So, Twitter discarded its Favorites button today (the little gold star) and replaced it with a Like button (a heart. An animated heart, no less, that gets really happy when you click on it.)
I HATE THIS CHANGE.
I hate this change so much that I had to sit down and write this post to analyze myself a little bit. Because one visual tweak to a social media platform I use (even one I use as much as I use Twitter) shouldn’t irritate me this much…should it?
Well, you know, on thinking about it, I actually think maybe it should. Here are my reasons:
First, the practical: I find I can give up the word “Favorite” with no pain whatever; it was kind of meaningless. (And the Twitter higher-ups are right, I think, to figure it was misleading to people unfamiliar with Twitter.) But “Like” is a terrible replacement! And the change from the simple and efficient gold star (which reminds me of the kind of notation I would have used to mark pertinent sections of my notes in college) to the lovey heart is, contrary to what some people are saying, not in fact a small and irrelevantly meaningless change.
The Guardian explained the problem pretty succinctly:
“Favourites – we use them for a myriad of reasons. Favouriting a tweet could mean “I like this tweet”, or “good point”, or “this is fun, but not enough to retweet”, or “I acknowledge your communication, but can’t be bothered to reply”, or “the conversation is ending now, but on a positive note!” Also, the favourite is a great bookmarking tool.
Now, however, Twitter has cruelly stripped away all of the above nuances of communication by replacing the favourite function with a “like” button.”
I 1000% concur with that. I really liked the nuance.
The Guardian piece goes on to ask:
“How, now, is one supposed to bookmark an article on the refugee crisis without ‘liking’ it? I’m not ready to inaccurately look – ironically – heartless on social media.”
And that’s a continual problem I have with social media. Just because I find something interesting or noteworthy doesn’t mean I “like” it. It certainly doesn’t mean I want to attach a little lovey heart to it (a heart that actually makes a little joyful explosion when I click it, no less! Jeez, Twitter.) And, depending on the article/information, sometimes clicking a Like button can feel downright disrespectful.
There are plenty of people, I’m sure, who would say I’m overthinking. But you know…I really don’t think I am. Even Facebook is trying to figure out a way to work through this issue.
And then think about this: One of the basic problems with online behavior is that there’s so little agency…right? Meaning, you can treat people quite badly without ever looking them in the eye – or even revealing your identity. Social media, as a communication vehicle, doesn’t necessarily bring out the humanity in people. (That isn’t news to anybody.)
But is the cure for this really embracing the superficial positivity of a Like button for every situation? I don’t think so. I think what’s needed is sincere and mindful interaction. Forcing people to emote when they’re not able to be authentic and thoughtful about it doesn’t make things better. It’s actually going in the wrong direction, in my opinion.
I like this, from an Entrepreneur article (by staff writer Geoff Weiss):
“‘Changing Twitter’s star to a heart is the worst product decision in the history of the internet; makes a bookmark into an endorsement,’ wrote noted investor Jason Calacanis in a Tweetstorm this afternoon. ‘It’s also an admission by Twitter that Facebook’s LIKE metaphor is the key to their success, pandering to heartstrings over intelligence.'”
This is a really good point, I think – notably the last part about intelligence.
A large part of why Facebook never really worked for me, and why I eventually got tired of it and left it, was because, while it can be a useful platform for news and interesting articles, it’s not really about those things. Rather, it’s about connecting with your friends. I mean, you actually, literally, “friend” people on Facebook – as opposed to Twitter, where you “follow.”
Which ostensibly means that when you follow somebody on Twitter, you’re deciding to watch and listen to them for a while because you find them interesting. When they cease to be, you move on. There’s a different connotation to “unfriending” somebody than there is to “unfollowing.”
At least, that’s the way I’ve always understood the difference between these two platforms (and why I’ve always vastly preferred Twitter.)
And I want this aspect of Twitter to remain. It’s intrinsic to the way I use Twitter: this focus on the more learning-oriented, less emotive, stuff.
If Twitter becomes more like Facebook, I probably won’t use it anymore. Why would I? If I wanted something like Facebook, I’d just use Facebook! And if it came down to a choice between Facebook itself and a Facebook-ish Twitter, I can’t think of any good reason why I’d choose Twitter.
I think it was my perception of a Facebook-like superficiality wafting in to Twitter that had me so put off by the way the people who run Twitter explained the stars-to-hearts change on their blog:
“The heart…is a universal symbol that resonates across languages, cultures, and time zones. The heart is more expressive, enabling you to convey a range of emotions and easily connect with people.”
~Akarshan Kumar, Twitter Product Manager, in “Hearts on Twitter,” Twitter blog, 11/3/2015
I use Twitter to connect with people…yes. But not in the way this references. I use Twitter to learn about people’s lives…or to follow an event. It’s a knowledge-based kind of connecting. Facebook isn’t like this.
(And I’m sorry…but the heart doesn’t convey “a range of emotions.” Particularly when you label it “Like.”)
As long as I’m criticizing that Twitter blog post, I’ll include this part as well:
“We are changing our star icon for favorites to a heart and we’ll be calling them likes. We want to make Twitter easier and more rewarding to use, and we know that at times the star could be confusing, especially to newcomers. You might like a lot of things, but not everything can be your favorite.”
My first thought on reading that is: Why not keep the star and just change the word “favorite” to something more appropriately descriptive to a newcomer? Like “interesting” or “noteworthy” or something. (Those aren’t that good either…but they’re more accurate at least to the way I for one utilized that little star.)
I feel myself devolving into griping now, so perhaps it’s time to wrap up.
I do get that Twitter needs to grow faster to please its shareholders. I also get that there’s (I assume) a lot of pressure on the people running Twitter to deliver more users. My problem here is that I just think the way they’re going about it is unfortunate (to say the least.) I think this stars-to-hearts thing is an example of pandering to the masses rather than innovating. And that doesn’t say very good things for the future of Twitter. And considering how much I use Twitter, this doesn’t please me.
I don’t mind change in a platform I use often – when it’s smart change, or at least useful. Twitter’s new Moments lightning bolt, for example, was a useful change in my opinion. I didn’t think I’d use it that much when it first rolled out, but I do find myself periodically checking it. It’s convenient – and sometimes it fills in holes in my general knowledge base that the news outlets I follow haven’t.
This changing of the star to the heart…not the same caliber of change. I don’t much care for the preponderance of promoted tweets in my feed these days either – but at least their presence doesn’t alter the way I use Twitter. This abandoning of practical, non-emotive, nuanced stars for hearts and “likes” is NOT GOOD.
I’ve been hearing interesting things about Snapchat lately. I never really saw a need to explore Snapchat when I used Twitter so frequently. Maybe it’s finally time to give it a try??