It’s a tale as old as time: a famous rivalry between two reigning culture capitals built on opposite coasts of the continental United States. It’s the East vs. the West—the Atlantic vs. Pacific. The Yankees vs. the Dodgers. Biggie vs. Tupac.
You get the idea. We’re talking about New York and Los Angeles, the largest and second-largest cities in America. For decades, the two meccas of civilization have duked it out for world leadership in sports, music, movies, and real estate. Their public clashes could make you believe they’re two feuding leagues of nations, populated by warring species ready to die on the hill over which is worse—the subway or the freeway.
But how different are they really . . . when you check their tweets? A recent study trawled the Twitter posts of the 12 million Americans who call these cities home, collecting data from the boroughs of New York and the sprawl of Los Angeles County over the month of October 2016. The research, published in the Journal of Computational Social Science, used artificial intelligence to parse social media for differences and similarities, by considering both hashtags and the overall vibe of a post. (According to a report on the findings, AI systems were able to group posts like “On the beach, thinking about my life” with “Surfing, sunbathing and mindfulness” as similar, despite having zero words in common.)
Here’s what they found:
- Both cities talked a lot about work. Unsurprising, given both have reputations as bustling industrial hubs. “Job” was the top hashtag in both places. “Jobs” (plural) and “hiring” were also among the top 10 for both.
- New York is more self-obsessed than Los Angeles. Despite the jokes about Hollywood vanity, New York was more likely to talk about itself. “NewYork” was the second most popular hashtag there, whereas “LosAngeles” took the fourth spot on its list.
- But Los Angeles made more local shout-outs. “Dodgers” and ocean-side towns “LongBeach” and “Torrance” showed up in L.A.’s top 20, but New York’s top 20 didn’t feature any teams or neighborhoods.
- Los Angeles talked more about healthcare, and New York talked more about diabetes. While L.A. had a higher volume of tweets discussing healthcare, New York had several iterations of diabetes in its top keywords.
- Politics was all the rage. Understandable, as the data was culled from the frenetic month before the 2016 presidential election. However, while mentions of Trump were largely consistent in volume between the two cities, mentions of Clinton swung more wildly.
- Los Angeles is chattier. People there posted 30% to 60% more tweets than in New York, during business hours.
- In both New York and Los Angeles, tweeting is a luxury. In both cities, those with higher incomes tweeted more often.