Why I’m (Mostly) Leaving Twitter

Here’s what I’m going to do as soon as Google+ has an iPhone app:

  1. Use Facebook only for personal updates; for photos of me, friends, and family; and for private messaging in certain cases that don’t matter here. Unfriend (or severely privacy-limit) the many wonderful people with whom I do not consider myself to have strong personal relationships.
  2. Use Google+ for brief posts of substance—most of them exposed to the public (not just to my Circles).
  3. Use my blog for longer posts (as currently).
  4. Abandon Twitter (mostly; keep reading).

My rationale: Right now, Facebook provides me with a medium for incredibly interesting conversation about matters professional, academic, and intellectual. I keep my own status updates along these lines restricted to friends only because of the platform’s slightly arcane (or “clunky,” as Farhad Manjoo calls them) privacy interfaces. I’d prefer to have these conversations open to the public, as they are on Twitter.

Even if I were less lazy about the privacy kinks though, I don’t get the sense that any interesting strangers are out prowling Facebook for compelling public status updates. And Facebook just feels like the wrong platform for this kind of online behavior anyway. It’s too cluttered with games (some of which I play) and personal-life noise (which I love for its own sake) to be really conducive to the kind of “Come on, guys, let’s really talk through this” behavior that I want to encourage. It just doesn’t feel like conversation is what people want to do on Facebook. Good conversations do happen there, but I can’t help but wonder how much better they could be in a different context.

Twitter provides that context, actually, and though I would like to have moved this kind of content there, the UI barriers are just too high. Serious conversation sucks on Twitter; that’s just not what it’s built for. The lack of a good and usable visualization of conversations (even accounting for recent advances in the desktop client) makes following them a hopeless hassle. Worse, the 140-character limit absolutely forestalls any in-depth discussion—notwithstanding those seven-part, ellipsis-separated tweets that drive us all mad. And having to include @replies within that limit makes conversation among many Tweeters seem really, really stupid. As a result of these obstacles, I believe, I have simply been unable to transport the serious and rewarding discussion that happens on Facebook out to Twitter.

Google+ could compensate for these issues in a number of ways. The first is that most of my posts there will be public (as are my Tweets), allowing for greater exposure and diversity of viewpoints. I expect that Google+’s asymmetrical relationship-building mechanism, in which I can add you to a Circle without your having to confirm anything, will lead to users seeking out interesting content from strangers as they do 0n Twitter.

The second advantage of Google+ for my purposes is that in place of Facebook’s still-mysterious “Top News” feed, Google+ lets you view different segments of the stream—not unlike Twitter’s Lists but, again, with a far superior interface. Also, I have no doubt that Google+ will at some point provide topic-based segmentation as well. I’m expecting something like hashtags, but with a cleaner implementation. I should say I’ve yet to really figure out Sparks, or try.

Once I’ve made the changes I list at the beginning of this post, Twitter will remain in my online life only as the corporate and “corporo-human” PR platform it is has become. I will use it to share professional news and to keep up with the news of others. I will not use it for conversation. I will not use it as a feedreader, as some have suggested it has become (or supplanted), because it does not allow me actually to read feeds, merely to click links, which I find far less convenient in terms of my workflows as a user of both desktop and mobile devices.

I think that at first, the changes I list at the top are going to set me back in both professional and personal spheres of online interaction: People not yet on Google+ will no longer have the kinds of conversations with me that I’ve so been enjoying, and on the other hand, I will miss out on the sort of hybrid personal-professional chit-chat that currently seems to happen only on Twitter. I’m just hoping that my social universe eventually lines up with my tactics—not because of what I’m doing, but for the same reasons.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted July 13, 2011 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    On a non-Public comment thread on Google+ (not mine!), Michelle Sharp writes, “I still like Twitter for its comedic value. Most of my funny people aren’t saying anything on here just yet.”

    Great point, I think. There’s probably no reason for those people to switch, I guess, since it’s the 140-character limit that enables them. So that’ll be another thing I hang around Twitter for.

  2. Posted July 13, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    In Soviet Russia, Twitter abandons you.

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