[…] I think it leaves out something important — the status-conferring role of reply-tweets, and the social role of the people who write them. Reply-tweets very rarely go viral — they have almost zero chance of conferring the kind of clout Eugene describes — but people spend much of their time on Twitter replying to the things they read. Being able to reply to high-status people, whether they want you to or not, is a heady status-conferring experience. You can say mean shit to the most famous Hollywood movie star, and there’s nothing he can do about it. Or you can say something nice, and hopefully get a reply or a shout-out. This puts you on a plane of near-equality with people who otherwise tower over the social landscape.
*Near-*equality, but not equality! Chris Pratt may respond to you on Twitter, but at the end of the day he’s still Chris Pratt and you’re not. A 20-follower account might successfully dunk on a 200,000-follower account, but at the end of the day one has 200,000 followers and the other has 20.
This can be maddening. Twitter creates the instantaneous illusion of social equality between influencers and normal people, but then it periodically reminds you that it’s an illusion. When you’re in the replies, giving hell to a famous person who made a bad take or having a conversation with your hero, it seems like a radical leveling of human society. But as soon as the reply-thread is over, the high-status person simply sails back off into the high-status clouds, and you crash back down into the low-status muck.
[…] unspoken social rule seems driven by Twitter’s unique creation of momentary status-equality illusions. Low-follower folks want to preserve the feeling of sudden elevation they get from dunking on a big account; if the big guy returns fire, it’s a brutal reminder of how fake that moment of equality really was.