On her way into work at Twitter's London offices this past May, Melina Sharma was struck by a flashback. It was prom season, and Sharma was reminded of when she was a senior in high school ordering her dress online. As anyone who orders clothes online regularly knows: what comes in the mail doesn't always look like what you see online. Unfortunately, this was the case for Sharma — the dress that arrived was a good 10 sizes too large.
When Sharma got into the office, she started searching Twitter to see if senior girls were experiencing the same dilemma she had years earlier. Sure enough, there was a slew of painfully hilarious tweets expressing the same sentiment: "Don't order your prom dress online."
As a curator of Twitter's Moments section, it's Sharma's fun, but challenging, job to find the viral moments taking place across the platform in real time. She gathered six of those prom tweets into a Moment she titled "Ordering your prom dress online can be a gamble" — the post went on to become one of the most shared Moments yet.
When Twitter launched Moments in 2015, it described them as "curated stories showcasing the very best of what’s happening on Twitter." There are category specific Moments broken up into Sports, News, Entertainment, and Fun, as well as the more general compilation found in "Today's Moments." Content covered ranges from national news ("Thousands of Atlantic salmon are loose in the Pacific") to more local, user-specific news. For example, there was a Moment last October when teens taking the PSATs started tweeting about Don Juan Riberto, a character from a passage included in the test.
Beyond a brief line about the news from a member of Twitter's curatorial team, each Moment is made up of user tweets. Getting a Moment has become a badge of pride — a social status symbol of sorts — for some younger users, who make up the majority of the section's viewership: According to Twitter, 60% of the people using Moments are under 25, while 84% are under 35. (Twitter declined to share how many total daily users visit Moments.) According to digital marketing agency Omnicore, 37% of Twitter's overall users are between the ages of 18 and 29.
Sharma says the Moments that perform the best are the ones that are most relatable to someone's everyday life. She, or another team member, often comes across these on their own feed by chance or is inspired by their personal experience, as was the case with the prom dress scenario. These tend to come from Twitter's younger users. (However, although these users are present on Twitter, they still frequent and place more stock in other platforms: A study conducted by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs, found that 76% of teens are on Instagram and 75% are on Snapchat, compared to 47% who are on Twitter.)
The Moments team aims to highlight these perspectives, which may "come from an audience that are inexperienced when it comes to life in general," but has opinions that are unique and honest, Sharma says.
"When you think about tweets that have high engagement, a lot of times you think that would be celebrities, politicians, and people with an enormous amount of followers," Sharma told Refinery29. "But honestly the people who make the most amount of impact [and noise] on Twitter — the ones behind massive tweets that have gone viral — don’t have a very large following, maybe just a few hundred followers.
While Twitter is no stranger to controversy — issues of hate speech have been prominent in recent years — Moments, being the curated selections they are, seem to be one bright spot. Sometimes, you just need a few funny teenage memes to distract you from everything else going on, and remind you how truly wonderful it was to get a snow day in high school.
This piece was updated with information about teen participation percentages on Twitter on August 24, 2017.