Twitter: Addictive by Design

Youssef Sarhan
Apr 21, 2016 · 2 min read
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Over the last few months, I noticed I was getting quite a few notifications from Twitter on my iPhone. More specifically, the notifications seemed to appear the very second I closed the Twitter app. It felt a little strange. I’d close the app, and Pop!, a little red badge would appear on the Twitter icon on my homescreen.

I didn’t think anything of it at first, but after a while, it began to feel like a pattern. This caught my attention, so I decided to conduct a test.

To do this, I created a new Twitter on my laptop:

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I then opened the notifications tab on my personal Twitter account on my phone:

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I did a quick pull-to-refresh, and there were no new notifications. Then, while keeping my notifications tab open on my phone, I navigated the new account on my laptop the my personal page, and favourited a few tweets.

At this point, you might expect those notifications to appear almost instantly in the app on my phone. Especially, when you consider I have the app open right in front of me; sort of like how we automatically get the (^ New Tweets) bubble on our Timeline when there’s new content above the scroll. But nope, there’s no indication that there are new notifications.

So, naturally, I close the app on my phone.

Then this happens…

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A red notification bubble appears on the Twitter icon the moment I leave the app. But I was just in the app? This happens me a lot.

Twitter seems have engineered their app to do a pull-to-refresh of your notification feed the very second you close the app. It’s a little trick that gets you back into the Twitter app, the very second you just indicated you want to leave.

I can understand why Twitter would do this. In many ways, it’s very smart, and I bet this has sent their engagement figures right through the roof.

However, I’m not sure it’s good for the user.

If I’m leaving your app, it’s because I want to leave your app.

This wouldn’t be the first time I’ve discovered something about Twitter’s aggressive growth techniques. You should read my other post. If this was useful, please recommend it.

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