Why is Twitter “hard”?

Relationships take work

Often times when I hear someone complaining about Twitter or Quora or another “social” app, it sounds something like:

It is too hard to learn.
New users have to put too much effort in.
Why can’t it just WORK?

In a world where we want what we want when we want it, it is natural that these complaints surface for applications.

When you contrast these applications with the app that does “just work” — Facebook — it becomes clear why.

Facebook is a database of pictures that replicates our off-line relationships.

That is awesome and it makes it easier for guys like me to share photos of my daughter in an easy way. It’s also easy to reconnect with long-lost high school friends and college buddies and people I’ve known IRL.


So it scales.

It is easy precisely because it doesn’t really do anything new.

It just plugs existing relationships into a better user interface.

What Twitter and Quora and Reddit and Medium other “social networks” do that is so special is that they create new relationships.

Which is hard.

Like, when is the last time you made a new friend? In the real world?

It takes time: to schedule a coffee or a breakfast or a time to connect IRL. And if you want the friendship to take off, that takes more time.

Cultivation. Care. Effort.

But that makes sense right?

Developing relationships is hard because we want to know the other person cares so the effort involved is natural.

And yet we ask: why doesn’t Twitter “just work”?

Twitter is not only a new way to connect with people; it is an entirely new form of filtering relevance. Of defining influence. Of deciding which voices are worth listening to or tuning out.

Sure it is a simple 140 character hack: but based on that hack, the community created a way for people to discover, interact with (@-reply), share (RT) and otherwise filter people in a way that is different than we do IRL.

So it is only natural that it would take some effort to create these new relationships and forms of social interaction for each user.

We’re talking about an actual innovation in social networking, not just a database of pictures.

The short-term focus on this quarter’s MAU and noise of each day’s stock-price is a distraction from what this company is about: fostering new relationships, voices of influence and ways of finding information.

The same is true for other innovators in this area; so it is only natural that it takes time and effort for users to find their way.

I’m optimistic that Twitter will stay the course and that new users will continue to discover and benefit from the platform.

And I’m even more optimistic that entirely new forms of “social networking” aka “meeting people from all over the world without regard to where you were born, what color your skin is, or what your job is” will be created.

We are in the early days of having billions of people connected to each other through super computers in their pockets.

But in the mean time: why don’t we all chill for a minute about how “hard” it is to use these things? Maybe next time you’re scheduling your third follow-up meeting with that new friend you could open up your phone and tweet about it? :-)

Published in Startups, Wanderlust, and Life Hacking