How best to distill 6 years of prolific oversharing?
- March 21st, 2007: “I’m using Twitter. Let’s see how this goes.”
- 77,950 Tweets later….
- July 2nd, 2013: “I’m on the verge of ceasing use of Twitter & Facebook.”
The time I spent on Twitter over the years wasn’t a lot because a thought would come to mind, I would Tweet then dip my toes back in later to see what people thought. Twitter started for me as an SMS service then to a jailbreaked iOS app called Hahlo and then Twitter, Tweetie and Tweetbot as the App Store came out.
To be clear though, I did not quit the service for any reason other than personal. I wanted to own more of my data and publish to this blog more. I wrote as much in this blog post in July of 2013.
For almost all purposes, this blog is for me. It’s a time capsule where my space isn’t rented but is paid for at $9.99 each month to give me the space to store files, blog and share my stories with the world. That’s the purpose of this blog. It’s my space. There are no advertisers and very little risk of my blog getting bought out or going under due to a lack of VC funding or failed monetization strategy. It’s nice that others read what I have to say but it really is my space on the web.
Over the last few years, I’ve seen a ton of great ideas fail. Most of the startups that I see ask users to give over data or as I like to call it, stories. “Come and give us your email, your information and download our app and give us your life story. We won’t charge you to use the service but, once there are 10 million users, we’ll begin selling ads targeted at life moments that you share with us.” Inevitably, the startups fails or is bought out by someone bigger who did figure out how to monetize stories.
Since I made the decision to stop the use of almost all social media, I’ve missed a LOT. The expected happened which is family and friends who I was close moved over to iMessage and phone calls. I’ve kept in touch with them. I also met the woman I’m now married to again…without using social media and I’ve successfully navigated career changes, progress and started and created a new hobby in the form of motorcycling all without social media but I have missed a lot of social discourse, celebrity and world news and these days if someone in my family dies, I hear when someone remembers to call me, not from an online post. I’ve been talking to my mom (we chat every 4-5 months) and she’ll say, “did you hear your xxxx died?” Nope, I don’t use social media and no one called me. The default is to post things online assuming everyone who needs to know will see it. Not using social media has impacted my life in small ways.
I have my outlets like Flickr and this blog and I keep publishing to YouTube but this life choice is not just owning my data but also really giving myself back hours a day of free time. Example, friends in the motorcycle community ask me what YouTubers I follow. I don’t. I don’t watch motorcycle videos online or use Instagram and follow people. I have gone old-school by subscribing to motorcycle magazines. Every month I receive the latest news and reviews and over the course of 1-hour, I catch up.I am missing out on social dialogue and breaking-news but it really comes down to taking back my free time and you’d be amazed at how little I have to the point that today I have no idea how I can reintegrate back into social media without limiting my productivity or sacrificing my free time. To expand on that a bit, I’m working until 6:30PM, cleaning house, making dinner and sitting down at 8:30 for 2 hours of reading/writing/video editing/projects then I’m in bed at 11PM and even in COVID-times when I’m not commuting, I’m in front of a computer 10 hours a day and there’s no time I spend reading the news or social media. Heck, I even stopped reading some popular motorcycle forums in December as a way to get back about 30 minutes a day.
This post is far off from where I intended but in closing, Twitter did nothing wrong. I made a choice to pull back from almost all social media in 2013 after closing my Facebook account in 2011.
2013 – 2018 Twitter, as someone who keeps up with Internet Industry News via RSS feeds felt like more of the same. Twitter continued to struggle, they went public with year after year of losses and struggled to monetize the user base. The biggest product release in that era was Vine which is now long-gone. In the age of Tik Tok, I’m sure someone at Twitter wishes that Vine wasn’t killed off when it was. 2016-2020 Twitter’s news cycle was completely dominated by the things our President was writing on a daily basis. My family made up of die-hard conservatives were telling me that they wished he tweeted a bit less and I agree. It was a boom for Twitter’s engagement, page views or however you measure success these days but it was most likely a huge distraction to those on the inside.
In 2018 or so, despite the news focusing on Twitter the places where the President of the United States tweets, Twitter began innovating at an amazing pace. I have no idea what happened but the product team has been firing at full kilowatts (was trying to find a replacement for all cylinders in the age of electric vehicles). Just look at the 2019-Present section on Wikipedia but I’m going to call out a few things that, as a lover of Twitter, really have tempted me to come back.
- Complete site-redesign that is a joy to use
- Spaces (audio chat rooms)
- Fleets (expiring tweets / stories)
- Twitter Blue (not quite what I asked for in 2019 but it’s a step in the right direction)
- Safety Mode (huge step in addition to Trust & Safety’s work to make Twitter a safer space for users)
- Today, “Communities” which is what inspired me to write this post
Communities could evolve to Twitter taking on Reddit. Taking a step back and looking at the whole of Twitter’s evolution. They’re not taking on Facebook directly but they’re building a platform in their own way which is to invest millions of dollars in hiring people who put diversity, inclusion and acceptance first above all else, give their people the tools they need to extend that culture through to the end-users so they too can feel welcome in this community and free from trolling and hate-speech and give them tools to filter that out if they choose while maintaining a very easy to use core product and adding on features that make Twitter a stickier place to hang out and not just a side-dish to the social media buffet where a user starts with Facebook then Instagram, then TikTok / Snap and if they have time…a quick scroll of Twitter. If Twitter succeeds in evolving their service to be both safe and full of great content in various mediums, they can at least place 3rd or 2nd to Facebook.
The Post-Trump era of Twitter, had they sat on their hands and continued doing what they were doing pre-2018, I’m not sure where they would be now in monthly active users but they’re clearly doing something about it.
Twitter remains the only social network I would consider reconnecting with if I had a bit more free time because it’s an exciting era in the company’s history. If they can execute on all of these fantastic new product offerings and maintain the safe space for all users, it is the only service that’s positioned to take on Facebook in the next decade because Twitter’s values are the antithesis to Facebook’s but Facebook’s critical mass of users and sister-apps remains the juggernaut.
If you’re an investor, and this isn’t investment advice, 1 out of 5 Americans have used Twitter. There is a large untapped user base they have if they can offer more than just tweeting and they are. People will come for shopping/media/communities/spaces/Fleets and they’ll find how less-toxic it is versus Reddit and Facebook and maybe consider sticking around. The killer app for Facebook continues to be their mobile app so I don’t envy the mobile team’s work at Twitter to integrate these features into the mobile app without alienating the users who for the last 15 years, just want to Tweet.
Twitter is profitable with over 6,000 employees. They’re not a small company and they’re acting like it.
I’m now checking Twitter once a month. Maybe in 2022, it’ll be once a day.