Twitter: Why to avoid it?

I don’t intend this to be a rant, but the “microblogging” site has nothing related to “blogging”. It has a confused pedigree- it is neither a source for news nor advertisements or even social interaction. It is just a platform to share links. It is teeming with bots, marketers and oversized influencers.

I am fond of software and like to see how it mashes up in my workflows to make me more productive. I routinely stumble on “celebrity developers” who have been associated with the Apple ecosystem since the inception. It is good to have cheerleaders for the product. However, they are blind to other developments in technology. I have written about how tech dominance by a handful of organisations leads to lack of choice.

Therefore, whenever I read about “Balkanisation” of the Internet (also called Splinternet), I am amused. It seems that the events haven’t unfolded the way the technology writers want them to. Ever since the Internet was devised as a means for a machine to machine communication, it was splintered in favour of a single country. Other nations have adopted similar techniques. Likewise, “silicon valley” only rode on its coattails and they stay relevant unhindered access to users’ privacy. They also indulge in intense lobbying so that they stay away from the clutches of regulatory frameworks.

Twitter (and the other social networks) suffer from this extreme. A timeline was meddled to give an advantage to the algorithms. It means that my organic interactions with other users get buried in the noise. Companies are only “tweeting” about their products or trying to adapt Twitter to provide customer support. Marketers have taken to it in droves. How does that help an individual user anyway?

Another issue with Twitter is that they have increasingly shut down the API access. I used to see very innovative products around the platform that gave meaning to the platform (for example, trends). Now, it is an opaque algorithm that morphs the “conversation”. How can we be sure that the conversational trends are not placed or manipulated?

Coming back to the twitter post that started this all. Technology provides an alternative. No platform is perfect, and companies strive to offer a mix of functionality with lockdowns. The end result may not be suitable for the developers, but it is “good enough” for an average Joe.

Likewise, for academics too. Twitter is just a medium to consume content (and it uses various behavioural techniques to increase engagement). I am still not convinced that it can be used for academics- I have a vast failed experiment as a testimony. It is because of the algorithm and the abysmal rates of engagement with the “tweets”. Twitter, as an outbound medium” accounts for only 2% of the total views on this blog. Therefore, the publishers end up getting more impulsive for clickbait headlines (rather than some serious journalism). (That apart, I haven’t signed up any “keywords” SEO bait either as a deliberate mechanism). I reiterate that writing helps (more than reading), and everyone must write. I doubt if it can result in any meaningful interaction with the scientists and the clinicians. (Medical advice on any social network is a strict no!)

Twitter takes away that fun away, too. It encourages only impulsive behaviour rather than structuring your thought process.

Going forward, I intend to have a notional presence on Twitter. I will call out the behaviour of the software companies (and then blog about it too)!