At last someone has taken a peek into what really goes on inside social networking phenomenon Twitter, and dug up something surprising. Far from being busy and gregarious, a lot of the time it’s remarkably friendless and silent.

After analysing 19 million accounts (a respectable chunk of the site’s total) security company Barracuda found that only 21 percent of that number fell into its very modest definition of being 'active' users. The bar was set very low because to qualify a user only had to have more than 10 followers, to follow back 10 or more others, and to have made more than 10 or more tweets.

Looked at from the other end, half of Twitter users follow five or fewer people, twenty percent follow nobody, 74 percent are followed by fewer than 10 others, and 73 percent have made fewer than 10 tweets.

There can be a number of interpretations of these figures (including the fact that twitter has a problem with bogus accounts), but there is no getting away from the conclusion that a hardcore of Twitter users are doing most of socialising.

There is a continent of people on Twitter who talk to very few people, are followed by even fewer, and who say almost nothing. Twitter’s next innovation should virtual tumbleweed. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum are the celebs and fashionable opinion formers, a tiny elite that are followed by millions, talk incessantly, and feel the need to follow almost nobody.

Intriguingly, this almost perfectly mirrors the processes Malcolm Gladwell discussed in his famous book, The Tipping Point, which looked at how change happens in human affairs as diverse as the sudden sales surge in Hush Puppies, crime rates, and the development of children’s TV programmes.

Most fashions, most tipping points in fact, happen because of tiny elites, are then spread by the hyper-social, and absorbed eventually down the line by the mass of quiet unfriendly types who are happy to follow. Twitter confirms Gladwell’s analysis and suggests that as much as being a tool for sociability, Twitter is a reflection of the fact that society itself can be a pretty sullen place.

Humans are social, it is often said, but not that social. A few are social while the rest rely on them to continue to be so. We have probably evolved to be innately suspicious, to put a lot of emphasis on trust, and yet to be fascinated by the freaks who are not.

I am certainly from the anti-social league because I tend to see the danger of social media, not the opportunity. That said, I did enjoy hearing what cyclist Lance Armstrong had for breakfast - along with 1,302,534 other sceptics.