I've been a fan of Twitter for five years now, and a vocal Twitter advocate. But over the last year, I've become less and less enchanted with Twitter, to the point where I've thought about quitting the service multiple times. My complaint has nothing to do with advertising in the timeline—they've gotta make money somehow—but with the normalization of Twitter discussion. It's become a boring stew of self-promotion, self-righteous finger-wagging over the latest media event, pointless arguments that never change minds, and inane chatter about television shows. I roll my eyes at Twitter a lot these days.
Part of the reason I've not quit Twitter yet is that I still believe in the simplicity of the service: Short bulletins, arranged in strict chronological order, amounting to a real-time view of how thousands of people see and understand the world. I've harbored the suspicion that if I unfollowed a number of people who I now follow—especially the media types, who are the most infuriating—I could remake my timeline into something worth my attention again. There must still be people out there in the world who are intelligently toying with the formal constraints of Twitter, who have something interesting to say, who don't want to bludgeon the world to death with their boring opinions?
Today, though, it occurs to me that maybe it's time to quit Twitter once and for all. Twitter can't stop talking about Twitter—specifically, they're discussing this Wall Street Journal overview of a presentation by Twitter CFO Anthony Noto:
Twitter’s timeline is organized in reverse chronological order, a delivery system that has not changed since the product was created eight years ago and one that some early adopters consider sacred to the core Twitter experience. But this “isn’t the most relevant experience for a user,” Noto said. Timely tweets can get buried at the bottom of the feed if the user doesn’t have the app open, for example. “Putting that content in front of the person at that moment in time is a way to organize that content better.”
Noto does clarify that chronological order isn't going completely away: "Individual users are not going to wake up one day and find their timeline completely ranked by an algorithm.” But that's not enough of a promise for me. If Twitter fucks with the chronological order of the service, I will be done with Twitter. If I couldn't trust Twitter to provide me with real-time updates of protests in Ferguson, or the Occupy protests, or the Boston Marathon bombing, I would have no use for Twitter. I can find some other way to hang out with friends. I already belong to one social network that whitewashes the news and churns out a repetitive slurry of feel-good posts; I don't need another one.