There have been a raft of articles of late predicting the end of Twitter. Predominantly it seems because of its failure to make enough money for shareholders (though recent changes to the system such as moving to hearts for liking something and the new algorithmic timeline are infuriating to many – myself included).
When sites like this were still called “social networking” rather than social media I joined a site called 43 Things. This site revolved around setting up a list of things you wanted to do and then the site encouraged like minded people to cheer each other on. Friendships formed over this virtual bucket list. Like many other start ups it failed. I also have a Flickr account which used to enthuse and inspire me with the random, open nature of it but it fell behind to quicker, more innovative photo sharing sites. Bit by bit the attraction dwindled though I still like to post and view others pictures there. Both of these sites were for my down time, not my business. After all, who needs another photo of a training room?
Which left me with Twitter and blogging as the simplest way to reach out to colleagues, be they fellow freelancers or company employees. Now, I’ve had a lot of fun engaging with and learning from my network so recently I looked at who I follow and I noticed how different a list it was to the one I started out with. Many of the people I initially connected with I have “unfollowed”. This isn’t a personal slight, more that I have a limited amount of time for social media and want to use it in a way which is generative and constructive for me. The point being I made my own choice.
All of which leaves me wondering what will happen if Twitter either goes the way of all those other failed startups or enforces algorithmic timelines. The joy of connecting with others, not necessarily of like mind is one of the draws of Twitter for me. If this powerful and broad communication tool changes where will I go? Certainly other platforms are racing ahead but I for one have no desire to join Facebook or any wish to accompany everything I say with a photo on Instagram. Not least because my Twitter presence is a business account.
Much is made of collaborative working tools and I’m a fan of such approaches. As a freelancer they have been invaluable to me, keeping costs low to non-existent whilst allowing a professional image to be maintained. I use Trello, Skype, Zoom, Dropbox, Google Drive, Linked In, WeTransfer and Notability amongst others. I hear people suddenly rushing to Slack as the latest shiny new thing and all of these are great but many of them are closed / invitational systems. You only have to look at the failure of Path to see how apps limited to your immediate address book (or reliant on your clients wanting to make another login / password in that case) were always doomed to failure or at least the echo chamber of confirmation bias.
And if where we go is where others will not follow, to the closed systems, the algorithims, the corporate might of investment bank funded organisations – do we lose the opportunity to get those fresh perspectives? Will our dream of a social, interconnected world just become a group of gated communities, inward looking and self referential? We’ve had so much for free but are we ready for the monetised, commodified version? Will we be able to seek out the difference we need in order to thrive?
I get the feeling that we may be about to find out.