Twitter hides likes and RTs 🤯
There is a new version of Twitter.
This week, Twitter released a prototype app that selected users can test. Called "Twttr" in connection with the first tweet of founder Jack Dorsey, this app suggests some changes to the social media platform that we all hate.
The most interesting thing is optimizing how your app displays likes (or "favorites") and retweets. Twttr does not immediately display the number of likes, retweets, and replies received by a tweet.
Scroll through the feed to see only the words in the tweet. The name, handle, and photo of the account you tweeted. The little hearts, retweets, and sharing signs you're used to seeing under every tweet are hidden.
They aren't completely gone, but they are now "behind the tap". This means that you need to actually click on a tweet to engage to see how many likes, retweets, and replies you received.
Less likes and retweets
Interactions such as likes and retweets are a hallmark of most social media platforms and are often one of the first things to use consciously or unknowingly to determine a post. If you look at tweets that have a lot of likes and RTs, you might think they're more noticeable than tweets that are mostly ignored.
See tweets that have more replies than likes and RTs. You can probably think of it as controversial.
How will hiding these signals change our behavior?
Twitter says the motivation behind the changes is to make it easier to “read, understand and join conversations”. In a tweet, the company's communications team said:
“Putting likes and retweets behind a tap is just an idea to help make conversations easier to read.”
Reply to tweet, better than just like it
Presumably, the idea is to encourage people to reply to a tweet rather than just hit “like”, and to reply to tweets they are interested in rather than judging them based on their popularity.
Hiding engagement counters behind a tap could help level the playing field somewhat between tweets that are extremely popular and those that are not popular at all, by nudging users to converse more with those that haven't received much attention and discouraging them from just jumping on a viral bandwagon.
But does this really make for better conversation?
Bernie Hogan, a senior researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute, is skeptical. He suggests hiding the engagement counter to remove the context from the tweet and reduce the signal that mediates between all the content in the timeline.
"For me, it suggests a very difficult move towards algorithmic curation" he says. "People seem to decide even less signals, which means that someone else is trying to use those signals in another way."
Like most social media sites, Twitter uses algorithms to choose what to advertise on the timeline. These are partially affected by the number of interactions the tweet received. As a result, hiding the engagement counter can make it difficult to understand why tweets are displayed in the first place.
Too much information on a smartphone
Hogan dismisses the assumption that the problem is providing too much information to the user, he points out that people have been complaining about social media that removes context from conversations for years.
The Twttr app is still a prototype under development, and according to Twitter, new features included in the Twttr app are subject to change and not all will be released. Other changes include a new way to view back and forth replies in a thread. Use color coding and nesting to clarify who is replying to whom.
By prioritizing replies and ongoing conversations, Hogan also allows the prototype app to post content "with a little effort" rather than initiating conversations such as jokes and memes.
The idea of what is considered a "good conversation" on social media has become a hot topic on other platforms. In 2018, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg argued that it would focus on "meaningful interactions" rather than "passive" experiences like reading news or watching videos.
However, it's unclear why these types of interactions should be considered "more meaningful," and recent research has challenged the assumption that "active" users derive more value from their site.
Hogan, meanwhile, saw the cynical reason that Twitter might choose to encourage replies over likes and RTs, saying, "The more replies, the more content. Much content means more content for advertisers and data mining. "