The Real Problem with Twitter

Twitter has a problem. It’s extremely well known, with politicians and celebrities tweeting all the time, and news organizations using their tweets as official comments. (It’s a lot cheaper than having “journalists” call people for comments…) But Twitter’s user base is stagnant; it’s hard to learn how to use the service effectively, and it’s easy to be overloaded.

I follow a number of friends, colleagues, and businesses. Some of the latter are publishers and record labels. And most of these companies do the very thing that scares users away. For example, one publisher that is heavily promoting a new non-fiction book has probably tweeted about it 100 times. They’ve retweeted reviews, reader comments, and every single event the author is attending. This is overkill; I’ve had to mute that author’s name, and the book’s hashtag. (You can do this with many third-party Twitter apps, but not with Twitter’s own app.) Because of this, I’ll avoid that author in the future: over-tweeting is counter-productive.

My mute list is very long. It includes musicians or authors that I have no interest in, every single #NationalWhateverDay that businesses think will help them sell products, and a ton of hashtags for Netflix shows. I do want to follow Netflix, for example, to learn what’s new, but there are shows I simply don’t care about. Seeing hundreds of tweets about something that doesn’t interest you will make you hate Twitter, very quickly.

I wrote an article in 2014, explaining what businesses get wrong on Twitter. Some of these mistakes also apply to individuals’ accounts; do you really need to tweet “Good morning” every day, or every few days? Do you need that much attention?

The problem with Twitter is that it’s easy to abuse. People who try out Twitter are likely to be overwhelmed if they don’t have strategies for filtering out the chaff. Twitter needs to add a feature that Facebook has: the ability to hide a post, and indicate that you want to see fewer posts like it.

Hide facebook postHere’s how it looks on Facebook. My friend John shared a post by Robert Reich. I can click the caret at the top right of the post and choose to hide the post, unfollow John (I’m not doing that; you’re just an example, John), or hide all posts by Robert Reich that John or others share. It’s an easy – though somewhat time-consuming – way to get rid of the stuff you’re not interested in.

Twitter needs to add a similar feature so users don’t get overwhelmed; at least if Twitter wants to grow its user base. Otherwise, new Twitter users quickly find a timeline of tweets they don’t care about, and they don’t come back.

14 thoughts on “The Real Problem with Twitter

  1. Totally agree, Kirk. Even without Twitter, I’m totally overloaded. I’ve had a Twitter account for about 6 years and almost never use it. If it would show me ONLY what and whom I’m following, that would make all the difference. I want full control. There’s a lot wrong with Twitter, but this is the big one for me. And it’s become nothing but junk.

    With Facebook, I use FB Purity to remove all the ads, all the chat nonsense, all the offers, all the suggesteds, etc. I just removed Trending (98% of it is totally irrelevant to me), and many, many other things. It’s extremely customizable. These social media services have to allow us to customize to our interests and take control or we’re outta there. (Yes, I’m a control freak, and proud of it. 😉 )

    • I recently stopped using FB Purity, because the developer no longer supports Safari. He complained that he had to pay $99 a year for an Apple developer account.

      • It still works with Safari though – if you install one of the Greasemonkey derivates (Tampermonkey or NinjaKit), and then use the “userscript” version that can be found under the Firefox section on the FB Purity page. I have been using FBP this way since forever.

  2. Totally agree, Kirk. Even without Twitter, I’m totally overloaded. I’ve had a Twitter account for about 6 years and almost never use it. If it would show me ONLY what and whom I’m following, that would make all the difference. I want full control. There’s a lot wrong with Twitter, but this is the big one for me. And it’s become nothing but junk.

    With Facebook, I use FB Purity to remove all the ads, all the chat nonsense, all the offers, all the suggesteds, etc. I just removed Trending (98% of it is totally irrelevant to me), and many, many other things. It’s extremely customizable. These social media services have to allow us to customize to our interests and take control or we’re outta there. (Yes, I’m a control freak, and proud of it. 😉 )

    • I recently stopped using FB Purity, because the developer no longer supports Safari. He complained that he had to pay $99 a year for an Apple developer account.

      • It still works with Safari though – if you install one of the Greasemonkey derivates (Tampermonkey or NinjaKit), and then use the “userscript” version that can be found under the Firefox section on the FB Purity page. I have been using FBP this way since forever.

  3. FWIW, I’m completely happy with Twitter because I use it completely “wrong”.

    I NEVER look at my timeline. Instead, I bookmark a large number of individual feeds, and read those individual feeds when I want to check in with those folks. (I’ve got bookmark groups that’ll open up 3 – 7 feeds at a time, grouped by topic. And then a whole bunch of other bookmarks I’ll check in with from time to time.)

    When I run across a RT or comment in one of those feeds that interests me, again, I go straight to that person individual feed.

    I know no one else uses Twitter this way, but it provides me with a wonderful experience, and no hassles or abuses.

    (Oddly, I’ve somehow trained my own audience to deal with my feed that same way. I have very, very few followers, but I’ve got an audience at least 20x that size for ANYTHING I post. So, somehow, I’ve trained them to load my individual feed, rather than following and reading stuff in their timeline. Dunno how that happened, but I’m obviously happy about it.)

    • Some people use Twitter lists to do what you do, rather than individuals. But, yes, it’s one way to use Twitter, if you don’t want to use it to interact with people you know in real time.

  4. FWIW, I’m completely happy with Twitter because I use it completely “wrong”.

    I NEVER look at my timeline. Instead, I bookmark a large number of individual feeds, and read those individual feeds when I want to check in with those folks. (I’ve got bookmark groups that’ll open up 3 – 7 feeds at a time, grouped by topic. And then a whole bunch of other bookmarks I’ll check in with from time to time.)

    When I run across a RT or comment in one of those feeds that interests me, again, I go straight to that person individual feed.

    I know no one else uses Twitter this way, but it provides me with a wonderful experience, and no hassles or abuses.

    (Oddly, I’ve somehow trained my own audience to deal with my feed that same way. I have very, very few followers, but I’ve got an audience at least 20x that size for ANYTHING I post. So, somehow, I’ve trained them to load my individual feed, rather than following and reading stuff in their timeline. Dunno how that happened, but I’m obviously happy about it.)

    • Some people use Twitter lists to do what you do, rather than individuals. But, yes, it’s one way to use Twitter, if you don’t want to use it to interact with people you know in real time.

  5. To me, using Twitter is a waste of time —- because ordinary people like me just don’t have a chance to rise above the din of popular tweeters. Kirk is a celebrity so he gets it … but who wants to go to the trouble to open the app, and carefully structure what you want to say to a handful of people. There’s no way my tweet will be seen by more than maybe a dozen people. Hell, I can pick up the phone and call them … or text or email them. The important people are in text groups anyway. Why do I want to text to a bunch of strangers, or more importantly, why do I want to waste my time reading a bunch of one-liners from strangers. I’m on my boat in South Florida, just fixed a Margarita . . . if the tweet’s for me, just tell them I’ve sailed away! 🙂

    • “Celebrity…” LOL. Not really; I have about 2,500 followers.

      What I like about Twitter is the ability to interact with people; some of whom are my colleagues, others not. I also follow publishers, record labels, theaters, etc., and Twitter serves as a news source. So there are many ways to use Twitter.

  6. To me, using Twitter is a waste of time —- because ordinary people like me just don’t have a chance to rise above the din of popular tweeters. Kirk is a celebrity so he gets it … but who wants to go to the trouble to open the app, and carefully structure what you want to say to a handful of people. There’s no way my tweet will be seen by more than maybe a dozen people. Hell, I can pick up the phone and call them … or text or email them. The important people are in text groups anyway. Why do I want to text to a bunch of strangers, or more importantly, why do I want to waste my time reading a bunch of one-liners from strangers. I’m on my boat in South Florida, just fixed a Margarita . . . if the tweet’s for me, just tell them I’ve sailed away! 🙂

    • “Celebrity…” LOL. Not really; I have about 2,500 followers.

      What I like about Twitter is the ability to interact with people; some of whom are my colleagues, others not. I also follow publishers, record labels, theaters, etc., and Twitter serves as a news source. So there are many ways to use Twitter.

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