I remember sending Tweets by text message. Later, when I finally could Tweet in an interface Obama was on the cusp of his first election win. I’ll give anything a try; meanwhile, trying to nicotine patch my way off Twitter, I downloaded Threads, Instagram’s cookie-cutter Twitter analog, or that’s what the cynic in me would say. But do you remember having fun on a new social channel? Was it fun at some point? Right?
Threads are fun. That’s the headline. It is fun, and I’m seeing people I recognize, from Harley Finkelstein of Shopify to Shakira. Creating a profile took less than a minute, and I spent over an hour seeing everyone discover new ways to communicate and engage with users across this forum.
My Instagram following is mostly friends and family, hardly the political and news-heavy feed I’m used to. However, my feed is populated with people I actually know. Now it isn’t a lot of them, but you don’t need that many for it to be interesting.
By the following morning, I found that more of my friends on Instagram joined Threads. I’m connecting with my friends again!
Twitter Feels Dehumanizing.
Comparing Threads to Twitter from an emotional sense is fascinating. Posting on Twitter is dehumanizing. Gathering information can be fun, but most conversations become spiteful and angry.
Some threads and conversations are so cruel and shallow that engagement can harm your self-worth. Studies have regularly shown that social media use can increase anxiety, negative self-perception, and risk of suicide.
Threads, though, at least for me, at least so far, is fun. I have no data beyond personal experience; likewise, I’m a 36-year-old suburban dad. Experiences may vary.
I like engaging with people I care about in real life, people I’m concerned about. Twitter isn’t much like that anymore; I expect so little.
I used to follow people I met, but with COVID, I did much less networking and a lot more work, largely from home. Real-life engagement drives social media follower growth more than people know. Meta is going to capitalize on this fact.
Threads is a channel for people who care to follow small notes about my life because that’s my Instagram channel’s following. I’m not sure that’s everyone’s scenario, but it isn’t my career profile in any respect.
I’ve yet to try it for news gathering beyond opinions about the app itself, including from the President of Shopify, who enjoys it quite a bit and now has more than 1,500 followers.
It feels quaint even writing that sentence; it isn’t a paradise, don’t get me wrong.
There are bots and surely scammers, but there are some brands having fun, or at least their social media managers are. Amazon Prime is being hilarious. And that is the thrill of a new social platform, the opportunity to create a new way to communicate.
Now you may be asking me, is Threads just a carbon copy of Twitter?
Here are 7 major differences between threads and Twitter:
1. No Hashtags (yet?): I’ve seen articles suggest Hashtags will be included in Threads, yet there are no hashtags for now at launch. Not a deal breaker!
2. No direct messages: Like in the old days of Twitter, you talk to the world, and maybe the world will reply. Perhaps the idea is there is no need for this, as Whatsapp and Messenger exist, but time will tell.
3. No trending keywords: Without a trending module, like on Twitter, it is harder to get a sense of the overall themes; while you can see influencers and interesting commentary, “What Trending” is a powerful function to direct users to new content, and that’s tangibly missing.
4. Threads are only interactive on mobile: On desktop, Threads are visible and shareable, but you can’t interact. As a desktop absolutist, I’d like to be able to send Threads from my computer, especially when responding to current news. How will I get charts into my Threads is my main question.
5. What’s Happening Tab Missing: This often maligned feature of Twitter is useful for “What’s happening right now” questions. How else will I know that it is World Chocolate Day?
6. Filter to following: Threads cannot filter your feed to just your followers. This feature has been largely stripped from many other platforms already. Certainly, Twitter’s “For You” section doesn’t do that; YouTube isn’t clean in this respect, either.
7. It’s the wild-west, but that’s good: We have yet to have a social media platform so chaotic, with no real direction of what’s viral; we refresh every second to see what someone on the platform says. The value in social media is about driving engagement, conversation, and views; the wild-west nature of platforms like TikTok drives greater engagement and views; maybe Threads can do that, but for short-form text.
With Twitter’s dumpster fire continuing to burn and frustrate users with access limits and a torrential downpour of hate speech, Meta’s delivery of Threads is a head-turning moment.
Meta’s challenge to Twitter is to replace it with something simpler and better. Another open question is whether Threads will decline into a sea of spam, bots, malice, and advertising.
As a long-time Twitter user, seeing Meta create a platform with features and people we’ve missed is exciting. With Threads, Meta drives itself back into relevance – maybe I’ll be able to catch up with some of my friends too.