June 24, 2014

To Bieb or Not to Bieb? The Geographies of Bieber and Miley Fandom

In our continuing effort to use the massive amount of social data available to us in order to uncover unforeseen, unusual and sometimes uninteresting facts about the world around us, we turn today to a question that has long troubled our world (or at least the part of it consisting of fourteen year-old girls): Bieber or Miley? 

While the once (sort of?) innocent teen pop stars have long since grown up, getting any number of ridiculous and ill-advised tattoos, twerking across your television screen and maybe even romancing one another, Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus remain inextricably tied in the imaginations of those of us who mostly don't really know what's going on with the kids these days [1]. But by firing up DOLLY and looking at the global distribution of tweets referencing one or the other of these music icons, we can see that the two couldn't be more different in their geographic reach.

Our comparison is based on a 10% random sample of all global geotagged tweets between July 2012 and March 2014, which yielded a total of 165,406 tweets referencing "Bieber" and 99,146 tweets mentioning "Miley".

The first thing that's evident from this map is that Justin Bieber is truly "All Around the World", garnering more references to his name than Miley Cyrus' in most of the world's countries. And while Bieber's dominance starts in his native Canada and extends south throughout the Americas from there, Miley Cyrus comes in like a "Wrecking Ball" to have a real "Party in the USA", where she has a nearly 10,000 tweet advantage over the Bieber. Unfortunately for Miley, however, the US is really the only place where she is more popular than Bieber. Indeed, she only has any advantage whatsoever in 45 countries around the world, with most of these clustered in Africa and the Caribbean. Then again, maybe she's just getting "The Best of Both Worlds"?

And while Bieber's advantage extends through Europe and much of Asia, his dominance is actually most deeply rooted in Latin America. The country with the biggest difference favoring Bieber tweets is Brazil, with over 22,000 more Bieber tweets than Miley tweets, even in our limited dataset. This is likely due to Bieber's well-documented risqué escapades in the country. In addition to his absolute dominance in Brazil, Bieber has an advantage of over 1,000 tweets in 18 other countries around the world, from Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey and Argentina at the top of the list, to Sweden, Denmark and Paraguay at the bottom.

Forty countries have no geotagged tweets referencing Bieber or Miley, though many of these are small island nations with very little tweeting activity to begin with. We suspect that there is probably a development grant that these places could apply for to help make them Beliebers.

The most interesting thing is that no country with any significant amount of tweeting about these pop stars displays parity between the two. This leads us to posit that there has been a significant Balkanization of the Biebersphere [2], with no reconciliation between the two opposing poles of over-sexualized, tabloid headline-gracing teen pop stars who are now more known for their distasteful appropriations of other cultural traditions than for actually making music anyone wants to hear. Then again, if you want to get dialectical about it, there's really nothing oppositional about them. Hell, they even twerk together! And by making this map, we've now probably set society back at least a good couple weeks in our arduous process of learning to ignore them. Our apologies. Sometimes, "We Can't Stop" ourselves.

OK, seriously, we're done now [3].

[1] Seriously, turn that music down! And get off of our (virtual) lawn!
[2] If you're wondering why we suddenly decided to invent the term 'Biebersphere' to refer to Twitter, look no further than the fact that Justin Bieber remains arguably the largest single topic of conversation on Twitter. It's frankly sort of amazing how many people tweet about him on a regular basis. And yes, this does utterly depress us about the state of humanity.
[3] Although, "Never Say Never".

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