In what shouldn’t be as huge a surprise to as many as it clearly is, Twitter have announced your feed will change forever starting next week. Gone will be the reverse chronological order, so you can simply scroll up and see what everybody said.
Now, Twitter will decide what you read, based on use and (undoubtedly) how much money you can throw at the service to ensure you get seen. For many, this will undoubtedly signal The End of All Things, based on the understanding that this was the last truly organic and ‘free’ means by which billions of people could communicate without consequence.
I’m laughing so much I can’t write any more, just give me a minute, will you?
Sorry, where was I?
I’m pretty confident I’ve been reading an algorithmic feed on my iPad for months: seeded with ‘relevant’ and much-read articles from my timeline when I wake up overnight, forcing me to chase people’s timelines to pick up the subtlety. It’s why I use a range of devices to consume: Tweetdeck for the 9-5, the App for travelling. What stuns me in this sudden and indignant burst of anger and amazement is that people are genuinely surprised that a company whose sole existence is to make money would implement something to do just that. That’s how business works, folks. The algorithm allows the company to tailor people’s experiences. Yes, you could argue it’s censorship via activity, but you could argue that black is white on this platform without consequence until now, and guarantee at least one conspiracy theorist would retweet you. Now you’ll have to hope they take the time to actually find your Bio and follow.
Yes, there will be casualties. If you’re not there to live-tweet, that whole experience changes forever. For the people who couldn’t be bothered to find a computer and you know, actually be outside living their life for real, they’ll simply be presented with some highlights of what happened and just move on. News organisations will need to be on the ball too, no more trawling timelines 72 hours after the fact and desperately attempting to keep making news. Twitter will decide what’s relevant, and if that means advertisers get the upper hand? Well, guess what? THAT’S THE BALL-GAME. If you genuinely feel that leaving will make Twitter change their mind? Off you go. Just let me know where you’re going if I give a damn about you, because until there’s at least a financial quarter’s worth of evidence that this fucked everybody royally, there’ll be no change.
A while ago, in the game I play and write about for a living, the company took away a key part of the experience. The fallout from that is still being felt, coming up for a year after the event, and what the change ended up doing was effectively polarising a section of the community who relied on that ability (flying in game) to function in the manner in which they were comfortable. Well, I think I can confidently predict that this will have much the same effect on the World who uses Twitter to harass, to speak without consequence, and conversely tell the world what’s happening the moment it does. Suddenly, your ‘rights’ have been altered, and you’re going to be mad as fuck. There will be introspection, reflection and oh so much hand-wringing and lamentation. There’ll be public exits, massive outpourings of vitriol and anger, and people will be held to blame.
Meanwhile the real truth is damning. I know of the nearly 3000 people who follow me on a daily basis, less than a quarter actually communicate with me regularly, and even fewer actually read my work. This change will, in essence, allow me to actually reach more people if I can play the Twitter system and win. It will give me a chance to stack my deck and improve my visibility, and (hopefully) allow more people who don’t know who the fuck I am to read my work, based solely on my ability to get the people that do follow me to do the same. You know, by true freedom of speech using blogging. Those who will lament the loss of chronology will no longer be able to attack people on a global stage. They’ll need to learn to play the game too. Curating a feed will suddenly become the most sensible use of your time as a social media manager. Lists will rise in popularity. People will choose to either adapt or die, and until someone invents a true successor to the platform?
You’ll still be here. Stop making fucking drama out of nothing.