Twitter has made a change to its website and mobile apps that has a lot of dedicated Twitter users very upset, but it's here, it's not going away, and it's time to get a grip. Users expect behavior like this from Facebook, but remember: Twitter, too, is a free service trying to make money for a rumored (but almost certain) IPO in 2014. If users want to continue tweeting, sooner or later, they're going to have to learn to live with the new feature. The Atlantic Wire is here to guide them through that process in two easy steps.
Step 1: How to Get Angry
So, first you have to know what to get angry about: Twitter changed the way users view other users' public conversations on the social network. Here's how it works: When people talk to each other on Twitter (by replying to a tweet), Twitter strings together the back-and-forth for those who want to view the entire discussion. Before, on the app and on Twitter.com, a user would have to do a little work to see one such chat in its entirety between two people, clicking a single @reply tweet (pictured at left), which would then expand to show the full conversation starting from its beginning (pictured at right):
Now, Twitter sticks these conversations right in a user's main timeline, indicated by a single blue line — no clicking needed! While this sounds like a convenience, it's actually a "a crime against reverse chronology," to use the words of The New Yorker's Matt Buchanan, because Twitter has decided to put the oldest tweet first, right there in the stream, which is the opposite chronology of the timeline's newest Tweet first flow:
Of course, many Twitter users also find the blue-lines and the old tweets intrusive, which is as good a reason as any to get angry, but those who want a deeper, more ideological reason to hate Twitter should read this GigaOm article detailing the wholly unsurprising reasons behind the switch: Money. "Twitter needs new users. Twitter needs users to hang about longer. Twitter needs them to sell more ads and thus make more revenue and go public," writes Om Malik. "The reverse chronological streams that were the mainstay of social platforms are going the way of Web 2.0. And nothing we can do or say will matter — it is about the benjamins now."
Step 2: How to Get Over It
There are a few ways to handle this crisis:
- The Extreme Option: Quit Twitter. Twitter is a free service. As with all free Internet services, it has to make money and will likely continue to do things that irritate early adopters who learned to love the platform before it went corporate. You don't have to use Twitter. If conversations ruin the entire experience for you, find another way to use social media. That's not childish at all, notes Buzzfeed's Katie Notopoulos:
I'm mad as heck about a new feature on a free website. I'm grown and don't live with my parents. I keep a stocked supply of wet wipes,— Katie Notopoulos (@katienotopoulos) August 29, 2013
- The Sensible Option: Don't Use Twitter.com or the App. Third party Twitter apps, like TweetBot or TweetDeck — the latter of which is owned by Twitter — haven't adopted Twitter's new policy, at least not yet. Conversations still look like this in my TweetDeck, with the @reply showing up in the stream (pictured at left) and the expanded conversation by clicking through (pictured at right):
These third party apps work so much better than Twitter.com, you should be using one of these anyway.
- The Lazy Option: Accept It. Pretend to love it, like Slate's Will Oremus, who argues that not that many conversations happen on Twitter, anyway. (At least not on his feed.) This could change the experience for the better, he says. "It is also likely to lead to more serendipitous exchanges between famous authors, brutal smackdowns between warring comedians, and better still, people you actually know and enjoy in real life." That could even mean the end of the terrible Twitter one-liner — dare to dream! — he adds: "Suddenly conversations between people you follow are the centerpiece of your timeline, taking aesthetic precedence over the one-liners by virtue of those blue festoons. And it feels like you’re welcome to join in."
Like so many changes to beloved technologies, the masses will eventually get over this and forget what Twitter was like before blue lines began popping up in their timelines. Do they really want to waste energy kvetching?