What Has Twitter Become?
The real insights from the real experts, the real philosophers, the real thinkers, are being drowned out by a cacophony of noise.
When I first signed up to Twitter it blew my mind. It opened doors that until then had been firmly closed. It gave me instant access to people who had previously been inaccessible.
What I loved was Twitter’s democracy. Everyone was equal, everyone was just as available as everyone else. I remember sending tweets to sports legends and getting replies from them. I mean?—?wow.
I quickly realized that people went on Twitter to connect with other people, to interact. They actually wanted to interact. To me this was revolutionary and I became a Twitter convert overnight and an evangelist within a week.
I still love Twitter and I’ve made (and continue to make) some amazing connections. It’s still opening doors to people that that I’d never normally get to know. But things have changed. Over the last year or so it’s started to lose its appeal.
Maybe its the huge upsurge in promoted tweets, or the exponential increase in business gurus who’ve colonized Twitter, or the rise of the trolls who get a kick out of kicking other people.
I can’t quite put my finger in it, but something is wrong.
What started out as a magnificent, open, democratic forum is slowly turning into the domain of sound bites, philosophical quotes and business catchphrases. Everyone can now make themselves look clever.
The result is that the real insights from the real experts, the real philosophers, the real thinkers, are being drowned out by a cacophony of noise.
What started out as a magnificent, open, democratic forum is slowly turning into the domain of sound bites.
Umair Haque recently wrote “Abuse is killing the social web… It has significant chilling effects: given a tipping point, people will simply stop using a network, and walk away…and that appears to be what’s happening with Twitter.”
To him, Twitter is slowly dying because tribalism and abuse have become the norm: “We dreamed that we created a revolution. But we did not heed the great lesson of revolution. Today’s revolutionary is tomorrow’s little tyrant.”
I agree that Twitter has become the domain of trolls, extremists and haters of all types. But that simply reflects our society as a whole. Social media provides an outlet for people’s anger and fears and frustrations and hatreds. It’s precisely because Twitter is so democratic that it’s been colonized by the nasties.
However, that’s not what bothers me most about Twitter. What bothers me more is its slow, inexorable slide into mediocrity and irrelevance. The trolls, in their own way, add life to Twitter. If you don’t like engaging with them, just block them. It’s the gurus and experts and ‘insight providers’ that are killing the platform by flooding it with irrelevant crap.
And yes, I know we can just unfollow or block them as well, but what happens when people you’ve followed for a long time?—?people who, until now, have always had interesting things to say?—?get drawn over to the Dark Side? What do you do when they start quoting insight after insight and quote after quote? Do you unfollow them? Do you mute them? (I’ve muted quite a few people as I don’t want to offend them by unfollowing them).
What bothers me is Twitter’s slow, inexorable slide into mediocrity and irrelevance.
The way things are going, there soon won’t be any decent people left to follow. It will just be an endless merry-go-round of quoters quoting and re-quoting each other until they all explode in a big ball of hot air.
Twitter, in it’s desperation to make money and keep its investors happy is trying everything to attract new users. 140 characters too short for that philosophical quote? Well, let’s just think about increasing the character length. Businesses not making enough money on the platform?
Let’s allow them to post even more crappy adverts. Sorry Twitter?—?those may bring in some cash, but in the long run it’s not going to be a sustainable strategy. New users may be attracted to sign up, but once they see what they’re getting, they’ll stop logging in and will add to the growing millions of inactive accounts.
The solution? I don’t have one I’m afraid. But I’m worried that all the good people - the interesting people - will slowly drift away and Twitter will become an irrelevance. I hope I’m wrong.
If Twitter dies I will mourn its demise. It’s become such an integral part of my life that I don’t know what I’ll do without it. But I’m manage. I’ll move on. I may even get an old couch and start reading more books. Perhaps that’s not such a bad outcome.
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