Last year I wrote about my eight year anniversary on Twitter and how I’ve been using it. Since then another year passed and while my usage hasn’t really changed, there are a few small things I want to talk about.
I don’t remember how I came across the documentary in the first place, but The Dissident has put Twitter into a whole new perspective for me. Personally, I try to avoid any / most political topics on Twitter, since those often lead to toxicity and instead I aim to use Twitter for different subjects. But I never completely turned the table around and looked at Twitter from a politician / government perspective. How much of your population is reading newspaper or watching news broadcasts? And how many people are already on Twitter? In the documentary the Saudi Arabian government realizes this as well, they can reach a lot more people and in a much easier via Twitter, than any other channel out there, especially since such a large percentage are on Twitter already.
The only “annoying” part about an independent platform is, that you can’t just control the content and what people do with it. However, the solution to this can also be constructed by having a room / network of people with fake accounts, liking, retweeting and positively commenting on your tweets. Not only can you move quickly into trending topics whenever you want / need to, but you can also release a whole swarm of “bots” onto people with opinions that don’t fit your regime. Smarter Every Day has good series on social media manipulations and it aligns quite well with what is shown in the The Dissident.
The point being, that as a politician and government, social media and especially Twitter can be “weaponized” as your public opinion manipulator. You can, but don’t have to be as drastic as the Saudi Arabian government, as long as you don’t upset your opponents and proponents at the same time. Your proponents will positively enforce you and your opponents will not be able to refrain from commenting and discussing your tweets, thus also indirectly positively push your tweets. CGP Grey made a very good video on this topic of anger, virality and echo chambers:
Something that has changed a bit over the last one or two years, is that I started following more Swiss people. It’s quite nice to see more local-relevant topics and discussions, which can make interactions feel more familiar. There’s no big additional point here, I just recommend also picking some normal (i.e. non-VIP) people from your area to get some of that local flavor onto your timeline.
Change is Coming
Twitter has had its 15 years anniversary in March this year and for the past nine years, Twitter hasn’t changed all that much. Yes, we went from 120 characters to 240, from favorites to likes, gotten Twitter Polls and the design was tweaked a few times, but the functionalities remain pretty much the same. Not to long ago Twitter has introduce Twitter Spaces in response to Clubhouse‘s popularity and the other day there have been some “leaks” of Twitter Blue, providing a paid theme and icons.
Paying for cosmetics has been a major revenue source for most online games in the decade or so. Personally, I think it would be a win-win situation, where Twitter could make some additional money and those who fancy different aesthetics can do so as well, while everyone else is not affected. Whether it will remain purely cosmetic and what else they’ll be providing with in-app purchases remains to be seen.
Twitter seems to be changing or at least experiment with new things, whether that’s good or bad, remains to be seen.