Sign up FAST! Login

A Eulogy for Twitter

Stashed in: Twitter!, Flipboard, Awesome, Active Users, Twitter

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

Is Twitter dying on the, um, vine? Is there anything they can do to stop it? I think I'm a maybe atypical user because I post actual prose Tweets old-school style, but I read it mostly to get notifications from journos and bloggers.

Anecdotally, I too am using Twitter less than I used to.

I attribute it to the fact that nothing important ever gets shared exclusively on Twitter. If it's important, I will see it or a link to it elsewhere. 

As a result, Twitter is a sea of unimportant stuff.

As for your tweets? They're easier to read on Facebook, which reblogs everything you tweet.

Twitter users are less active than we once were:

The Atlantic article by Adrienne Lafrance and Robinson Meyer is definitely worth reading, too:

I'm including my favorite parts of their article below...

Adrienne and Robinson ask the right question:

Twitter used to be a sort of surrogate newsroom/barroom where you could organize around ideas with people whose opinions you wanted to assess. Maybe you wouldn't agree with everybody, but that was part of the fun. But at some point Twitter narratives started to look the same. The crowd became predictable, and not in a good way. Too much of Twitter was cruel and petty and fake. Everything we know from experience about social publishing platforms—aboutany publishing platforms—is that they change. And it can be hard to track the interplay between design changes and behavioral ones. In other words, did Twitter change Twitter, or did we? 

but is there a better way to connect with someone you are not connected to at all than twitter?  

Depending on the context, LinkedIn and Facebook are good.

Tweeting at someone you're not connected with at all is very hit or miss. It's like... Email.

You're best off on smaller community platforms, like the person's own blog.

for contacting, yes. But I have found value in the twitter circles versus linked connections. facebook just does not seem like the place. 

Which is why Twitter is worth more than zero.

But maybe there's a better question to ask first: Which Twitter did we lose?

Looking back, 2013 Twitter was basically a hangover to 2012 Twitter, when we could imagine leaving the platform some day but not anytime soon. Or maybe we're chasing the ghost of 2011 Twitter. It was a hectic feed then, a staticky mess of affiliate notifications, manual retweets, and Foursquare checkins. Remember 2010 Twitter? The year it seemed everyone had finally caved and signed up. The Arab Spring made people optimistic about the platform as a transformative force. Roger Ebert and Rob Delaney ruled. 2009 Twitter is a blur and the disjointedness of 2008 Twitter is hard to remember at this point. Before that, people weren't even having conversations on the platform. Not really. 

It's funny that we delineate Twitter eras by the year, or that we even can, because the platform is so fixated on the "right now." Describing Twitter by year can feel like counting raindrops in the ocean.

Besides, the Twitter worth talking about transcends all those other Twitters. When it was good—when it is good—Twitter created an environment characterized by respect and jokes so funny you wanted to show the person sitting next to you in real life. Not agreeing could be productive, and could happen without devolving into histrionics. The positive feedback loop of faves and interactions didn't hurt, either. 

Here's the key: People are still using Twitter, but they’re not hanging out there.

The idea that Twitter's 140-character format precludes it from being a place for depth has always been a red herring. But there are legitimate questions about how the format can scale. Sometimes it helps to picture Twitter as a network of overlapping concentric circles—made bigger by retweets, modified tweets, interactions, faving, hate-faving, subtweeting, snarking, trolling, etc., etc., until they get so big and the network gets so crowded that you can't see the circles themselves anymore. 

For a long time, we would’ve told people that if they weren't having a good time on Twitter, they weren't following the right people. This was code for you haven’t found the right network yet. And there are still great accounts on the platform, even great networks, but many of them are becoming more fragmented than ever—even as Twitter has changed functionalities in ways that seem designed to prompt interactions and conversations. Maybe this was inevitable. Fragmentation is a fundamental part of how people interact with information online; it's how we socialize offline, too. 

I think this is closer to the nail on the head

You're right. Twitter is no longer the place where we hang out.

Maybe the issue is that Twitter hasn't been growing in the right way to sustain highly engaged users. 

From the beginning, there were a few useful precepts that those of us who have obsessed over the platform had to believe. First, you had to believe that someone else out there was paying attention, or better, that a significant portion—not just 1 or 2 percent—of your followers might see your tweet. Second, you had to believe that skilled and compelling tweeting would increase your follower count. Third, you had to believe there was a useful audience you couldn’t see, beyond your timeline—a group you might want to follow one day.

Those fictions have proven foolish, one-by-one. The service is filled with spam accounts: The median tweeter has just one measly follower, so how many of your followers are real people? The growth of Twitter, year-over-year, has plunged since 2011. And the tensions of Twitter’s inherent (and explicit) attention market seem to push and pull it in odd, fractal ways: to keep your Twitter timeline slow is to stop following others, to stop following others is to stop exploring the service (and to reduce the number of folks who can find you), to stop exploring the service is to get bored.

Count me as one of these people:

Many users disliked that the service auto-expanded images or harassed third-party client developers, saying that both discouraged the power users who came to Twitter for a writing platform.

So who is Twitter for, anyway?

"Twitter is the new comment section," our friend Margarita Noriega—you may know her as @Margafret—said. "It's changed, and unfortunately, it's gotten a lot worse. It's too filled with spam and hate speech and unverified content... At some point the Ezra Kleins of the world are leaving Twitter. They're going to be the first people to leave."

In fact, the Kleins of the world have somewhat already left. A year ago, Klein lamented that Twitter’s signal-to-noise to ratio was too low. Check his feed today and he’s almost disengaged from the service entirely: Rarely replying or retweeting, he broadcasts Vox stories and nothing more.

The irony about the Klein example is that he's become the go-to example of media privilege, yet he got his start in journalism as a blogger at a time when established journalists used the word "blogger" as a pejorative.

I use the BLOCK feature on Twitter a lot more these days:

Some women have backed off the service altogether. It's hard to avoid the ’splain-happy men who feel entitled to rock an otherwise friendly Twitter canoe. 

If Twitter is fading, what's next? 

Probably many things. The Internet is characterized by the narrowness of its streams. Already we've fanned out to platforms like Vine, Snapchat, Instagram, etc., etc. Some of the would-be tweets we never send are instead text messaged or chatted to our friends. 

Whether you call it "the filter bubble" or "nichification," the little corners we occupy online always feel bigger than they are because of the company we keep. And journalists tend to rely on the assumption that if I must be here, everyone else must be here, too. Subscriptions have always been about the promise of a community of readers, not just a collection of content. 

"The little corners we occupy online always feel bigger than they are because of the company we keep."

That's my favorite line in the article.

twitter still has the best internet name reference, right? [email protected]

Ellens's selfie, Sterling's debacle .... like it or not, a lot people still seem to gather 'round the town center that is Twitter.

Jared: Yes. 

Geege: Sort of. Many people don't go to Twitter anymore. They let other outlets report it instead.

Oh hey, why don't we also crap on Facebook while we're about it?

This article sounds like it was written by you!

I don't use Facebook much anymore, because anyone with a brain knows that Facebook is terrible.


It's like having a Twitter feed populated by 500 people you can't stand, all set to a design layout that's about as cheerful as a Pyongyang skyscraper.


That's Facebook now. It's one giant convention of sad asshole zombies. I know this to be true because I've seen the comments on Deadspin's own Facebook page, and they are fucking terrible. They are proof that anonymity is not the source of all online stupidity. Quite the contrary. Anonymous commenters will at least speak their mind, no matter how ugly the contents of those minds may be. But a Facebook commenter… that's someone presenting to you. It's a grand statement of asshattery, with a name proudly affixed to it like it belongs on a campaign-yard placard, which somehow makes it worse than reading your standard garbled YouTube comment from a five-year-old.

twitter should buy flipboard. 

I think that's inevitable unless Yahoo gets to them first.

Then again, Flipboard is for consuming not writing.

Doesn't even PW show that you need both as a good internet company? 

You only need a few writers to serve many readers. PW shows that.

You May Also Like: