See the entire conversation

There’s a very strong case for arguing Twitter’s entire architecture is tailor made for toxicity and no matter how many focus groups you create it’s unsalvageable in its current form
197 replies and sub-replies as of Jul 15 2018

like i literally left Twitter for a week and felt awesome then i came back on Friday because im a masochist and now i want to die again
clearly humans like myself are unable to control our actions driven by baser needs (internet validation from strangers, insults from anon anime bots) so we need it built in for us until those who make the products are not promoted and bonused by engagement metrics it wont change
(not just picking on twitter, this is an indictment of facebook and google too)
i also want to recognize business world’s influence. Wall Street and financial journalists — including myself — view these companies through a lens of competitive growth. growth, in short, is good. the opposite is bad. the street AND media needs to be trained on another lens.
We all know Wall Street ain’t changing
media might be able to? *might*
How so for Google though?
YouTube reinforces this behavior and it manifests itself across other platforms but YouTube acts more like cable news than it does Facebook — kind of a hybrid of both
I'd say most Google Products are tools for specific purposes unlike social networks that can be used in a public sense for a variety of reasons
really its a condemnation of gamification taken to its logical conclusion
You need to stop including all humans in your comments thought. Not everyone gets depressed after reading Twitter. My friends know people have Facebook personalities and public personalities.
My Facebook experience is pretty good day to day, but that's because I aggressively filter groups and never post public.
Turning off retweets makes it better.
like going private?
oh you mean like altering the network, sorry
i think there’s a reason I don’t hate instagram , At least part of which is that it’s so difficult to re-share things
It is also incompatible with the worst social media content which is the clickbait / racist memes / etc which jumped from email forwarding chains everyone’s grandparents were somehow on to social media rather effortlessly.
I'm experimenting with a retweet-less twitter experience (made easy by this dope tool @b0rk created this should be interesting.
Yup. Suddenly much of the soul draining stuff has just vanished. Some remains via quote tweets, and I’ve lost a lot of the cute puppy RTs in the process, but overall, the experience is so much better.
this is totally fodder for a number of columnists we know
Going for it, thanks for posting the link @EricaJoy!
fav only account imo
This is very “medium is the message.”
This is all true. I would also note that this architectural dynamic applies even more so to cable news.
GREAT point. i feel like perhaps that war is lost and will be cycled out generationally so the fb/goog/Twitter one is more worthy of focus and scrutiny for the future?
Unclear. I have no idea what the future brings. I suspect that a disaster and/or financial crisis will disrupt the cycle in a powerful way.
that’s a good (horrifying) suspicion since, what, we dont have a good track record of self correction before a disaster the one alternate thesis I have out here is that enough techies we’re deeply disturbed by trumps election it has motivated a strong desire to change
Twitter: First you contribute to destroying society and then, ultimately, yourself. Great product.
don't die.
I know that feel. Here’s a doggo
Always running back to Twitter like
you're reading all the wrong tweets, mike.
if you don't put your face in the meat grinder you might miss what's happening inside though
There’s gonna be an entirely new DSM written just for diagnosing how social media has broken our brains.
Yes all of this, but I think you came back because you know how shitty the world is rn and the world needs you. Twitter doesn’t dumb down the shittiness or give it some morally redeeming arc.
That said, Twitter is probably bad
I left Twitter for all of January and it was the happiest I’ve been in years
if i'm not on twitter i don't know the news at all - i would've missed 9/11 if it happened while i was suspended. it makes me anxious. the one time i deactivated and felt fine, i came back to find out a twitter pal had killed himself the next day.
And you came back because you realized there are far more important things in life than being happy
Celeb/politics Twitter is the worst followed by journo Twitter. It gets a bit saner and more essential around more impenetrable subjects and lower follow counts. Just need a hard daily cut off now at 30min or 60min use and it might be survivable.
My favorite part is the inverse relationship between familiarity with AI and faith that AI could magically moderate content
welcome back to hell mike
Die? Na bruh, follow mike isaac, the dude is entertaining and funny. Good stuff on the twitter.
...wait...then you are not really a masochist because you should have wanted to die before and when you came back .... ah ... nevermind ... All I know about masochism, I learned watching BILLIONS ... @SHO_Billions
’s #Succession will get you in the mood, too.
I get the reaction to the toxicity, but can expound on how the architecture facilitates it? Beyond their systems for stopping it being a complete joke, I'm missing the connection.
Instagram is roughly the same infrastructure👍 Truth is, most trolls/abusers/racists are older people. And this is the platform they like.
Curious. Did you feel out of the loop while gone?
I'm concerned you're not muting and blocking enough.
Let’s all just leave at the same time.
by far Twitter's biggest utility to me, professionally and personally and emotionally, is as an RSS feed. Which makes the elimination of Google Reader that much more inexplicable.
Better than the alternatives known as Facebook and Instagram, two hellholes where most people are someone they aren’t.
missed you bruh
It is too damned addictive
To me, Twitter is fun because I only follow people I like. People who amuse me, who have great pictures, who like the sports and activities I like. If anyone gives me grief, I give it right back.
It occurs to me Twitter is how we eventually get to The Matrix and Skynet and we deserve it tbh
I often feel that way but tell myself, and mow you, try not to die because it wouldn't help anything, so stick around at least long enough to vote.
I felt awesome when you left twitter for a week too. Wait what were you saying about toxicity
You need a self regulation button like with most social media. Annoying their addictive natures require the user to self regulate rather than having that designed in but hey.
That’s the problem with the reward system design by the valley, where up and to the right metrics are what you are graded on internally for your bonuses and promotions
Yeh the tyranny of the DAU and the MAU.
Not to be mistaken with the Dao (hey, evenone needs a path, man) and Mao (also tyrannical, boooo)
It’s a deep, dark rabbit hole that I can’t seem to quit for more than a week 😩
Upgrade your muting/blocking game and it won't be such a masochistic activity anymore.
lord give me your strength (to just log off forever)
Deleting again today — gotta go back to work
why do I laugh so hard when people omit the c ? lol
Wow mike ok you jerk
it's literally a box you can quickly shout in whenever you want.
And no one can stop you!
Seriously wish the “efforts” twitter inc has put forth would actually be consistent, or that the company would actually be transparent like it constantly promises.
I mean, I think you could enforce some more strict moderation and it would improve an incredible amount.
i would argue it’s like putting a finger in an unpluggable dam
Maybe, but I’m sure we could both agree that it would be nice to see twitter try at all before saying “burn it down”. Strict enforcement on new accounts would also go a long way.
and that humans are garbage
Yet he is more popular than Obama was at this point in the term.
A clear sign of the racism in America.
More likely due to booming economy, reduced taxes, GDP growth, and employment rates.
All are results of Obama's efforts, and are continuing despite Trump's best efforts...
AMERICA IS SO RACIST THAT OBAMA was twice elected. Better go polish up your logic skills.
Here's the logic... Obama and Trump do indeed have similar approval numbers at this point (18 months in or so). Trump is a slobbering idiot embarrassing us on the world stage at every moment, Obama was a gentleman and respected by our allies. His bar for approval far higher.
But alas Twitter reflects and mirrors humanity and thus there are some bright spots in it's grand architecture along with the depths of toxicity. We just need more one the side of optimism
And Facebook is an information bubble that allows lies to spread just like Twitter
It is tailor made for amplified bullying
Freedom of speech is always good. Even if you don't like the method on which it expresses itself
Wrong! You damn idiot!
Every aspect of its content model was perfectly crafted for bullying. Public by default, retweets with comments (also fully public), not enough characters for nuanced argument.
We're not rats in a science experiment humans are adaptable and choose how we engage. Can a default public digital space not exist and do okay? If not humanity might have bigger problems than just Twitter's setup.
We're not rats in a science experiment. We're people in a science experiment. Fed a/b tested content to see what keeps us glued to our screens. What does your job involve, if not devising ways to keep more people's clicks on your platform?
That philosophy of optimization gets you to lowest common denom product quite quickly & best users disengage. More needs to be considered than quantitative. Anyway core idea here strong enough we've stayed (you've been here since 2009), Note they haven't tweaked it all that much.
I didn't say it wasn't effective. I'm saying it's so effective it has literally caused me emotional and (for lack of a better word) attentional damage. It's the first thing I look at in the morning, my heart rate and anxiety levels spike, I struggle to disengage. I'm a 'success'
And you only follow 110 people. I follow 4,000 and have a different experience, it's actually such a good mix of different opinions and views that I can easily take 1,000 foot view here and see all types of lives and ideas lived out it's always interesting.
I unfollow everybody every Christmas and let my lists grow back organically. This time round I only follow people I personally know and everyone else is in lists (culture, technology, US Politics etc). I do this to try to ease back on the visceral emotional reaction.
Are you making the argument that I'm simply "doing it wrong"?
No apologies if I inferred that, not the case just sharing how I experience this place. There's probably not 'right' or 'wrong' ways which is another thing I like about Twitter & Reddit than Facebook for instance which is far more structured & rigid.
Yes I love that about Twitter it's very very much what you make of it. I know people who just use this to share investing ideas for ex & never touch any other discussions. She does amazing in markets too bc most of the people she follows do similarly. Flexible utility is good.
Well this brings us back to the first point: for tens of millions of people what they've "made of it" is a platform for targeted mass abuse. Twitter gave it that capability and decided that what it *didn't* need was features to protect people when they're targeted.
Recently I wrote a tool to protect people from abuse, when someone targets you on Twitter, you click a button and block *all* of their followers for a set period (default eight weeks). Robbing bullies with followers of some of their power. Twitter could do this, will they?
Thankfully, one look at my profile pic and I generally get treated with respect. (🤔). That's a privilege a lot of people don't have. Twitter is a dangerous place for an awful lot of people.
I agree with you 100% on protecting people here from abuse. This has been ongoing issue for all online public platforms dating back to forums in the 90s. Don't think it's unique to this place but absolutely something to address. Great discussion today btw Tom.
I resent Twitter because I *am* addicted to it, like a smoker who knows the score. Tobacco companies can say "hey, it's more about how you use it, maybe you should moderate", but they are exactly where they want to be.
...and the part of all this saddens me is that as far as Twitter is concerned, I'm one of the 'good ones', I'm a 'success': an engaged pair of eyeballs. Gotta go now, thanks for the chat. See ya round!
I think, ultimately addiction boils down to ourselves and we should take personal responsibility too. Like I could eat In-N-Out every day and be obese but I try and moderate. It's not their fault if the product is so delicious right? But many people get addicted to eating too...
There's a lot to unpack there, but I really do have to go. *Recovering* from addiction boils down to personal responsibility, but *getting* addicted, well, it's partly you, but there's a whole bunch of people who have aims on you.
We really need to do better job teaching young people critical thinking skills. We can't wrap a safe space blanket around everything in the world.
Speaking as a marketing expert, I don't think you'd be saying that people's behaviour can't be nudged in certain directions.
Oh of course. But I think if we're addicted to any sort of technology -- at least to the point it's interfering with our lives -- there might be deeper issues we have to handle personally.
That's an interesting feature idea I think they should def test it.
Our world set tribalism thing in motion awhile ago that's a whole separate issue beyond what any UX tweaks can fix. That it manifested here isn't Twitter's 'fault' might even show you just how well this place manifests the real world. Closing down global watercooler not answer.
You say UX tweaks can't fix it. And yet, it's worse on some platforms than others. If a researcher were interested in the topic, they could ask why.
I don't think can totally fix it, It can help, but they need to be done in a way that's thoughtful to not closing us all off further. It could actually make the world worse if certain people *stop* dialog altogether. Even if people disagree that they still talk is positive.
Blindly optimizing 'for more clicks' is low level, short term, growth-hacky thinking. Twitter people I know consider more than this or they would have ruined this awhile ago. The 'growth at any cost' mindset for social is detrimental to organic engagement/health of communities.
Question: You said "best users disengage", who, to a platform like Twitter, are the "best users" and why do you care if they disengage? Are the 'best users' the ones who click ads? Or are they the ones who have the most followers (and bots) who click ads?
These are awesome Qs. It's clear on Facebook what they optimize for bc they directly input to our stream (tell your friend happy birthday, celebrate 4 years of relationship, etc). Twitter not so much as this is more of blank slate / cacophony (which is what makes it interesting).
I still consider Twitter a default public digital space. I follow news n folks that interest me, and I know anyone can reply. I read replies n when I do I understand they can be crazy folks. I also started using this tool when the tweets sound too flamey:
Is that twitters fault? Or humanity’s fault?
We already know that humanity is a cesspool at what point are you enabling humanity to eat itself
we sold off 'good of humanity' for ruthless technological exploitation a while ago
Think about the MAU/DAU
Twitter is expression of contrary opinion Instagram: Expression of fuzzy feelings Facebook: For the need not to be left out Grindr: Impulse buyers remorse NextDoor: Tool to sell security devices Slack: Way to keep from getting laid-off but now, full employment. Dump Slack.
“Give a man a mask and he’ll tell you the truth.” -Oscar Wilde Twitter is one giant mask. The reality is that huge numbers of people on here are horrible. The twitter mask gives them the secrecy and platform to be their horrible selves.
Actually, the entire state of our nation is toxic. We fear for democracy.
Sad case that the current form and architecture (the simplest social microblogging platform) is at the core of that argument.
It's a perfected echo chamber - especially when the block lists are allowed to be used. things like this:… Make absolutely no sense to exist at all. Why would anyone need to share a block list other than to create huge echo-chamber groups.
How to use advanced block options
Learn how to share and manage your list of blocked accounts on Twitter.
Perhaps that every, EVERY tweet (outside of private accounts) has it's own comment section is part of this?
I declare that you, @DannyPage, have blundered an update and could use “accounts) has [its] own comment” instead. ‘It's’ means ‘it is’ or ‘it has’, but ‘its’ is possessive.
I think you're probably right, but I would say it's more because of the decisions and priorities of the powers that be than the platform itself. They have to actually want to try to make it better for us to know if it's even possible.
Efforts like actual response to harassment, or engineering solutions such as "no @-replying people you don't follow" could make a difference, but there's just no energy being put towards it.
The more a site resembles a BBS or a comment section, the more toxic it becomes.
There's a reason that people who disagree do better in closed settings. On Twitter you're always speaking to your supporters as well as those who disagree, so reaching out and treating people decently doesn't generate nearly the enthusiasm as getting in good solid owns.
out of the box, i agree. i think it *can* be salvageable for the end user but not without a *lot* of work (account blocking, word muting etc). and most people don’t want to have to do all of that. which is why, even before the last few years, they struggled to compete with FB.
I spend so much time tweaking content just to keep my TL liveable and my account is tiny. If I had a normal sized account, it would be a ridiculous time sink.
Or, it could be that you just need an enema.
1) remove the worst actors, ignore the temporary blowback 2) introduce a reputation system that includes good behavior and non-robotness 3) filter low quality mentions from replies, search, and trends more aggressively by default
Ya all can’t listen to someone who has a different view. Grow up. Make you a better person
Just start calling people peados, it’s the new cool
I think it's bc you can't get away from things on here. Even Reddit, for all its weaknesses, lets each individual draw lines around communities they interact with and set their own terms. Twitter is kinda this death cannon of whatever is dominating the current conversation.
I had wondered whether native RTs and all the "Like" and "because you follow so and so" injections in the home Timeline just exacerbate this problem. Like *most* of the content I see is amplified, not original from people I follow. It lends to the flywheel o' shouting.
I guess what I mean is this platform has lost ability for its users to set their own terms for its use in the name of streamlining. So you just kinda float with whatever riptide is happening at the moment.
Bug or feature though?
Do you prefer another social platform? Do you know of any start-ups that show promise?
Counter.Social is toxicity & asshat free. Feel free to drop in & see for yourselves . It is what SM was supposed to be. Fun & free
That’s a new meme, love it! 😍
It facilitates spending time either in a toxic environment or an echo chamber. But I believe (or make myself believe) that as long as you’re aware you’re in a bubble and compensate accordingly, it’s the much better solution for your sanity and enjoyment.
Liberals want to force their way of thinking down everyone’s throats. Liberals have no common sense. They never learned history. Progressive has to do with money. Not with American ideals. Creates 2 class system
And tailor made for learning true facts....for those who separate reason from rant
I think the problem is that everyone at some level likes being toxic You are all liars if you don’t
What if Twitter is just a digital reflection of the current state of the world and will look different at different points in time (very specific to who you follow).
Twitter simply replaced the comments section on news sites and the BS emails your angry old uncle would forward. The toxicity and trolling in the comments section of those sites were pretty awful before Twitter. There is no easy solution; maybe none for social media.
having a hard time believing that a platform based around yelling at strangers online is fundamentally flawed
Twitter just a mirror. The toxicity is what comes from an almost impossibly divided nation.
I miss moderated Livejournal communities, but then Livejournal sold to Six Apart and Six Apart sold to the Russians. But there was a lot of toxicity in those, too.
That’s why president trump won. How in the world can a public servant and street organizer become millionaire on salary they made. Pay off somewhere. And bottom line taxpayers paid. Crooked
U.S. Elected Autocrat?: We should be fearful Trump knew about Russia indictments but did nothing.
I respectfully disagree. Social media is one of the greatest tools that mankind has ever come up... it's PEOPLE that make it toxic.
Ignore 99%. Follow those who are mild. Twitter is not the world.
It's #Trump and his enablers that are making dialogue toxic on #Twitter, #Facebook, in the traditional #media and everywhere else -- online and offline.
Twitter is lubricant for humanity's colon
I am @jack’s festering Nazi hemorrhoid
I knew there was a reason Twitter was tailor-made for me and I keep winning at it! Oh, and I just discovered #Hillary and the #DeepState colluded to trap those kids in the cave in Thailand. MUST INVESTIGATE NOW! #MAGA
Need to add a few other platforms to this list
It didn't suck this hard in the beginning. There were lots of awesome interactions. Then the unwashed masses appeared with their spelling dictates and forum-like troll behavior.
My original acct was created in early 2008 and you're 100% correct: Twitter was fantastic at first. By 2014, I found it to be impossible. Between people too concerned with personal branding and Twitter never dealing with trolls, it just became useless as a means of discussion.
The internet as a whole. One of humans best creations. And one of its worst.
Agree, Mike - very toxic. Not beyond fixable, tho.
yeah that’s why I’m here Mike
this is demonstrably false. with enough bruna twetes you can cleanse the entirety of twitter
An emotional investment in other's opinions will always induce toxicity. But, if us humans can tune out genocides, wars, extreme poverty and human exploitation at scale, ignoring people that we don't give a fuck about should be easier if we try.
I am not recommending apathy but pointing out that yes, Twitter can be a can of worms. We open ourselves to people's thoughts, reactions and rants; many of which are toxic. To distance ourselves from the unpleasant bits should be an active choice.
Shut-up! You aren't a real bear!
Birth of Twitter: <starts slide deck> "Online news today is reported articles chased by insane, toxic flame wars in the comments. We're going to fix it by getting rid of the ... <checks notes> ... articles part."
How predictable. Liberals want to shut down and censor everything.
Perhaps that is where we have evolved to, 'toxic'? Good solution to environmental over-exploitation! Reset species, add fertilizer.
I'm not one to rag on algorithms but I don't like how basically all the tweets in my feed are now ones from strangers that have gone viral
There’s a very strong case for arguing Twitter’s entire architecture is tailor made for toxicity and no matter how many focus groups you create it’s unsalvageable in its current form
1) Garbage in. Garbage out. 2) Twitter is self policing 3) A lot of corruption in the self police department.
From hell's heart, I stab at thee, via @Twitter! j/k
This has been a problem since the days of message boards. Humanity was not meant to have such technology. Shut it all down!
Try reading non-US (and maybe non-UK) twitter and you may find it different? It is (mainly) filled with the feeds from people you choose to follow after all?
Yes indeed. Twitter is a net societal bad, almost entirely because of choices made by @jack and his team. Much of the time it feels like they know they're doing bad and double down on that just to troll.
I'd be curious to know how many people proactively create a better experience for themselves. i.e., using Hootsuite or another aggregator, blocking or muting followers who are obviously bots, etc. I don't experience anywhere near the toxicity I see other people write about.
The delete your twitter and say goodbye
Or you could just stop taking social media too seriously
I've been calling all of this -- Twitter/Facebook/etc. -- anti-social media for years. I walked away for 8 glorious months, but got drawn back in.