I love Twitter.
I’ve sent nearly 11,000 tweets since joining the social network. I maintain two accounts to split my work interest group and my personal interest group.
And yet, I am perpetually dismayed by what my beloved network is becoming. I say becoming – future tense – because I don’t want to admit it’s fully developed into something so completely different that our relationship can no longer be what it once was.
The Twitter I fell in love with was about discovery and opening doors to intelligent conversations. A few of those conversations could be wholly contained on the platform, but most led me to deeper, richer content that made me a better, smarter participant on the network, and in the world itself.
Having spent time with many of the current leaders at the company, I can honestly say I respect the hell out of the business Twitter has built, regardless of how the market feels about its monthly user growth. In a time when revenue creation and profitability are seemingly optional, Twitter’s team has built a real business – a business providing value to brands while avoiding consumer abandonment. There are not a lot of other social brands that can make that statement.
But, in the process, I personally lost my first social media love. The first platform I felt was built for me, a mobile-first user who wanted smart, sharp, and funny content all in one place. If I wanted to post what I believe others want to see, I could go back to Facebook with its endless feed of baby pictures and extreme, unintentional comedy derived from passive-aggressive posts mixed with deeply personal aspirations based not on personal commitment, but on a burning desire for public acceptance.
So, why do I stay? I stay because the network has become a tolerable mix of lemmings and snark, which suits my personality. I take a perverse enjoyment in questioning the mindless proclamations and retweets of the many. It is possible that within the last week, Twitter finally hit bottom with the creation of the modern-day Internet’s perfect account: @SavedYouAClick. Designed to counter click-baiting headlines, the account posts what you would find if you clicked through. It’s brilliant and it’s perfect for this Twitter, and that makes me a bit sad.
I wanted the “change the world” Twitter, complete with John Mayer singing in the background while governments were overthrown, and lively, healthy, and civil discussions took place on issues that mattered.
Instead, we’ve got Twitter as a TV accompaniment, Twitter as the new Nielsen family with programming decisions being made based on the social masses’ whims as presented in 140 characters. That works for the business of Twitter. Maybe it says more about me, the Street, and the core of Twitter’s more than 200 million users that this is the Twitter we’ve come to receive.
When mute functionality is the next big thing, and a mobile platform gains notoriety for desktop background image changes, we’re off the rails. I can imagine a future where Vine and a platform such as SoundCloud become part of a short-form, short-attention-span communications network. This is all good for brands and nice for consumers, but for me, it’s just not what I signed up for, and that’s on me to rationalize. Until then, I’ll longingly hold out hope that my Twitter of old will come back to me.