people came forward: two of the standout threads included candid posts by actress Gabrielle Union and philosopher Janet Stemwedel.
And journalist Yashar Ali turned, fittingly, to the thread form to convey accumulation, in this case of personal stories of harassment and sexual abuse sent to him in direct messages. It started with one DM, but he had soon received more than 2,000.
Priceless insider analysis, freely given
Asha Rangappa, a former FBI special agent in the counterintelligence division, is Twitter’s sharpest source for national security analysis. Many of her threads could have made this list, but here are just two insightful Mueller-themed strings.
Activist and data scientist Samuel Singyangwe investigates the story behind a road sign that mangles and obscures an all-but-erased historical event.
The meta thread
UK-based developer Terance Eden presents a visualization of Twitter threads and calls them “beautiful.”
Kindness when Twitter needed it
Comedian Kumail Nanjiani warms hearts with a nostalgic story about his first encounter and “real moment” with Rian Johnson, director of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
A point-by-point comparison between reality and art
Politico writer Dan Diamond compared the Trump administration’s attempt to overhaul Obamacare with one episode of the television comedy Arrested Development, in what Quartz’s Adam Epstein called a thread for the ages.
An emotional appeal for health care as a basic right
One month later, the GOP health care bill was inspiring heartfelt pleas for a more humane approach to treating illness, including this one from Eric Meyer, a father in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.
The political fact-checking thread
The only thing wrong with Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale’s threads on Donald Trump is that they’re sometimes too short.
Finally, a couple of late-breaking threads that deserve a shoutout.
Editor and journalist Heidi Moore wrote a viral-worthy thread on harassment in the newsroom earlier this week. Posted on December 24th, its chances of reaching the audience it deserves were slim.
Finally, Yair Rosenberg, a writer and editor at Tablet magazine, pulled back the curtain on his people’s plan for world domination.