Dear Twitter: If it isn’t broken don’t fix it

Phil Witmer

On Thursday, Twitter rolled out its long-threatened “best tweets” timeline. The new algorithm will sort tweets based on site-tailored user preferences, similar to how Google scans your browsing habits to spit intrusive ads into your feed.

While updates to online platforms are usually welcome, maybe some such as this are not when users pass around methods for getting rid of it covertly, like they’re breaking out of prison. And to Twitter’s owners, the site is a prison.

It is home to a stagnant user base of professionals and brand entrepreneurs that’s less appealing to the company than the growing, engaged teenage users of Snapchat and Instagram.

The latter is the demographic that any modern company strives for, but it’s not what Twitter is built for.

Twitter’s role, or at least the one it grew into over the years, is to serve as a feed of concrete, chronological data to professionals who need it. It’s an indispensable networking tool, since aspiring or current professionals can follow the “@ names” in a conversation and end up following a manager, an editor, an influential blogger, etc.

Following someone important keeps one in touch with opportunities like job openings and public events.

For journalists, Twitter also serves as a barometer of reaction to a news event. If most of your feed reacts negatively, what to say of the minority who react the opposite way? Compiling and analyzing data like this in real time can’t happen with other social media platforms like Facebook—and Twitter is not Facebook.

A lot of similar things happen: likes are tossed around, follows are traded, people state opinions and then get yelled at for doing so, all the usual methods of online interaction in the 2010s. Twitter deviates from the Facebook method through its minimalism.

Facebook is a Swiss Army knife through its “Pages” function, separating people from bands, companies, and parties. All of these exist at the same level on Twitter, all confined to the same 140 characters in a box that whizzes by just as you take in (or don’t) what it’s conveying.

Ironically, presenting limitations like this creates more of a competition to be the loudest voice. Followers aren’t just your friends, they’re often random people who find you relevant and informative to their interests.

That or you just wrote some funny tweets. This sense of needing to be on point, of adhering to a particular brand does not work with the mindset of someone who was looking for somewhere to think aloud or create a public diary a la MySpace (remember MySpace?).

Twitter is a declarative platform, but only if those thoughts can benefit you or someone else.

So if you have no grand aspirations, Twitter is pointless. Why not take pictures of yourself, your friends, your pets, the party you’re at and receive plaudits from people you actually might know?

Twitter is the furthest thing from casual. It is business.

This naturally puts it closer to a more fun LinkedIn than a serious Snapchat. It’s a niche service and one that is essential to a huge amount of people. It streamlines the networking process enough to create connections from home. What else can do that? However, Twitter needs to be chronological in order for it to function. Otherwise it’s just broken..

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