You can do really, really stupid stuff on Twitter. In fact, Twitter has made stupidity more spreadable, weaponisable, and as anyone who ate a Tide pod knows, delicious.
But, occasionally, it has also made it easier than ever to seek out knowledge, acquire information and better yourself. So really, there’s no excuse to at least try and thrown a few intelligence-enhancing follows into your daily mix of Gifs and #Woke memes. Think of it as passive, ambient learning.
Consider unfollowing a couple of “Funny pictures of asses” accounts and following a few of these mind-massaging, brain-embiggening, cerebellum-squeezing ones.
Atlas Obscura (@atlasobscura)
Showcasing some of the weirdest, most interesting places in the world, Atlas Obscura won’t just make you feel smarter, it’ll give you the itchiest feet ever. Follow it and find yourself desperate to live in a needlessly remote banyan treehouse or secret subterranean bicycle factory.
Susie Dent (@susie_dent)
National treasure and Countdown fixture Susie Dent is a lexicographer that just can’t stop lexicographing, and posts obscure, weird, wonderful words on a near-daily basis. Did you know that “latibulating” is hiding in a corner and not wanting to leave it? Or that a Victorian term for any kind of sexual contact was “firkytoodling”?
Pulp Librarian (@PulpLibrarian)
Pulp Librarian specialises in posting ridiculous, laughable and awesome book covers from the past, which might not immediately seem educational, but big ideas about history, sociology and psychology end up seeping through in between the silliness. Follow it for a week and you’ll accidentally find yourself really knowledgeable about, for instance, Cold War fears, early feminist literature and 1960s counterculture publishing. All with fun wacky pictures.
Letters Of Note (@LettersOfNote)
An incredibly impressive endeavour and arguably Twitter doing what it’s meant to do, Letters Of Note shares thousands of pieces of old correspondence, from legendary exchanges to goofy ones, huge names to unknown chancers. Fascinating, often hilarious and definitely educational in some way.
Fact Retriever (@factretriever)
Like the cleverest dog in the world, Fact Retriever offers up loads of vaguely arbitrary but memorable tidbits of information. For instance, President Andrew Jackson taught his parrot to swear. Is that knowledge ever going to get you a job? Probably not. But will you think about it next time you meet a parrot? For sure!
Neil Degrasse Tyson (@neiltyson)
Imagine getting trapped in a lift with Neil Degrasse Tyson. It would be great fun for about fifteen minutes until his enthusiasm for complicated ideas about space became exhausting and you’d find yourself snapping at him that maybe, actually, the Earth was flat, and then immediately regretting it. Follow him on Twitter instead. Real life smart friends are for schmucks!
Medieval Manuscripts (@BLMedieval)
Ploughing through the medieval archives of the British Library and plucking out highlights, Medieval Manuscripts offers up a nice combination of history, linguistics and funny-looking old embroidered faces. It’s not just video games that can’t get eyes and mouths right.
One Perfect Shot (@OnePerfectShot)
Classying up your feed by providing loads of cinematic elegance, One Perfect Shot is dedicated to highlighting particularly beautiful frames from films. Improve your sense of aesthetics, your appreciation for the art of cinemtography and your Netflix queue in one go.
An IT specialist once employed as a NASA “pillownaut”, testing what happens to the human body after months of inactivity, Heather Archuletta is just super enthusiastic about finding things out, something you’ll do plenty of if you follow her.
Like the toilet paper Joey had in that one episode of Friends, but in Twitter account form.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration certainly know their onions - their space onions! They’re constantly posting astonishing pictures from space, mind-bending facts and occasional badass job offerings for anyone in the Greater Houston area.
History In Pictures (HistoryInPics)
While there’s a reasonable amount of “Look, a famous person off the telly but when they were slightly younger” material in History in Pictures’ output, there are also plenty of fascinatingly weird gems like the above.
Noah Webster, the Webster of Merriam-Webster, was the man who decided Americans would spell words like “colour” wrongly by omitting the U, but don’t hold it against him. The dictionary posts interesting etymological facts daily.
Quite Interesting (@qikipedia)
The programme Dave couldn’t exist without is on something like series one million now, but due to the production team’s endless output (podcasts, live tours and stuff), even when it’s not on it still puts out really interesting stuff daily. And it’s dropped the twee “elves” thing, thank Christ.
WW2 Tweets from 1940 (@RealTimeWWII)
Doing what it says on the tin, this fascinating, impressive endeavour is running through the Second World War on a 48-year delay, dealing with large- and small-scale events, huge battles and incidental minutiae.