Since its inception in 2006, Twitter has proved to be one of the most popular social media platforms to ever exist, and arguably the single most powerful. It’s suited to casual and business use alike, and has become an invaluable tool for those in every professional field for promotion and networking purposes. Current events, social commentary and breaking news all hit Twitter first, and it boasts the most up-to-the-moment reflection of the world around us.
Its one hundred and forty character limit was imposed in keeping with its original SMS mobile-based platform, but remains to this day a form of “creative constraint”. The limit on how much you can include in a tweet has led to casual competition about who can write the most memorable tweet, often humorous in nature. The ultimate measure of the success of a tweet is, in the end, the number of retweets it achieves.
Twitter has been going from strength to strength and as we head towards the final weeks of Twitter’s eighth year, we’ve listed the twenty most retweeted tweets of all as of the end of 2014. The list mainly comprises celebrity tweets, unsurprisingly, but some are entirely inexplicable.
Are these twenty tweets a fair representation of social media users over the last eight years?
20. Kim Kardashian West
A 15 year old girl who is terminal w/ cancer has made a bucket list. 1 of her wishes is to trend on Twitter. Give a RT #alicebucketlist
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) November 27, 2011
In November of 2011, Kim Kardashian tweeted one of the most popular tweets in the world, imploring the people of Twitter to make a dying teenager’s dream come true and get her trending on Twitter. The girl in question, Alice Pyne, used Twitter as a platform for listing all that she wanted to do before she died. Her high-profile online presence ensured that she got the help of numerous celebrities, including Johnny Depp, Katy Perry and Jimmy Fallon, as well as Kim Kardashian.
19. Curiosity Rover
I’m safely on the surface of Mars. GALE CRATER I AM IN YOU!!! #MSL — Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) August 6, 2012
In 2012, the Curiosity Rover thrilled with its incongruously casual tweet upon its landing on Mars. The Rover touched down on August 5th two years ago, and has proved hugely useful to scientists in their understanding of the planet, while still staying in and around the Gale Crater in which it landed. Curiosity’s mission, which cost $2.5 billion, aimed to discover whether Mars could support microbial life. Its Twitter account has provided an invaluable link between space and the general public, and grants access to pictures as well as written updates.
18. T.J. Lang
In 2012, footballer T.J. Lang caused a viral storm with his caustic tweet directed at the National Football League. The angry outburst followed a game in which Lang’s team, the Green Bay Packers, lost to the Seattle Seahawks in a last-second ending, prompting an outpouring of vitriol directed at the NFL. The referees’ decisions to grant scores to the Seahawks was widely questioned, only fuelled by the fact that both referees were replacements. Evidently a lot of fans agreed with Lang, hence the popularity of his tweet.
17. Floyd Mayweather
Manny Pacquiao I’m calling you out let’s fight May 5th and give the world what they want to see.
— Floyd Mayweather (@FloydMayweather) January 10, 2012
In 2012, a shocking and hugely popular tweet from boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr directed to Manny Pacquiao asked for a fight, suggesting they “give the world what they want to see.” Before this, Mayweather’s career had seemed to be on hold after he was convicted and sentenced to jail time due to a domestic dispute. Shockingly, a judge ruled that his sentence could be deferred until after the match. The two have had a tumultuous working relationship, to say the least, and show no signs of actually coming to an agreement on the fight.
16. Justin Bieber
Check out my single “ONE TIME” on my myspace and spread the word for me. Thanks www.myspace.com/justinbieber — Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) May 12, 2009
Possibly as a result of its out-of-character humility, a tweet by Justin Bieber from May 2009 has hit the big time in terms of retweets. The tweet, which was penned before Bieber became the uber-famous and notorious figure he is today, humbly promoted his new single “One Time” and asked potential fans to “spread the word” about him.
The tweet also provided a link to Bieber’s Myspace profile, placing it unequivocally in the noughties era. Evidently this hesitant approach paid off in the long-term, given the success Bieber enjoyed on the music scene in the following years.
RT for a good cause. Each retweet sends 50¢ to help kids in foster care. #TreatItFwd
— Wendy’s (@Wendys) June 15, 2011
In 2011, restaurant chain Wendy’s caused a Twitter storm when it posted a tweet asking followers to retweet in order to donate 50c to help children in the foster system. In conjunction with the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption grant, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids works on helping children the traditional foster system has overlooked or doesn’t suit, with the aim of finding them homes. These children are often older, have moved around a lot or have been in foster care for years, and Wendy’s had exceeded an impressive 4,000 finalized adoptions as of January 2014.
14. 50 Cent
I can’t belive my grand mothers making me take Out the garbage I’m rich fuck this I’m going home I don’t need this shit — 50cent (@50cent) August 26, 2010
Most people are familiar with the strangely amusing and just all-round weird tweet by rapper 50 Cent in 2010. The tweet, which complains about 50 Cent having to take out the garbage while at his grandmother’s house despite his rap star status, struck a chord with his followers and led to a staggering number of retweets. In 2014, the sad news broke that the grandmother in question, Beulah Jackson, had died. Jackson had raised the rapper since his mother died when he was eight.
13. Jack Kopo
There’s no way this just happened pic.twitter.com/BMMjlQkjfG
— Jack Kopko™ (@Red_Solo_KOP) December 10, 2013
In December of 2013, non-celebrity Jack Kopo tweeted about his interactions with Ariana Grande, singer and actress. Although just how true the tweet is has long been disputed, Kopo amassed a huge number of retweets with the tweet showing a screencap that indicated that Grande followed him on Twitter, along with a supposed message saying that she’d go to prom with him if he got one million retweets. Although Kopo didn’t get anywhere near that, he still got his fifteen minutes of relative fame.
12. (Fake) Will Smith
R.I.P. Uncle Phil. All you real Fresh Prince of Bel-Air fans out there… DON’T STOP #RETWEETING THIS. pic.twitter.com/xeyS1KPzqW — Brad Willis (@BradWiIIis) January 1, 2014
A Twitter user now going by the name of Brad Willis unfortunately got an enormous amount of retweets in January of this year when he tweeted about the death of Fresh Prince of Bel Air actor James Avery under the name “FreshPrinceWill”. The tasteless tweet purported to be fellow actor Will Smith, and asked for retweets in order to secure a special Fresh Prince episode to honour Uncle Phil, Avery’s character on the show. The tweet included a screen shot of what seemed to be a written exchange with NBC that said the episode would go ahead if the tweet got over three hundred thousand retweets. Although the tweet did in fact exceed this, it quickly angered Fresh Prince fans that someone was trying to capitalise on the death of a high-profile actor.
11. Justin Bieber
RIP Avalanna. i love you
— Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) September 26, 2012
Justin Bieber’s 2012 tweet mourning the death of a six year old girl from cancer went viral. The girl, Avalanna Routh, had had brain cancer since she was a baby, and met her idol Justin Bieber a mere seven months before her death. When Bieber heard about Avalanna’s wish to meet him he flew from Boston to New York to spend Valentine’s day with the Routh family. Avalanna and Bieber allegedly spent the day playing board games, eating cupcakes and exchanging autographs, with Bieber referring to her as ‘Mrs. Bieber’ thereafter given the plans they made to get married.
10. Harry Styles
Just sitting around being 20. — Harry Styles. (@Harry_Styles) February 1, 2014
Inexplicably, a tweet from a member of boy band One Direction hit the big time on Twitter with a tweet celebrating his twentieth birthday. The comprising only a few words, evidently made a lasting impression on the group’s hordes of primarily young and female fans, who retweeted the birthday acknowledgement so many times that it eventually recirculated over three hundred and sixty thousand times. This is presumably because they were just so delighted that he had made it to another year, and could continue to delight them both with his music and with his status as the ‘official’ and original heartthrob of One Direction.
9. Niall Horan
Yesss ! I’m 20 ! Wohooo ! No more teens!
— Niall Horan (@NiallOfficial) September 12, 2013
Once again, a simple tweet marking the twentieth birthday of a boy band star has amassed a ridiculous number of retweets since 2013. One Direction member Niall Horan obtained in excess of three hundred and sixty thousand retweets with his tweet letting the world know that he was no longer a teenager. It can only be presumed that One Direction fans are frequently gravely worried for the band’s safety, given their disproportionate reactions to each member’s birthday.
8. Paul Walker
It’s with a heavy heart that we must confirm Paul Walker passed away today in a tragic car accident…MORE: http://t.co/9hDuJMH99M – #TeamPW — Paul Walker (@RealPaulWalker) December 1, 2013
With almost three hundred and eighty thousand retweets, the sad tweet proclaiming the death of star of Fast and The Furious Paul Walker went viral on Twitter in November 2013 and remains one of the most retweeted to date. Walker died in a car accident at a charity event for his organization Reach Out Worldwide at the age of forty. The tweet relaying the tragedy came from Walker’s own Twitter account, making it all the more poignant for his fans and mourners.
7. Lea Michele
Thank you all for helping me through this time with your enormous love & support. Cory will forever be in my heart. pic.twitter.com/XVlZnh9vOc
— Lea Michele (@msleamichele) July 29, 2013
Glee star Lea Michele broke her silence following the death of boyfriend and fellow Glee star Cory Monteith last year with a tweet that has amassed three hundred and eighty thousand retweets. The pair had starred in the well-known musical drama since 2009 and were boyfriend and girlfriend both on- and off-screen. Monteith had struggled with substance abuse and had entered rehab shortly before he was found dead in a hotel in Vancouver in 2013, aged thirty-one.
6. Zayn Malik
Harry wake up !! :D pic.twitter.com/cuhD5bC5 — zaynmalik1D (@zaynmalik) January 10, 2013
With yet another weirdly famous tweet from a member of One Direction, band member Zayn Malik has had over four hundred thousand retweets on an image of fellow band mate Harry Styles sleeping. It is a mark of the unerring dedication of their fans that such a simple and uneventful tweet, comprising three words, two exclamation marks, one emoticon and a grainy candid photograph can attract such an enormous level of attention.
5. Justin Bieber
YOU ARE ALL WORTHY NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE SAYS >> BE STRONG GOD IS WITH US ALL> MY BELIEBERS CHANGED MY LIFE> I WILL FOREVER BE GRATEFUL
— Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) January 24, 2014
With an impressive third appearance on this list it’s Justin Bieber once again, with an oddly inspirational and very popular tweet. With almost five hundred thousand retweets, Bieber’s message reaffirms its readers self-worth, glorifies God, then seems to equate God with Bieber’s fans — ‘Beliebers’ — before finishing on a note of perpetual gratitude. What more could you want in a tweet?
4. Niall Horan
applied for xfactor,hope it all wrks out — Niall Horan (@NiallOfficial) January 17, 2010
Once again, another very popular One Direction-made tweet is one in which the then-unknown Irish singer Niall Horan tweeted about his auditioning for the X-Factor back in 2010. This tweet presumably became famous in retrospect once the British group’s fame had reached inordinate heights, and now has over five hundred thousand retweets. Horan’s hope that “it all wrks out” has happily come more true than he probably ever imagined.
3. Louis Tomlinson
Always in my heart @Harry_Styles . Yours sincerely, Louis
— Louis Tomlinson (@Louis_Tomlinson) October 2, 2011
The last One Direction tweet of this article (promise) was one which has attracted a huge amount of attention since it came out in 2011. Fans of the boy band have a habit of ‘shipping’ various band members with one another — that is, imagining flirtations and/or relationships within the group. As such, band member Louis Tomlinson’s loving tweet directed at fellow member Harry Styles probably gained such popularity since it stoked the deepest darkest wishes of their devoted fans.
2. Barack Obama
Four more years. pic.twitter.com/bAJE6Vom — Barack Obama (@BarackObama) November 7, 2012
Barack Obama‘s triumphant tweet after his re-election in 2012 has garnered an incredible amount of retweets in the last two years, capping at over seven hundred and sixty thousand as of this year. The tweet followed what was reportedly “the costliest — and arguably the nastiest — campaign in history”, in which Obama ran against Mitt Romney.
The outcome proved a definite move on the part of America as a whole to a new kind of government, encompassed in the reaction to Obama’s tweet, which features him embracing his wife Michelle.
1. Ellen DeGeneres
If only Bradley’s arm was longer. Best photo ever. #oscars pic.twitter.com/C9U5NOtGap
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) March 3, 2014
With a totally insurmountable retweet count, Ellen DeGeneres‘s 2014 Oscars selfie is the most-retweeted tweet of all time. Featuring Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep and Brad Pitt, amongst others, the selfie has been retweeted over three million times.
Although the tweet was posted from DeGeneres’s account it was in fact Bradley Cooper that took the photo, given that he has longer arms, as vaguely referenced in the caption to the photograph. The photo has repeatedly been hailed as the most epic selfie in the world, and earlier this year was rumoured to be worth around a billion dollars.