RT @alexismadrigal 1/63
March 5, 2018 6:48 AM   Subscribe

Retweets are Trash
A couple of months ago, I made a small tweak to my Twitter account that has changed my experience of the platform. It’s calmer. It’s slower. It’s less repetitive, and a little less filled with outrage. All of these improvements came about because I no longer see retweets.
Twitter can destroy your perspective. “Every outrage was becoming the exact same size,” Mike Monteiro, a prominent web designer, wrote in a Medium post about quitting Twitter. “Whether it was a US president declaring war on a foreign nation, or an actor not wearing the proper shade of a designated color to an awards ceremony. On Twitter those problems become exactly the same size.”

This is disorienting, and the strangeness of the discourse can be exploited—as it has been by Russian agents and white supremacists. In that sense, the 2016 U.S. presidential election was merely a symptom of the deeper problems with social media. The neo-Nazis, too, are less aberrations than opportunists. (Race-baiting is viral gold!) Their provocations will be retweeted. The takedowns of their provocations will be retweeted. Everyone wins, if winning is being angry.
posted by solotoro (71 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've never really used Twitter but this same frustration is what drove me away from Facebook. I don't care what articles or other users' posts my friends are reading; I have other (better) sources for finding the journalism I care about. What I want from my friends is their original thoughts. That's probably less than 1% of what I was seeing on Facebook when I gave up. The rest was links, or shares, or likes of links or shares.

I'm convinced this is the key to Instagram's popularity even in the age of Twitter and Facebook backlash. Except for ads, almost all of what I see on Instagram was created by the person posting it.
posted by enn at 6:57 AM on March 5 [35 favorites]


I don't mind retweets on Twitter because I like to get a bigger picture of what's being discussed but I do agree that I'd be upset if Instagram ever copied that "feature".
posted by octothorpe at 7:00 AM on March 5 [4 favorites]


A couple years ago, someone put out a Twitter app for iOS called Little Voices that hides all pictures, videos, links, and retweets, along with @-replies from people you don't follow. It was an interesting little experiment, but unfortunately the app, though it's still in the App Store, no longer works due to changes in how iOS handles Twitter accounts.

You can simulate the experience with other third-party Twitter apps, like Tweetbot, by using filters and regular expressions, and so forth. (I wrote up a brief guide on how to do this with Tweetbot a while back, though they've since added a really powerful filtering tool into the app that makes this redundant.) This sort of thing, along with having a chronological timeline, is why I refuse to use Twitter's official iOS app.

Fundamentally, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, et al. should just provide a stream of data that I can choose to organize, display, and filter however I want. But that doesn't help the advertiser metrics...
posted by SansPoint at 7:02 AM on March 5 [9 favorites]


I've done this for a long time (for all but a few people) and it really cuts down on the tweets designed to anger you. It's also almost necessary for any non-American trying to stem the tide of American politics online.

I recently noticed that Twitter was hugely increasing the number of "X liked this tweet" appearances (which is the worst of algorithm fluff), so I wrote a quick style filter to hide them all. It's lovely.
Just add this to your custom styles plugin (I use Stylish for Chrome):
[data-component-context=suggest_activity_tweet]{display: none !important};
posted by distorte at 7:03 AM on March 5 [23 favorites]


A couple of months ago I also made a small tweak to my Twitter account that has improved my experience of the platform: I deactivated it.
posted by oulipian at 7:10 AM on March 5 [56 favorites]


My rules for using Twitter are 1. always use a third-party app (so there are no ads or weird "other people like this" notifications), 2. turn off all retweets from all people and 3. only follow people I know in real life, or at least care about as human beings instead of merely sources of hot memes.

Now Twitter is nice.

I still get my fill of hot memes on Mastodon/the fediverse, where there is a lot of shitposting but everyone is generally really nice to each other and there's no "quote tweet" mechanic to inflame a discussion.
posted by sixohsix at 7:12 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]


I recently unfollowed all “newsy” accounts and demoted them to a separate list, and populated my main feed by following accounts that focus on art, history, culture and Metafilter-style Best of the Web content or A&L Daily-style thoughtful features (Aeon, Atlas Obscura, Laphams, LRB, etc.) and it has been a truly refreshing change. I feel like I’m actually learning things again instead of being pummeled by “timely,” ultimately empty updates that i actually don’t need to know about.

Matt Yglesias tweeted weeks back that he thought most people would be better off reading a newspaper in the morning and watching a 30 minute newscast at night and he was right. News is the empty calories of information.
posted by mpbx at 7:23 AM on March 5 [9 favorites]


The nice thing is that if you rt this story only the people who need it will see it.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:30 AM on March 5 [4 favorites]


TIL the editors at the Atlantic can’t tell a ß from a β

Seriously people it's not that damned hard
posted by caution live frogs at 7:31 AM on March 5 [12 favorites]


I downvote (“I don’t like this tweet” under the disclosure triangle) any of the “X liked this tweet” tweets that I see and as a consequence I don’t get them at all anymore. That works for some of the other features too, like “In case you missed it”.
posted by chrchr at 7:33 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]


The sadness and frustration of an article on reducing software-curated outrage wrapped in related links for software-curated outrage articles ...
posted by zippy at 7:53 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]


I wrote up a brief guide on how to do this
....
so I wrote a quick style filter to hide them all

Thanks both! I was sad this article did not actually include the script it refers to. I recently deleted my Facebook for pretty much exactly the reasons outlined in this article - it's a platform whose monetary model depends on increasing interactions, and it turns out there's a whole lot more daylight between that and community-building than was apparent when it was smaller.

Ironically given that I posted this, my own Twitter is now devoted almost entirely to retweets - namely retweets of perspectives other than my own white-cis-hetero-male one; there's literally nothing I have to say that I haven't found already said and better by women of color, LGBTQ folks, and/or others, so why not amplify those voices rather than promote my own? Still, I'm very much on the same page as the author.

I still get my fill of hot memes on Mastodon
I am loving Mastodon, and I think it works in part because of the smaller size and in part because the community is largely aware of what has gone wrong on the larger platforms. I'm hesitant to proselytize about it though, for fear of it becoming more of the same.
posted by solotoro at 7:54 AM on March 5 [3 favorites]


Unfortunately Instagram isn't immune from the retweet/share. "Regrams" are a thing that people do manually or with third party apps now. I've had to unfollow a few people because of their relentless regrams, despite me liking their actual original content in the rare occasions it showed up in their feeds. And Instagram has been testing a native regram button over the past few months, so I'm sure that service will be ruined, too.
posted by zsazsa at 8:25 AM on March 5


Instagram does seem intent to doing all the stupid things that have ruined every other social media.
posted by octothorpe at 8:28 AM on March 5 [5 favorites]


Are there changes you could make, to optimize Twitter for thoughtful discussion?
posted by Baeria at 8:29 AM on March 5


Are there changes you could make, to optimize Twitter for thoughtful discussion?

If I say "ignore it," I'll be accused of being snarky and unhelpful, but the truth is that Twitter was not intended for, is not designed to facilitate and cannot support "thoughtful" anything. It may, arguably, be fine for what you want from it, but if it's thoughtful discussion you're interested in, I humbly suggest looking somewhere else.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:37 AM on March 5 [7 favorites]


At least on instagram almost anything I'd be tempted to regram would be cute animal pictures or oooh, pretty. That's only half of my retweets (the other half being the troublesome political/feminist/outrage/weather/etc.)
posted by Karmakaze at 8:37 AM on March 5


That works for some of the other features too, like “In case you missed it”.

Oh Twitter, I wouldn't say I missed that Trump tweet
posted by OverlappingElvis at 8:38 AM on March 5 [9 favorites]


I largely retweet women, people of color, and other minority groups. I have a decent following, larger than a lot of the people I follow, and it is my way of amplifying what they are saying.

There are specific people whose retweets I turn off, because I don't get much out of their retweets or because we follow enough of the same people that I am usually seeing their tweets anyway. But retweets are the way I find new people to follow, the way I find news that is not on my radar, etc.

I'd suggest that if your Twitter experience is so badly influenced by retweets that you have to turn them off in general, that might be because of how you have curated who you follow, and not because of an inherent problem with retweets.
posted by maxsparber at 8:55 AM on March 5 [34 favorites]


If there's one thing I'd fix on Twitter, it would be to block all reaction gifs.
posted by octothorpe at 9:03 AM on March 5 [7 favorites]


I mute phrases like "Say it louder for the people in the back" which eliminates a lot of outragey stuff. I bet if I muted the clap emoji it'd get rid of another 25%.

That said, I do RT a lot of trans rights stuff because almost no one else in my TL does and I really feel that most of it flies under the radar for cis people (including gays). We're such a tiny minority that if we don't have allies, we're fucked, and we can't have allies unless people know about this shit.
posted by AFABulous at 9:18 AM on March 5 [16 favorites]


TIL the editors at the Atlantic can’t tell a ß from a β

They have it aß-βackwards.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:19 AM on March 5 [23 favorites]


Mute / hide all posts from [source] / "show most recent first" are the things that make social media usable. Only following people you know (and maybe a very limited number of institutional /famous /stunt / popular) accounts are the things that make it bearable.

When Instagram killed its chronological feed in favor of whatever they do now, I unfollowed almost every account I was following. I am down to a dozen or so friends, the NYPL and the US parks. But it remains my favorite because it's just original content. And though I see my friends' manicures, my friends' protest signs, their fitness apps, they're not pushing an agenda or trying to sell me something--they're just giving me ambient awareness of their days. I miss that about social media.
posted by crush at 9:20 AM on March 5 [3 favorites]


I don't mind retweets on Twitter because I like to get a bigger picture of what's being discussed but I do agree that I'd be upset if Instagram ever copied that "feature".

Instagram has been doing this for months. The "suggested accounts" (or whatever they call it) section that comes in 6 or so posts down the feed is stuff your friends have liked.

posted by sideshow at 9:28 AM on March 5


This is from last year but I just ran across it: Binky is an app that goes completely in the opposite direction from more genuine contact with others, a fake randomly-generated social media feed that still chimes approvingly if you favorite a "bink" and lets you "comment" on things by randomly banging on the keyboard Stephen-Colbert-style (but it still types out a coherent pre-generated comment for you.) Television interview with the creator Dan Kurtz starting at 7:45.
posted by XMLicious at 9:31 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]


I muted my twitter account entirely by deleting it. I have loads of respect who can manage being on social media. I can't do Facebook or Twitter or mastodon.

I think metafilter and Instagram are the only online communities I engage with now besides this crusty old mailing list on hyperreal.org for analog synth fanatics that I've been on for 23 years. Instagram is a thing I spent maybe 10 minutes a week looking at. Metafilter gets some of my other spare time for this kind of jackassery, but thinking about it, since deleting twitter and Facebook, I'm mainly back to that mailing list for analog synth fans, reading up on synths and trying to find old weird-ass fun trick noisemakers from days of yore.

Thinking about it even more, I would like most of my "online life" to lead me to going to more pawn shops and thrift stores IRL to find old cheap, half-broke-busted-ass music equipment from the island of misfit toys that was hardly any good in the first place that no one wants anymore and makes sounds no one ever really glommed onto. And bring those unwanted beasties home to make music that no one likes to be posted to a lonely Soundcloud account on the long tail of the internet.

I need an online warehouse district for the forgotten ones.
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:33 AM on March 5 [8 favorites]


Not knowing about stuff is not really, I feel, the safest option for me in this world at this time. I have about 8 Tweetdeck lists into which I put people (sometimes redundantly, because they have conversations with each other and the list function will show me both sides if I have both people in the list) since my "home" stream is just a firehose. This works really well for me, but does mean that mobile apps are pretty much useless, I need my entire browser window to accommodate the lists.

It's not my only source of information, but it is my primary source of "what's going on right this second" information, a lot of which, these days, is in fact worthy of outrage. But there are also some great conversations going on that I'm either a part of or get to see happen, because of my silo-ing. I do miss having a home forum that's a little more private/accountable and also more casual-chatty than Metafilter, but I don't have the time to run one myself so I can't much fault anyone else for not being able to.

I do wish we could have a Twitter conversation here that wasn't entirely "well *I* just don't use it" and "I don't understand why anyone uses Twitter" but I don't think we're quite there in the local zeitgeist yet. I have a similar issue with Slack/Discord, that form of information delivery doesn't really work for me as a conversational tool, but it does for lots of people so the issue is likely me, not the platform.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:45 AM on March 5 [8 favorites]


the truth is that Twitter was not intended for, is not designed to facilitate and cannot support "thoughtful" anything.

You can be thoughtful and not participate yourself in the rage-tweeting and the brigading and whatnot, but the decisions that went into Twitter at the start didn't account for how amplification and piling on could be used/misused/abused. The fact that they come out periodically and act contrite about it doesn't make up for the fact they've showed contrition for a couple years now whenever the bad press piles up and then they've gone back to doing nothing about it. Being the change you want to see only goes so far.

So, yeah. I wanted to get angry about this comment but then I realized I couldn't disagree with it at all. I went off Twitter for the entire month of January and really enjoyed the time off. I'm back on now, and I discovered that after I installed Tweetbot again it had all the push notifications turned off. I've left them off, which helps me participate a little less in the reflexive rage machine, and I'm now at least slightly more aware of when I'm getting into that loop. But even so, I can feel it being bad for my mental state.

I'm not sure there's a healthy, "thoughtful," political use of Twitter, and the political is crowding all the rest of the dog or cat GIFs and what-I-had-for-breakfast and dumb jokes that used to be fun.

On the FPP: I have a small number of accounts muted because they seem to serve only a rage machine purpose (oddly, an equal number of accounts on both the right and left seem to get retweeted a lot, the right from hate-RT, the left from all the people going THIS THIS THIS). I have also turned off RTs on a few people I follow who tend to retweet whatever wackadoo stuff constantly, but I haven't yet been tempted to turn off all retweets altogether.
posted by fedward at 9:50 AM on March 5 [1 favorite]


Hm. I experience a lot of utility from Twitter RTs, actually. Some people are good at finding and sharing posts, like William Gibson. I have a series of Twitter lists I follow that include folks who RT well.

I'm surprised neither the linked article nor this discussion have mentioned Tumblr, as its version of retweeting plays a big role in that platform.
posted by doctornemo at 9:54 AM on March 5 [6 favorites]


Another note: there's a ton of good useful discourse on Twitter relative to queer issues and women's issues and race issues, and it's one of the fields in which that good discourse is grown, and so being able to say "mm, just don't be there" or "I'm more pure because I don't see retweets" whiffs of privilege that not everyone has if they want to feel known or seen.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:00 AM on March 5 [16 favorites]


I'd suggest that if your Twitter experience is so badly influenced by retweets that you have to turn them off in general, that might be because of how you have curated who you follow, and not because of an inherent problem with retweets.

Agree entirely. I'll add to this that the ability to RT has helped signal boost conflicts like Ferguson, Standing Rock, and Rojava from the perspective of people on the ground. You're able to get an unfettered point of view from the people there and participating, whose perspectives might otherwise by overlooked or distorted through the news filter. But I guess a lot of the complaints about "outrage" are related to people RTing things that they give a shit about, which seems to rub a lot of other people the wrong way. Who then complain about how intellect-free Twitter is. There is so, so much wrong with the way Twitter is managed and their geological-scale response to the far right on the medium is enough for plenty of people to justifiably abandon it. The ability to RT is such a strange thing to focus on.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 10:08 AM on March 5 [18 favorites]


Huh, I didn't know retweets could be turned off. I'll give that a try!
posted by Calzephyr at 10:46 AM on March 5 [1 favorite]


TIL the editors at the Atlantic can’t tell a ß from a β

Seriously people it's not that damned hard


Hi, what's the difference? I mean I can see they look different but what else?
posted by runcibleshaw at 10:49 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]


No RTs + using a 3rd party app (Tweetbot) makes Twitter enjoyable for me. Also, I unfollow people if I don't like what they post. /shrug

> Hi, what's the difference? I mean I can see they look different but what else?
The ß is a German letter which is a double S. The β is a Greek letter.
posted by robotmachine at 10:51 AM on March 5 [1 favorite]


Another note: there's a ton of good useful discourse on Twitter relative to queer issues and women's issues and race issues, and it's one of the fields in which that good discourse is grown,

trans twitter discourse has been stagnated for 3 years now and the trans twitter community has gotten more fragmented and divisive towards each other. Like, seriously tweets from 2015 are saying the same damn thing tweets from 2018 are saying and it's gotten tiresome and frustrating as hell to see trans people on twitter shitting all over each other over the tiniest mistake of words. Language precision and twitter do not favor each other and it would be nice for people to recognize that there does not have to be "one single phrasebook for ALL TO USE, else I will sic my twitter pack all over your ass". In the end it was trans people who drove me off twitter because I seriously cannot handle the level of nitpicking bullshit that is going on.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:19 AM on March 5 [6 favorites]


I think saying "this works (sort of) if only you use a hack that removes this feature or rigorously curate your feeds to eliminate that" carries an implicit admission that the system is broken as delivered unless you treat it kind of like that bottle of lye you keep locked away from your kids for the once-a-year clog.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 11:29 AM on March 5 [1 favorite]


Honestly I find that Twitter is most useful for quick questions that I can't google. It's like a mini-askme. Should I eat this, which tie should I wear, what's making this noise in my kitchen, what tool do I need to loosen this bolt. It's also good for getting a wide net of emotional support when I can't lean on my IRL friends indefinitely. It's terrible for anything substantive.
posted by AFABulous at 11:34 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]


I bashed twitter for the longest time, but now I'm a big user. I discovered it's use for me was politics. Retweets are how I see a lot of content and it's impact.

I'm not interested in people's personal posts about pets, kids, movies, etc, which is why I can't really find a use for Mastodon even though I like the platform. I quit following people if they start putting personal tweets out. I'm not really looking to be social, just spread information. Retweets are the spreading of information.
posted by bongo_x at 11:42 AM on March 5 [3 favorites]


Half of why I am really enjoying Mastodon is the switch hidden at the top of the home column to hide retweets*. Everything is just so much calmer, and I can catch up on what the friends I'm following are doing in a few minutes.

Every so often I try looking at Twitter and I'm just amazed at how much junk is between the actual thoughts of the people I follow - that novelty account I thought I muted last time, pleas for kickstarters, some famous person said something that they must be pilloried for, oh and don't forget tweet 1/? of a THREAD👇🏾👇🏾 that actually kinda sounds interesting now and then but when I tap on it all I see is people replying to it and the actual thread is buried below a whole week of tweets on the person's own timeline. And this is via Tweetbot so I don't see "sponsored" tweets or "popular" tweets or "the porn your friends favorited" or all the other thing Twitter adds to its web app to Increase Engagement.

I used to be completely used to all that stuff, I'd spend several hours of every day just keeping up with that damn firehose as it slowly grew worse and worse. Now I've quit and holy crap it's just so much quieter.

* "boosts" to use Masto's name for them; "echos" if I'm gonna go with what it says on my own instance.
posted by egypturnash at 11:46 AM on March 5 [1 favorite]


your twitter presence is awesome AFABulous.

Thinking about it, I miss only my fellow mefites on twitter.

Maybe I could make a "metafilter only" twitter and that would not feel like the heat death of the universe to me.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:46 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]


Instagram does seem intent to doing all the stupid things that have ruined every other social media.

They're all intent on doing the things each other does, and by my estimate LinkedIn is the clear leader in encompassing every feature from any social site.

The continuing challenge is to preserve differentiation in the marketplace, but eventually they'll all fail, consolidate, or survive as a flavored version of the stuff everybody else does. That is, there's probably only one actual business model between Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Vkontakte, the Chinese one, and so on, it's just a bridge design question after that.
posted by rhizome at 11:52 AM on March 5


I'm seeing Mastodon mentioned without any explanation:

For those that haven't heard of it, Mastodon is a decentralized social network that aims to fix the problem with twitter and other social networks. So think Twitter, but anyone can set up a server (instance), choose their moderation policies and still let you connect to other instances. If you have to many bad actors around, other networks will cut you loose, like email.

This also means that there is a 'local' timeline of people on your instance, which is actually pretty useful on smaller instances. So you get themed instances, like tenforward.social (Star Trek roleplay) or dice.camp, roleplaying game focused.

Problem 1) Massive companies control our social networks
Solution: Anyone can run an instance, and they can all talk to one another. This means if one admin fails to censor nazis or such, the rest of the network has mechanisms to cut them loose, and users on that instance have some pretty easy mechanisms of moving their account from one instance to another. (Instances are basically like IRC or email servers. They change the last part of your Mastodon address, and control what size messages and attachments you can send.)

Problem 2) Moderation:
Solution: It is a lot easier to have a bunch of admins each in charge of a few hundred users. See point above about cutting bad instances loose from the network.

My break is up, so I'll just leave these links:
This seems to be a pretty good new user introduction.

This one is a bit older (A lot of the interface issues it mentions have been removed), but I like its honest about the problems new users will have.

This is more a guide to the culture and the expectations then a technical how-to, but my girlfriend, Metafilter's own DialMforMara is quoted in it.

As a note: Don't just going Mastodon.social, it is rather overloaded right now. Wandering.shop>/a> is very good and Mara is on it, as is my backup account. My main account is @canageek@cybre.space and my roleplaying game focused account is @canageek@dice.camp
posted by Canageek at 11:55 AM on March 5 [5 favorites]


heh i have a "metafilter people" list on my twitter it works p well
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 11:56 AM on March 5


So here's the thing I don't understand about Twitter. A lot of highly successful public intellectuals, from Ezra Klein to Kirk Borne to Matt Blaze to... well, Alexis Madrigal, tweet a lot. Like, dozens to hundreds of times a day. How do they get anything else done??? I understand that Kim Kardashian has paid tweeting assistants, but I don't think Tyler Cowen does. And they don't generally appear to be scheduled tweets since they always engage in dialogue. Have these people just stopped doing anything else original and now they tweet all day? Is Twitter just their full time gig now? I'm totally mystified.
posted by miyabo at 11:57 AM on March 5 [1 favorite]


Twitter can destroy your perspective. “Every outrage was becoming the exact same size,” Mike Monteiro, a prominent web designer, wrote in a Medium post about quitting Twitter. “Whether it was a US president declaring war on a foreign nation, or an actor not wearing the proper shade of a designated color to an awards ceremony. On Twitter those problems become exactly the same size.”

This is disorienting, and the strangeness of the discourse can be exploited—as it has been by Russian agents and white supremacists. In that sense, the 2016 U.S. presidential election was merely a symptom of the deeper problems with social media. The neo-Nazis, too, are less aberrations than opportunists. (Race-baiting is viral gold!) Their provocations will be retweeted. The takedowns of their provocations will be retweeted. Everyone wins, if winning is being angry.


Rage is fun.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:12 PM on March 5


Mastodon seems like a fine platform but it doesn't really do anything for me since no one I want to follow is on it. I don't really follow any friends on Twitter, I just use it to follow political reporters and film critics, none of whom are on Mastodon.
posted by octothorpe at 12:17 PM on March 5 [5 favorites]


Mastodon seems like a fine platform but it doesn't really do anything for me since no one I want to follow is on it. I don't really follow any friends on Twitter, I just use it to follow political reporters and film critics, none of whom are on Mastodon.

This also goes for a lot of activists of colour and other minority communities as well. For good or for ill (mostly ill), Twitter is free and accessible with no barriers to entry for people who aren't as Internet-savvy, or obsessed with finding an alternative Twitter (people who flee tend not to be the people who remain despite constant harassment), or have no other platform for their voices.
posted by Kitteh at 12:24 PM on March 5 [4 favorites]


That older post about Mastodon says there are some pretty serious privacy concerns:
Any instance is free to ignore the privacy options sent with a post. If a user on a malicious instance follows you, your posts will federate to that instance (fulfilling the remote follow) — but the instance itself may ignore your privacy options or publically display messages that you had set to private.

In this way, you not only have to vet which instance you are on — misbehaving instances can ignore your privacy prefs, or store your posts for later — but you must also vet what instances and users are following you.

Twitter is a little similar, but mostly in the sense that a malicious follower can skim all of your tweets and post them publically. The big difference is that direct messages on Mastodon can be intercepted if any person in the conversation is on a malicious instance, even if the user themselves isn't malicious.
AFAIK, on Twitter, you have to grant access to individuals if your account is private - someone can't just decide to follow you and see your private posts. It sounds like Mastodon has a different arrangement - or do you have to approve followers there?
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:29 PM on March 5 [2 favorites]


ErisLordFreedom: You can set your account on Mastodon to require approval for followers.
posted by SansPoint at 12:41 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]


Can anyone talk through the process for muting all retweets and quote tweets in latest Tweetbot? Totally up for trying that.
posted by 6am at 12:50 PM on March 5


Yes, if you use Twitter as a news/famous people aggregation tool Mastodon is not a replacement. It feels a lot more like 2007-2008 era twitter.

For those that weren't on it at the time: Brands and companies didn't know what to do with it. It was a lot of people in their 20s (mostly) discovering it and hanging out, talking about things that interested them. There weren't really news feeds on it, you had RSS for that back then.

This is trying to be the place where you go hang out with your friends, make new internet friends and shoot the breeze.

I've encountered a *lots* of trans and non-binary people there due to the fact it has tools such as allowing you to approve followers, community warnings on posts (often used for politics, so you can choose not to expand that post on politics, for example). There are also a LOT of furries, people pretending to be dragons, and so on. I think there is even a kink instance.
posted by Canageek at 1:08 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]


I think the retweets point to a larger structural problem behind big social media, which managed to repeat all the same mistakes that turned toxic when the exact same modes and features were created for university and corporate systems of a few thousand people. This reflects either a profound ignorance or a callous faith in a particular Darwinian view of "free speech." Hiding those features reflects a technocratic faith that structural problems can be fixed by implementing better killfiles. But those structural biases persist, and create de facto forms of discrimination.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 1:29 PM on March 5 [2 favorites]


I turned off both retweets and tweets. All of them. Years ago...
posted by jim in austin at 1:40 PM on March 5


I'm afraid I stopped reading at "I follow thousands of people"; Twitter has all sorts of problems, but it's never going to be feasible to deal with that. It's like complaining that it's awkward to sip from a firehose you set up.
posted by malevolent at 2:02 PM on March 5 [4 favorites]


It's not necessarily a firehose, though. I follow over 1,000 accounts and I'd say 90% rarely post anything, but I do want them to show up on my timeline when they do. Bands, for instance.
posted by rhizome at 2:04 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]


Canageek: I think that's the key thing a lot of people don't get about Mastodon. It's not a Twitter replacement, it's something new and different. It's social. It feels more like hanging out on IRC back in the day than Twitter ever did, even back when Twitter was new and wild.

If you're Mastodon curious, then by all means, go find an instance and create an account. Start following people. People you don't already know. Make new online friends. That's what it's for, not following celebrities, brands, and news sites.

And yes, there is a kink instance at kinky.business — another fun thing about Mastodon is the amusing instance domain names!
posted by SansPoint at 2:05 PM on March 5 [4 favorites]


A lot of highly successful public intellectuals, from Ezra Klein to Kirk Borne to Matt Blaze to... well, Alexis Madrigal, tweet a lot. Like, dozens to hundreds of times a day. How do they get anything else done???

How long did it take you to think of and type that comment? Less than 30 seconds? A minute? It's 611 characters, so about three tweets. If you take two minutes out of every hour to write that much, you have 60-120 tweets in a ten hour day.
posted by AFABulous at 2:09 PM on March 5 [2 favorites]


I got my hackles up about this story until I read that they'd actually done the scientific work to show that anger makes something more viral, and yeah that's a good point. Look how much stuff on the front page is driven by anger. Hell, there's an entire sidebar that's just angry people.

Are there changes you could make, to optimize Twitter for thoughtful discussion?

They made the one change I thought they needed: get away from the 140 character limit. It was always slightly too small to contain a complete thought.

I'm surprised neither the linked article nor this discussion have mentioned Tumblr, as its version of retweeting plays a big role in that platform.

The thing is, Tumblr doesn't have replies, and the platform makes it kind of difficult to read what other people are saying about a particular post. Every repost is a curatorial action, unlike on Twitter where the replies and reactions are ever-present just underneath a particular tweet.
posted by Merus at 3:50 PM on March 5


I’ve been completely off Facebook and Twitter about a year and Instagram about 8 months and pretty much every single aspect of my life is better. I exercise, read, write and make music more. When I meet new people I get to just enjoy them (or not) as they are in the real world without worrying that they’re secretly jerks on the internet. I haven’t taken a photo of my food in half a year. And: no fake outrage. So much less anxiety.
posted by eustacescrubb at 4:13 PM on March 5 [2 favorites]


I don't even own an internet!
posted by AFABulous at 4:28 PM on March 5 [19 favorites]


It was the constant retweets that drove me away from Twitter, for all the reasons mentioned above. I quit on January 1 for a month-long experiment and when I peeped in on Feb 1 I had many many notifications. All of them were merely twitter informing me of tweets that people "liked", and not one of them was any of my followers saying, "Hey...you've been quiet...you ok?"

Then I realized that the social part of Twitter that I loved years ago was gone forever. Today I have Lin-Manuel Miranda's Twitter feed bookmarked (with retweets off) and that's all.
posted by kimberussell at 7:16 PM on March 5 [2 favorites]


I'm going to second or third or whatever that if you hate twitter, it's because you're following the wrong accounts. I just use the twitter web page, or the twitter smartphone app, and my twitter is basically always fun and has minimum outrage (unless you count the 2 weeks of furries taking strong positions about whether pineapple is a pizza topping or not).

If you don't like your twitter feed, weed the list of who you follow until you get it to where you like it. These are choices you are making for yourself -- nobody clicked the follow button on any account except you. Unfollow is always available.
posted by hippybear at 7:55 PM on March 5 [2 favorites]


My experience of Twitter is so incredibly different from anyone else's I hear about that I sometimes wonder if I'm using different software entirely.

It's probably because it's a professional account, so I only follow people who post about a set of fairly neatly curated topics relating to the humanities and/or technology, and who don't post about politics unrelated to those topics, or their personal lives, or on too wide a range of different interests. Mostly I follow people who retweet, but who retweet the kinds of interesting posts relevant to the topics I follow that you might expect to find on e.g. the front page of metafilter. This works great!

Here are the latest 10 tweets on my Twitter front page right now:

@AboriginalVic
If successful, Budj Bim, near Lake Condah would be Australia’s first World Heritage listing awarded solely for its Aboriginal cultural values.

@statelibrarynsw
#fromthelibrarystacks - 'On the Street' and 'Drum Media' were a mainstay of Sydney's music culture in the late 80's and 90's. While we can't take you back to Sydney's nightlife of that era, we can bring back some memories with our collection of street press. @TheMusicSydney

@nzerik 
I love a good SAGA map http://sagamap.hi.is/is/ 

@TroveAustralia
1937: the health food of a nation! Image: https://trove.nla.gov.au/version/182598767 … (@Library_Vic)
[an interesting historical photo]

@dhumanities_rr
Digital Studies/Le champ numérique http://www.rightrelevance.com/search/articles/hero?article=bde7436b9a8742611ae0bad6305acb72316a1a07&query=digital%20humanities&taccount=dhumanities_rr …
[a link to a journal special issue]

@ConversationEDU
Down Syndrome on stage: You Know We Belong Together crosses boundaries between life and artistry.
https://theconversation.com/down-syndrome-on-stage-you-know-we-belong-together-crosses-boundaries-between-life-and-artistry-92824 …

@DanaMcFarland
Wouldn’t want developers to be inconvenienced by citizen committees https://twitter.com/TownOfLadysmith/status/970803629698449408 …
[ok, I don't know what this one is about and it's probably not that relevant to my list of interests]

Chester Scoville Retweeted
@jmartinwrites
An interesting thing: the Marvel universe of the sixties was full of disabled and disfigured protagonists. Thor used a cane, Daredevil was blind, Bruce Banner would sometimes use a chair post-transformation, as did Professor X always. We've since edited much of that out.

@ChesterScoville
59m59 minutes ago
More Chester Scoville Retweeted Nick Kapur
Boy will they be surprised when (not if, when) the remaining majors don’t have clear career pathways either.
[The University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point is proposing to eliminate virtually the entirety of the humanities and social sciences in favor of new majors "with a clear career pathway."]

@scalzi
Retweeted Neil deGrasse Tyson
Sounds profound and coffee mug-worthy but is not actually true (and also, "art" and "entertainment" are not either/or in this manner, even in this questionable formulation -- they can overlap significantly).
[Bears repeating: Creativity that satisfies & affirms your world view is Entertainment. Creativity that challenges & disrupts your world view is Art.]

I have no idea what other people's pages actually look like, but in my imagination it's all ads for impotence pills, arguments about Trump, and retweets of Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: funny pass it on emails. Is this true?
posted by lollusc at 9:36 PM on March 5 [5 favorites]


lollusc: People bitch about twitter al the time, but I figured out early on to follow the accounts that add good and delete the ones that add bad and I don't know why this is so hard for everyone else to figure out. Seems like you have a good feed, and I'm glad for that. I wish everyone had a twitter stream that they enjoyed. So many don't. It's all their own choices that they don't. They blame that on twitter as a platform, but it's really entirely in their own power to make it better.
posted by hippybear at 9:44 PM on March 5 [4 favorites]


but the decisions that went into Twitter at the start didn't account for how amplification and piling on could be used/misused/abused

As the product leader for the retweet button effort on Twitter, I can confirm this is true. And very sad. And an embarrassing and regretful factor in my no longer wanting to produce much for tech companies anymore. We were stupid. And we should fix it.
posted by massless at 11:43 PM on March 5 [8 favorites]


I have just received a carrier pigeon from an anonymous friend STOP Message says their life is one million times better since they gave up computers STOP like they are literally chuckling with happiness and rainbows are everywhere STOP
posted by the agents of KAOS at 12:38 AM on March 6 [8 favorites]


I have a highly sharded approach to social media:

- Twitter is for transit / urbanism / "the world at large"; I assume this is my public identity and I retweet liberally.
- Instagram is for cats, malamutes, and the occasional turkey; I post a trickle of hyperlocal silliness
- Facebook is for reassuring my parents that I am alive, seeing what things my neighbors are giving away, and keeping up with the sacred harp community; pretty locked down
- Google+ is for following two people who work / used to work for Google; basically no posting.

Twitter is the only one I post to with any frequency, and without retweets, it looks like:

- dinosaur!
- moose!
- genuine question
- 'what is this thing in my neighborhood'
- 'in Stardew Valley I wondered if I could sleep the whole day'
- a pun

i.e. I turn into a five year old with a large vocabulary and no political opinions, which, admittedly, is my persona a lot of the time. Applying that transform to most people would definitely result in much gentler, but also much more inane feeds. Instead of doing that, I just read Twitter until I feel like I shouldn't, and then retreat into Instagram.
posted by batter_my_heart at 2:00 AM on March 6


How do they get anything else done???

Even the literati have to do a really big poo every now and then.
posted by mippy at 9:14 AM on March 6


This makes me sound horrible but I'd much rather see retweets and shares than listen to people's endless drama and self-aggrandizing. I don't care about what your baby is doing. I don't care what you had for lunch. I don't care about your bad day at work. I barely know you. I just want those delicious, delicious hot takes.
posted by zeusianfog at 10:15 AM on March 6 [5 favorites]


My least favorite of twitter's new features is the sharing of "likes" in my stream. I don't give a fuck with others I'm following have liked. If they wanted to share, they would (via retweet). The whole Likes thing pisses me off deeply and actually keeps me from liking thing sometimes.
posted by hippybear at 9:26 PM on March 6 [3 favorites]


MeFi's own Nick Douglas shows you how to disable all retweets using Chrome.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:32 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]


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