Is Twitter Better Without Vanity Metrics?

How to remove social proof, so that you can think for yourself.

Niklas Göke
Dec 13, 2018 · 7 min read
Credit: Unsplash

This is a new column where I search Product Hunt for products that are likely to change your life for the better, then test those products on myself and a handful of other productivity nerds. (I have no affiliation with Product Hunt, it’s just a great place to find new products.)

The internet can be a great source of information. Sadly, much of that information is tailored to manipulate our reasoning skills. We accept the facts, ideas, and opinions we read at face value, and then adopt them wholesale. This is especially true on social media, where we take the number of likes and shares as social proof that what we are reading is important or trustworthy.

Unfortunately, many of the metrics of social proof are gamed — it can cost as little as $3 to buy 100 likes on a tweet.

The Remove Vanity Metrics Chrome Plugin aims to help you break that cycle of manipulation by social proof.

By removing the number of likes, retweets, and followers from your Twitter feed, it forces you to assess each tweet on its own merit. The goal is to turn you into an independent thinker — a person who judges people’s contributions free from social proof.

Here’s how a tweet looks before and after removing social proof:

I took this tool for a spin for the past two weeks. Here’s how it works, what it feels like, and what you need to know to run a similar experiment yourself.

How To Set Up Remove Vanity Metrics

Right now, Remove Vanity Metrics (RVM) is only available for Google Chrome. To set it up, all you have to do is add the extension. If you’ve never added an extension before, it’s incredibly simple. Click over to the Extension page and then click the ‘Add to Chrome’ button.

Once the extension is installed, you’ll see RVM’s praying hands (🙏) icon in your address bar. If you don’t like RVM, uninstalling is as simple as right-clicking on the icon.

Once you activate RVM, social proof will be removed from your Twitter feed immediately. Now, whenever you visit Twitter in your browser, all of the reply, like and retweet counts will be gone. A nice thing about this tool is that it’s set-it-and-forget-it. Once you install RVM, you’ll never have to think about it again.

Sometimes, the numbers might flash up briefly when the page loads, but within a second or so, they’ll disappear. Video views do still show up — underneath the hood, the RVM plugin is able to edit the HTML that you see, but can’t do anything to change any of the video widgets that show up on Twitter.

What Does Twitter Without Social Proof Feel Like?

In addition to using RVM during my usual Twitter visits, I decided to spend an extra 5–10 minutes on the platform each morning focused on the new experience. Here is what I noticed.

You’ll still get sucked into Twitter

Sometimes, that 5–10 minute visit turned into 20 minutes. Removing social proof did not stop me from falling down the rabbit hole of Twitter addiction.

I mainly use Twitter for work and learning, so my feed is a colorful mix of scientists, experts, authors, gurus, writers, thinkers, investors, crypto traders, and the odd viral video. The fact that it’s interesting doesn’t change, even when it’s not full of signals that “I should really check out this tweet, because 13,000 others have done so.”

But while I still lost myself longer than I’d planned, I immediately noticed the quality of my interactions with the content improved.

You’ll spend more time analyzing each tweet

While I was testing, this soccer “highlight” went viral and made its way into my feed:

Usually, I would’ve almost scrolled past this, maybe watched with the sound off, liked it, and filed it under “I know about this viral phenomenon now.”

Without knowing the existing sentiment, though, I watched the video multiple times with sound. I actually laughed out loud. And then I liked it.

It felt natural to spend more time on each tweet, maybe because there was no numerical indication of peer-induced pressure.

You’re more likely to engage

Since I was already spending more time considering each tweet, it was also easier to actually engage. When I saw someone pose the question “What’s your best way to constructively deal with anxiety,” I didn’t try to gauge whether it was a good or a bad question in terms of how many likes and retweets it had. Instead, I took the time to think of an answer.

I then spent several minutes crafting said answer and sharing it. I also clicked on a friend’s tweet that read “breakups suck.” My motivation for responding changed. Instead of angling to craft a pithy message that might get viral attention, I responded simply with the goal of being helpful to the single person behind the original tweet.

In short, I was beginning to approach each tweet as a moment to be fully present with, rather than as a popularity game.

With less visible judgment, you’ll be less judgmental

This was the most delightful change in my Twitter experience.

Without seeing the social proof metrics, I stopped judging each Tweet as either good or bad, and then found myself being less likely to pass judgment myself.

I was slower to jump to conclusions. When you let information sit for a while, it’s a lot easier to distinguish true from false, and also to determine relevance and context. I felt more comfortable going against the consensus (often because the consensus was now invisible to me).

For example, while the public consensus was that this Ohio solar company commercial was so bad that the creator needed to be fired, I didn’t think the ad was so bad at all.

The ad didn’t seem to me to take itself seriously. And, maybe that’s exactly what the ad needed to reach the right people. It went viral, after all. In the grand scheme, this commercial means nothing to me since the ad is for a company in Ohio and I live in Germany, but I did enjoy the experience of knowing I’m more capable of independent opinions without being bombarded with social proof.

Finally, and this is big — I felt a lot calmer while using Twitter.

Drowning out the social noise made reading more memorable

On the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, a woman shared a long thread about a photo album her father, a WWII veteran, had collected from that day. It’s a deep, moving thread about a horrible act and the banality of the people carrying out that act.

I read the whole thing without taking a break. It’s probably one of the most moving threads I’ve read in a long time, and I’m thankful that I was able to be fully present with it.

I did not like tweets in the thread in between reading, I didn’t retweet anything, and I wasn’t thinking about the post’s popularity. I just read it. This rarely happened before RVM.

I’ve written before about how remembering what you read is both important and requires systematic attention. This is a related case. By removing social queues, my brain was less occupied with categorizing tweets as likable or retweetable, and instead had time to store the experience in my actual memories.

Maybe that’s the way Twitter was always meant to be.

Remove Vanity Metrics In A Nutshell

I asked some other people in my coaching community to test this plugin with me. As one member, Karine A Galland, summarized the experience:

Less vanity is good!

For all of us, hiding social metrics was a simple and efficient way of improving our thinking, interactions, and emotional well-being while we used Twitter.

As a result of my two-week experiment with Remove Vanity Metrics, I spent more time considering content on Twitter and engaging with it, all while feeling calmer and less judgmental.

It was still easy to get sucked into the Twitter machine, but I enjoyed it more when that happened. Being removed from the metrics on my own tweets helped as well. When you need to check your own metrics, you can go to Twitter’s separate analytics site, (many of you probably didn’t even know that existed).

Making your Twitter experience metrics-free is not just an experiment worth running, it’s likely one worth extending to other platforms as well.

In the final analysis, I would recommend the Remove Vanity Metrics plugin to all Twitter users.

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

Niklas Göke

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Writing for dreamers, doers, and unbroken optimists since 2014. For more personal, infrequent updates, be my email friend:

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

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