Twitter Isn’t Broken, We Are

There have been a multitude of business articles and opinion pieces that have been flooding the Interwebs about Twitter being broken.

Twitter, as a company, is not growing. Fact. It also isn’t making profits. Fact. It’s stock is plummeting. Fact. Journos and bloggers and opinionated folk have one answer: Twitter is broken! Fix the Twitters!

Twitter isn’t broken. We are.

If you’re on Twitter, click over to your timeline / news feed / whatever you want to call the “Home” tab. How many Tweets are flooding in per minute? How many of those Tweets are promotional, links or otherwise broadcast-out snippets? 90% of them? 95% of them?

Now take a look at the people you follow. Are they engaging in back and forth conversation on the tool or are they simply using it to say, “HEY LOOK AT WHAT I AM DOING, I AM SO COOL”? There’s a good chance that in the battle of conversation vs. broadcast-out, shout-y posts, the latter is winning.

Twitter has not fundamentally changed its platform since beta and I’d know, I’ve been on there since then. Sure they added little things like a profile header, a heart instead of a star and moments (well, that latter piece they added for the Americans but us Canadians haven’t got it yet…) but there haven’t been any incredibly life-altering changes to the platform.

So, what DID change to make us so angry with Twitter’s “broken” interface?

We did.

We use that platform to sound off.

We use it to spam links (if I see one more ICYMI post, my eyes will literally roll out of my head).

We use it to troll other people in abusive and harmful ways.

We use it to broadcast out and in no way, shape or form does ANY of that look like what real-life interaction looks like. In fact, if you did any of those things in the middle of a “real life” event, you’d likely be politely escorted out the door.

I’d like to say that it isn’t our fault, that we don’t know any better, but we do. How we got here, in my opinion, has to do with indifference and a lack of investment in the platform. A lot of people get on Twitter because someone else told them they should be there. That they “have to” use it as part of their marketing and communications strategy.

The challenge with this mindset is that it drastically reduces the quality of the content that is being posted on the platform. People hastily craft Tweets so they can hit their arbitrary 2–3 Tweets per hour without giving it much thought. This lack of effort creates content on the platform that is uninteresting and, mostly, poor quality.

Changing the news feed to an algorithm style feed is not going to change anything.

Charging users for access is not going to change anything.

What will change things for Twitter, and all social media platforms, is recognizing that WE are to blame for the poor experience.

We are creating ecosystems that support and allow this behaviour. We are doing very little to stop it.

The less-than-awesome human behaviour that happens on Twitter shuts people down and creates a negative experience. The spam causes them to miss updates they actually care about, the trolling causes them to avoid the tool for fear of being called out and the lack of good conversation and response to real, human updates disheartens loyal users.

If we want to see change on a platform, any social media platform, it starts with us. Let’s take some ownership of how we’ve pushed Twitter, and other tools, into a place that is riddled with terrible user experience and do something about THAT.