Over the past few years, alongside the controversy that has plagued Facebook, Twitter has also received its fair share of criticism. From enabling cyber-bullying to being Donald Trump’s global megaphone of choice, it is often regarded as a toxic hell-stew or ‘dumpster fire’, as numerous American tech podcasters like to say.
Other than the major issues of online abuse, fake news and propaganda, Twitter has also taken away functionality from some of the third-party clients that made the service popular on mobile in the first place. Notable examples include Twitterrific and Tweetbot.
I constantly review my own use social media platforms nowadays, given how distracting they can be. Whilst at university, I reached my social-media-usage zenith with 25 accounts on different services. This was largely due to the encouragement to experiment with various services during my communications degree. I certainly didn’t use all of them constantly and some of them did shut down over time. Others I deleted due to privacy concerns or because they were useless.
My ultimate social-media-usage review occurred last year when I finally deleted my Facebook and Instagram profiles, shifting my personal social media presence to Micro.blog with my site Feld Notes. In addition, Lounge Ruminator solves the problem of having a place to write longer-form content. These two sites are all that I really need.
Still, my Twitter account lives on and I continue to use it. If I have the two most (personally) meaningful spaces possible to record my thoughts and communicate with others, why do I still engage with the platform?
There are two simple answers to this question.
The first is that despite all of Twitter’s issues, the site is still the best place to connect with world news and issues, beyond your immediate circle of friends. Twitter is a space that is almost entirely unrestricted, which is simultaneously its greatest strength and greatest weakness. I prefer Micro.blog as a platform because it is much cleaner in its presentation, it leads to more genuine conversation and you have more control of your content. Twitter, however, continues to be the place where you ‘See what’s happening in the world right now’. Whether it’s fellow tech enthusiasts or some important contacts or friends, they tend to be on Twitter.
The second reason, which is really the more powerful one for me, is that I can still use Twitterrific as my preferred client. Whilst it now has zero access to the polling features or instant push notifications that are reserved for the official app, it still offers an ad-free experience, a customisable interface and a chronological timeline. These are much more enticing features to me.
There is also a level of of fit and finish in Twitterrific that just isn’t present in the official Twitter app. I can choose my own custom icon, I can move buttons, I can change typefaces and I can even choose different colour themes. The Iconfactory, which makes Twitterrific, is so dedicated to the design of its apps that it even hides whimsical elements in parts of the interface. One of the best examples that I can give you is what happens when you click on Ollie the bird’s face in the ‘About Box’ of the Mac version. (I have further thoughts on ‘About Boxes’ if you’re interested.)
Sure, this is useless but it makes using Twitter fun in a way that the company has sadly been unable to do by itself. This kind of whimsy is also a hallmark of great Mac apps. (Not to mention, Twitter pulled its Mac app and is only set to return now that Project Catalyst has made it easier for the company to do so… lazy).
Last year, I almost deleted my Twitter account when I made the big shift to Micro.blog, inspired by Casey Liss’s mini-speech about the platform on Accidental Tech Podcast. I decided to stay because of The Iconfactory and the features that it continues to add to its already fantastic cross-platform app.
If Twitter continues to strip APIs and features from third-party developers, then reason number one may not be enough of a justification for me to stay.