140 Characters to Follow on Twitter
Twitter demands that you restrict your brilliance, pathos, wit, bon mots, kvetching, and self-promotion to 140 characters at a time. What some see as a limit, others see as a challenge. It’s the latter that we’re celebrating here.
Over half a billion people use Twitter but very few excel at it. Some stand out with a flair for words or a connection to the zeitgeist; others merely by the sheer wattage they project from the constellation of popular culture. (We’re looking at you, Justin Bieber.) Whatever it is, they’re worth following, whether it’s to inhale information as fast as the feed flies by, be entertained en route, or get a slice of life in the spotlight.
PCMag has put together a list of 140 favorites across a few categories for you to follow. Note that these are real people, not fictional characters, animals, or organizations, although those are plentiful on Twitter, too. Of course, there are many more, and we welcome your suggestions in the comments section.
From cubicle slave to podcaster to comedy writer, Alison has done it all with Twitter and Tumblr to chronicle her exploits.
NPR commentator, comedian, off-Broadway star, and now movie actor (in his own film, Sleepwalk With Me), Birbiglia’s secret, public journal of his life has been entertaining people for years.
Michael Ian Black
Alum of series like Ed, Stella, The State, and even Celebrity Poker Showdown, Black’s a writer/comedian who may be more perfectly suited to 140 characters than any man alive.
He’s stepped out of the The Office, but Steve Carrell is working Twitter.
Direct from the set of The Colbert Report, Stephen hits fans with updates and jokes about what he’ll be bringing to the nation every night. (OK, four nights a week, with several weeks off per year.)
Twitter made comedian Rob Delaney famous, Rob Delaney made Twitter funny.
Jimmy Fallon shares more than his late nights with over 7 million fans on Twitter. He regularly posts his latest Instagram shots and road tests material.
Even if you can’t stay up “late late” to watch his show, Craig Ferguson is well worth your waking hours on Twitter.
Justin Halpern has parlayed quotes from his foul-mouthed father and his own screwy childhood into a career as a writer. The tweets quoting his dad are fewer now that he doesn’t live at home, but they’re worth waiting for.
Some might single out Brian Heater as a blogger for Engadget or Boing Boing, but we’re here to celebrate his tweets. Nonsequiturs, travelogues, social commentary… he takes none of them seriously and we’re thankful for that.
The world’s resident expert in all things, from food to hobos to the apocalypse(s), is John Hodgman. Read him and learn.
Twitter has a few living legends as members, and Steve Martin—actor, writer, banjoista, and yes, THE JERK—is definitely one of them.
Conan, what is best in life? The talk-show host knows that one funny tweet a day is just about perfect to keep fans happy.
Patton Oswalt is a geek’s geek, the class-clown who never stopped being funny—even to the bullies!—and got well-deserved fame along the way.
Richter might seem like the perennial second-banana-sidekick because he is. But that doesn’t mean he’s not plenty funny, which his tweets prove daily.
Not Safe for Work could be the slogan of Sarah Silverman and her tweets. Well, at least the ones that aren’t just sweet.
We’ll admit, we have no idea if “Karl Welzein” is a real person, but as the persona behind the account called DadBoner, he has created one of Twitter’s funniest accounts of a man obsessed with processed foods.
Barbara Walters calls him one of the most fascinating people of the last year but the man behind Family Guy and Ted, and the next host of the Academy Awards would surely be more proud that he’s one of Twitter’s funniest.
With a plaid background page and thick glasses in his profile picture, this LA hipster tweets truths that might make you feel sorry for him.
The creator of Spider-Man has some amazing adventures of his own that he tweets about.
Though he possesses the very grand title of creative ambassador at large of Barneys, Simon Doonan nevertheless finds time to pen tomes, write the Fashion Apocalypse column for Slate, and sprinkle humor across Twitter (while he also promotes husband Jonathan Adler’s wares).
You don’t have to go on Project Runway to get Tim Gunn’s wisdom; he doles it out in his books and his daily tweets.
This supermodel and star of new TV show The Face is super social—Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook—she shows at them all. The fastest way to follow in her (heeled) footsteps is on Twitter.
Street style’s never looked so good as when it’s captured by photographer Scott Schuman’s lens.
Andre Leon Talley
The Vogue editor-at-large might not be as well-known (or as vilified) as its editor-in-chief but he’s many times more engaging and entertaining.
You’d be wise to follow the fashion advice Garcia dishes on Twitter, given her positions as creative director of Marie Claire and Project Runway judge.
The New York Times columnist believes food matters. While the author of How to Cook Everything still serves up a recipe or two on Twitter, he devotes many of his tweets to the effect food has on personal and environmental health.
The Barefoot Contessa herself is ready to dispense advice and information to a few thousand Twitter followers as they head to the kitchen.
We love Anthony Bourdain, but let’s face it, he’s not the same loudmouthed, drug-addled chef we first met in Kitchen Confidential anymore. Who is? The owner of New York eatery Baohaus and star of Vice.tv show Fresh Off the Boat, Eddie Huang.
New York restaurateurs would love to know what New York magazine food critic Adam Platt looks like, but Twitter just wants to know what everything he eats tastes like.
Michael Pollan is not only the poster child for a thoughtful approach to consumption, he’s also an active tweeter.
When he’s not fired up about Guy Fieri, New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells can still write up a mean tweet.
Bonnie Azab Powell
Blending ethical food consumption ideals with epicureanism, this ethicurean/blogger/meat CSA manager calls herself a “farmie, not foodie.”
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
You’d think the title of neurosurgeon would be enough, but Dr. Sanjay Gupta has taken on journalist, too. The CNN chief medical correspondent tweets from both points of view.
Dr. Mehmet Oz
And you get a heart attack! And you get a heart attack! And you get one! Cardiac surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz first came to national attention thanks to Oprah but he’s operating on his own now.
Deciphering all things health is the job of Alexandra Sifferlin, writer and producer for Time Healthland.
Some authors need to kick themselves to get started writing; Jack Cheng Kickstartered his These Days, a novel about what happens when a guy who designs fake computer interfaces for furniture showroom prop computers meets a tech-averse girl.
As one of the editors of Boing Boing (one of the best blogs on earth) and a science fiction writer, Cory’s the guy to follow to keep your eye on topics like censorship and futurism.
Neil’s almost 2 million followers are well-earned not only because he’s a master fantasy writer, but because he’s masterful at building an online community around him.
Young adult novelist John Green is also incredibly regarded for co-creating (with brother Hank) the online community called “Nerdfighters” (they don’t actually fight nerds, they are nerds), centered around their videos dialog back and forth on the YouTube channel Vlogbrothers.
Some might pigeonhole Joe Hill as lucky because he’s the son of Stephen King, but his writing (including the amazing comic book Locke & Key) stands on its own, and will likely be a classic.
Sci-fi writer Jay Lake is prolific—seriously, the guy types more per hour than most people can do all day—and is battling cancer day-to-day. His blog and tweets give you a stark account of how his treatment is going.
Hilarious, irreverent, and weird, Jenny Lawson has won tons of awards for her humor writing, including her best-selling memoir. She’s also pretty honest about her afflictions like anxiety disorder, yet still keeps it funny.
Scalzi (as he’s called by friends and fans) is the president of the Science Fiction Writer’s Association for good reason: he spins many a great yarn (Old Man’s War, Redshirts) and tweets many a great tweet.
Writer, Russian, and noted dachshund enthusiast, Gary Shteyngart is unfailingly funny whether he’s writing characters or keeping to 140 of them.
Cheryl Strayed tells it to you straight, whether it’s through Twitter, her “Dear Sugar” work for The Rumpus, or in her books like Wild.
Colson Whitehead, author of last year’s genre-bending Zone One doesn’t let things like receiving a MacArthur genius grant or being a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize get in the way of his practicing the fine art of self-deprecation on Twitter.
More than just teenage girls must make up Justin Bieber’s 31-million following on Twitter, so check in to read what he has to say to the masses.
Jonathan Coulton, a former programmer, is a legend among the geek set, as he writes tunes with catchy lyrics that the truly Internet savvy can enjoy.
Do you realize what you’re missing out on by not following The Flaming Lips frontman?
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta is the most followed person on Twitter, even beating out the President. Her message of empowerment, epitomized by her Born This Way Foundation, shines through as she tweets like she lives, thoroughly the independent individual.
Judging from his tweets, this guy can add “comedian” to his Twitter bio that currently reads, “Professional Scribbler, Warbler, and Ivory Tickler.”
“I’m not her and never will be” Solange Knowles has sung about big sister Beyoncé. But once you’ve heard her music, you’ll be crazy in love.
He rarely takes a Vampire Weekend off from tweeting, which means there’s plenty of wisdom to be had: “Love should be a 2-way street like Broadway from Inwood to Columbus Circle but sometimes it’s a 1-way street like Broadway south of 59th St.”
The Odd Future member and solo artist says much on his blog and in his songs but keeps to koans on Twitter.
Yoko Ono hasn’t lost her 60s idealism as her dreamy feed shows.
Former Dresden Doll, wife of Neil Gaiman, and crowdfunder, Amanda Palmer has a following everywhere she goes.
Questlove stays close to his Roots but he’s a bona fide hit on his own.
With more than 22 million followers, this singer-songwriter sensation must be doing something right. (Let us know if you figure out what that something is.)
This grown-up boy band member is a fan of the retweet, but when he does speak for himself, be sure to read it in your best high-pitched Timberlake voice.
It’s hard to keep Kanye quiet, but he self-silenced on Twitter and then came back in all-caps in October. “We done heard all that loud-ass talking, we’re used to it.” For the latest in Kanye news, follow the hashtag #Kimye.
Twitter is the best way to keep track of the far-flung adventures of CNN’s chief international correspondent.
While he has a remarkable story of his own that he told in his book Night of the Gun, as a New York Times columnist, David Carr has plenty of other riveting ones he reports on.
When the other side of a tale needs telling, it’s well-done by Ta-Nehisi Coates, senior editor at The Atlantic.
CNN’s super-anchor and (soon-to-be-former) syndicated talk-show host uses Twitter to pimp his shows and also interact with his audience, sometimes getting right into it with those who push his buttons.
The Reuters columnist and social media editor is arguably the center of the news universe on Twitter.
Arianna has been many things, from political candidate to columnist to conservative commentator turned liberal. All of that lead to her founding the left-leaning Huffington Post, a site you’ll see linked to a lot in her tweets.
Not a news story makes it past tireless tweeter Matthew Keys, the deputy social media editor at Reuters.
Larry King’s replacement came to CNN after years as a British journalist and TV host. Now he’s a controversy magnet (there’s actually a petition for his deportation!) who’s well worth following, no matter what your leaning.
Blogger Felix Salmon is all about finance, a topic he blogs about for Reuters, but his tweets aren’t limited to only the weirdness of money. Just mostly.
Mayor of New York and tenth richest person in the United States, this former student of electrical engineering is like the natives of his adopted city: not afraid to speak his mind.
Ana Marie Cox
The founder of Wonkette, Washington correspondent for GQ, and lead blogger on U.S. politics for the Guardian has all sorts of insider knowledge she’s willing to share.
The creator of the Drudge Report news aggregator, Drudge links and pontificates when the mood strikes him.
Whether she’s mixing it up with guests or practicing her mixology with a mean martini, the MSNBC host manages to be one of the smartest political commentators there is.
Correspondent for The Nation and frequent MSNBC contributor, the name of the game for Ari Melber is politics. But he also talks tech (don’t judge him for the Hotmail address he flaunts in his Twitter bio) and Jay-Z (if you don’t like his lyrics you can press fast-forward).
Twenty-five million people on Twitter tune in to see what the leader of the free world (or at least his staff) has to say (or show, as there are many great images shared by the White House).
Most tweets are written by the First Lady’s staff, but those that are purely Michelle Obama’s are signed “-mo.”
One of many conservatives who fought for the presidency and lost, Santorum continues to spread his message via the Twitterverse.
Former Politico editor Ben Smith helmed BuzzFeed last year and turned it into a serious source of journalism (while keeping the adorable animal GIFs).
The former chairman of the Republican National Committee was never shy but he’s got even more to say now that he doesn’t have a party position.
Once the communications director of the Clinton White House, George has moved on to become one of the big names at ABC News, including co-anchoring and hosting shows like Good Morning America and ABC World News.
The one Twitter account with a hotline to the Almighty. The Pope hasn’t tweeted much sincehe joined305602, but his 1.3 million followers are probably hanging on every character.
The Dalai Lama follows no one (except, presumably, Buddha) but has nearly 6 million reading his messages of peace and compassion.
Science and Tech
If you’re a TED Talks fan, then you’ll want to hear from the man who heads it all.
The extra pieces that don’t make it into Nick Bilton’s Bits Blog at the New York Times find their way to Twitter
Brian X. Chen
If it’s mobile, then Brian X. Chen is on it over at the New York Times.
This Foursquare co-founder crowdsources tech questions and shares tips for foodies in New York and San Francisco (where two of the company’s offices are located).
Neil deGrasse Tyson
Arguably the best known astrophysicist ever, Tyson’s fame—and utter coolness—is helping bring science smarts to a new generation.
The way you get a Twitter handle as simple as @Jack is to be the co-founder of Twitter. Dorsey is also the CEO of mobile payment company Square.
As the founder and head editor at Ars Technica, a perennial favorite blog here at PCMag, we know that Ken knows his stuff cold.
He’s been a television host, actor, DJ, and much more but his tweets are aimed squarely at fans of his Nerdist podcast and Wired writings.
The former NYTimes social media editor moved over to the Wall Street Journal Digital Network this year. She’s been called a “digital alchemist” for how she engages and audience and it shows in her tweets.
Bringing the gift of easy-to-comprehend science news to the masses is what blogger Maggie Koerth-Baker specializes in at Boing Boing, and she does it in other places, too.
Mad and magical takes on tech from the editor of The Atlantic‘s technology channel.
Google’s former golden girl hit the ground running as the CEO of Yahoo this year and so far, so good. That she managed that and has introduced great new Yahoo features all while having a baby cannot be ignored.
Harry turned a successful career at PC World into an even more successful venture as the blogger behind Technologizer, which got him in the door to become the face of all things technological at Time magazine.
A staff writer for ReadWrite, Jon Mitchell finds the funny side of being a tech reporter by writing fake tech headlines that (unfortunately) have the ring of truth.
This founder of SpaceX and co-founder of Tesla Motors and PayPal converses with the Twitterverse about environmental issues, both Earthly and Martian.
You can’t look forward until you look back. Matt Novack, who writes for Smithsonian and BBC Future, does both.
You probably know him as the bow-tied host of the 90s show Bill Nye the Science Guy, but he’s first and foremost a scientist.
Film is his medium to tell stories of science and technology, but John Pavlus also has a way with writing about them, too.
Sometimes controversial, frequently entertaining, Pogue is a book author, TV host, and most importantly the personal tech columnist at the New York Times. He was also an early proponent of crowd-sourcing info via Twitter.
The man (or one of them) who started it all, Biz Stone is co-founder of Twitter.
AllThingsD is pretty much all things Kara. Just don’t stand between her and any Yahoo news.
She’s the sister of that Zuckerberg, but Randi is making a name for herself away from the family biz as a producer of shows like Start-Ups: Silicon Valley.
The business side of tech is where Wired writer Marcus Wohlsen’s interests lie.
Jenna used to work for Wired; now she is a technology reporter at the New York Times, digging into the background of start-ups and more, covering how consumers use tech daily.
This former PCMag editor-in-chief now covers the consumer side of tech with a steady stream of tweets.
You can find this Fox Sports broadcaster on the sidelines doing post-game interviews or on Twitter sharing the latest news.
This ridiculous former major league juicer turned wannabe martial arts fighter/hitting coach takes to Twitter to trash talk all his haters and weigh in on topical issues.
New runners and seasoned racers alike will learn helpful tips this marathoner and Runner’s World contributor.
A year ago we might have suggested following swimmer @MichaelPhelps, but after watching his rival do the backstroke at the London Olympics, we’re loyal citizens of Lochte Nation.
Remember what it was like to be 17 and an Olympic gold-medal gymnast? Neither do we, but McKayla’s Twitter account will help you imagine. And if that doesn’t impress you, check out this Tumblr devoted to meme-ing her signature expression.
We don’t always know what this former world number one tennis player is tweeting (lo siento, no hablamos Espanol!), but when you look and play like he does, who cares?
When he’s not performing “random acts of Shaqness,” as per his Twitter bio, this retired power center turned NBA analyst tweets about basketball and whatever else is on his mind.
Boston sports fans can get their baseball commentary on Twitter from this self-proclaimed “President of Red Sox Nation,” though they’ll miss hearing the Rem Dawg’s Bahston accent.
As editor-in-chief, Bill Simmons presides over all of Grantland.
TV and Movies
Whether he’s Geordi to you or the host of Reading Rainbow, there are plenty of reasons to love LeVar Burton.
Actor Jeff Daniels doesn’t restrict his political rants to The Newsroom.
This actress/writer/director of HBO’s Girls basically gets paid to mine her life for mortifying yet all-too-relatable moments, but she also shares them for free on Twitter.
A star of the Web (Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog), the big screen (Serenity, Slither), and the smaller screen (Buffy, Firefly, Castle) and video games (Halo ODST), the former Captain Mal Reynolds continues to charm his fans 140 characters at a time.
Josh has written movies (War of the Worlds) and been a TV show runner (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles). He’s also a blogger and is all-around funny and fascinating to read.
Stephen Fry is (nearly) all things to all people—actor, author, screenwriter, playwright, poet, journalist, film director, and comedian—and funny as them all.
The former producer of LOST has moved on to movie producing (Star Trek) and writing (Prometheus), while providing tweets galore to his fans.
Remember Winnie Cooper on the Wonder Years? She grew up to be a mathematician and author (and still occasional actress). Her tweets are interesting even if you don’t like math.
Sally Jesse Raphael
She might not have a talk show anymore, but Sally Jesse Raphael still has a lot to say.
If you don’t know Shat, get to know this writer, actor, and the original and best James T. Kirk (not to mention TJ Hooker) via his tweets to fans.
The smooth, silky voice of Mr. Takei—Star Trek personality, gay icon, and all around Internet superstar—translates well to the Twitterverse. This is especially true when he types his catchphrase, “Oh Myyy.”
He reports on TV and media both for the New York Times and for followers on Twitter.
One of the few celebs who is recognized by just a first name, Oprah inspires followers to “live your best life.”
Having produced movies like Anchorman, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and (most recently) This Is 40, Apatow has garned a cult-like following, both in Hollywood and on Twitter.
Bonus: PCMag Staff
Managing Editor – News
Managing Editor – Software, Internet, and Networking
Analyst – Mobile
Analyst – Software, Internet, and Networking
John C. Dvorak
Junior Analyst – Software
Analyst – Printers, Scanners, and Projectors
Senior Analyst – Mobile
Lead Analyst – Networking and Business
Assistant Features Editor
Lead Analyst – Software and Web Applications
Managing Editor – PCMag Digital Edition
Managing Editor – Hardware
Analyst – Networking and Security
Lead Analyst – Security
Joel Santo Domingo
Lead Analyst – Desktops
Lead Analyst – Mobile
Wendy Sheehan Donnell
Managing Editor – Consumer Electronics
Senior Features Writer
By Chandra Steele, PCMag