I like Twitter. When I joined just over 15 years ago (!) I genuinely did not expect the hype to last more than a year. But what did I know? It still does a good job of letting me follow very short content from a list of people I pick. I like Twitter as a remote worker. As someone with many interests. I love being able to interact directly with people whose work I look up to, people who say interesting things or post excellent dad jokes. People with specific areas of interest that I want to stay informed about. People whose books, music, journalism or conference talks I enjoyed.
Twitter is great for all those things, but it also has downsides. I'm sure those who read this are aware… it's a walled garden, the company has been too slow banning certain violence inciting politicans, there is lots of harrassment, there are still massive spam and bot issues, the obsession over metrics like follow counts, the verification system that seems biased (like, why is Jen Simmons not verified?), the self proclaimed experts, its anxiety inducing effects and so on. I have tried switching to alternatives that work on solutions for some of those things, but always returned for various reasons. I guess I do like it on Twitter.
Though I net enjoy my time on Twitter, I would have left years ago if I couldn't make these modifications:
- 'Current topics' hidden, when I use the web version (using Better Twitter). Where I live, this section is a gateway to mostly fascist voices, terrible takes and disinformation . It seems bad actors simply take over any popular hashtags, so this may be hard to fix, but for me it means I don't want to see it.
- Ads blocked: because they aren't I'll admit I don't believe there is such thing as relevant ads. Even people who do will likely agree that mismatches happen, in my case crypto ads served to me, a forever crypto sceptic. Please let me pay for the service. On desktop I use an ad blocker, on mobile a paid app that has no ads.
- Tweets auto-deleted: maybe I would like an archive of my thoughts, but not one that is public, on a centralised platform. It seems like too much risk to keep them around. I use Semipheral to do this somewhat selectively.
- People auto-muted: there isn't sufficient time in life to interact with trolls, bullies and cryptobots, tools like Blockparty are instrumental to automating some of the muting and blocking that makes Twitter more liveable.
- Time limited: I'm not always great at this one, but I try to avoid looking at Twitter most of the day, this platform is best enjoyed for a limited amount of time per day. I've sometimes done multi-week breaks too.
Tweaking my tweets
I also try to be better at tweeting.
As a rule, I try not to complain about products or services. If a train company didn't treat me well, that's not my followers' problem. In general, I try to limit complaining. I don't find it very easy, as I love complaining, but I am convinced it doesn't contribute that much.
I also try to ensure my timeline is accessible. That means I add alternative text with every image and don't retweet images without alternative text. I also avoid ASCII art memes and bold or italic unicode characters (like the ones Twitalics converts to, a tool that actually comes with an accessibility warning). Lastly, I capitalise usernames and hashtags so that screenreaders are more likely to pronounce them in a way that makes sense, for instance #CSSDay instead of #cssday. This doesn't always make a difference, but sometimes can,
like in this example where the capitals cause a pause between CSS and Day where I tested.
Another thing I recently tried to do more of is whenever I feel I have something to say, I plan for writing it on this blog and just linking out to it from Twitter. That way I can mitigate the walled garden issue a bit, by putting my content in my a garden that I control.
I'm sure there are lots of ways to use Twitter that I haven't made a habit (like, I hear some use lists extensively). How do you use Twitter?