A World Without Twitter: Here’s What Users Have To Say
After another tumultuous week of mass departures and policy reversals, Twitter’s future seems increasingly uncertain, with users — and everyone else — increasingly asking one question: What would the world be like without this bird app?
With about 237 million daily visitors at last count in late June, Twitter’s user base is still smaller than Facebook’s nearly two billion, TikTok’s one billion plus and Snapchat’s 363 million.
But in Twitter’s 15 years of existence, the platform has become a leading communication channel for political and government leaders, businesses, brands, and media.
Others, like New York businessman Steve Cohn, are convinced that the Twitterverse is an artificial microcosm of the real world, with limited real significance.
Twitter is “not important” in any way,” Cohn said — on his Twitter account. “The world works fine without Twitter.”
Few people tweeted, he continued. “Almost all tweets come from the (e) 1 percent. Most normals don’t get on Twitter.”
But for some, including Karen North, a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, the site is important for bringing light to obscure conversations.
“Most of the time, people who don’t stand out are not heard,” he said. But on Twitter, “there’s an opportunity to announce things.”
In cases of conflict, social movements or law violations, “Twitter I think has become a central platform to be able to spread the truth and basic facts,” Charles Lister, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, told AFP.
Like many other social networks, Twitter is also used to spread propaganda and misinformation, and the company has developed measurement tools to try to limit the worst of it.
But their ability to keep up with the demands of such a job has been called into question after more than two-thirds of those teams left since Elon Musk’s controversial takeover.
A 2018 study found that false information circulates faster than verified posts.
“That’s an unrealistic expectation to imagine in a field where misinformation and misinformation are impossible,” Lister warned.
But “seeing the details, good and bad, disappear,” with the possible disappearance of Twitter, “is by definition a bad thing,” Lister said.
“Autocrats and anyone who doesn’t want information to be shared widely, could benefit from Twitter being gone,” added Mark Hass, a professor at Arizona State University (ASU).
Twitter’s failure could have devastating consequences for journalism, experts say.
“Twitter… isn’t really a social media platform,” North explained. “The news and information network.”
“It’s a place, a site where journalists go to get information, or an idea for a story or an article or a source or a quote,” he said.
With staffing and budget cuts in newsrooms, the resources are not there, even for heavily funded news outlets, “to go get sources in the world,” lamented North.
Twitter, he said, is where a lot of that work can be done.
Another possible consequence of the potential collapse of the platform, according to North, is that without Twitter, the world’s rich and powerful celebrities and politicians will still be able to get the attention of the media, while those who are less visible will struggle to get attention. . .
“With Twitter, anyone can announce a story,” he said.
The site serves as a means of sharing information in real time.
“Twitter has been an important source of information, networking, guidance, real-time updates, community outreach, and more during hurricanes, wildfires, wars, outbreaks, terrorist attacks, mass shootings…etc,” tweeted a researcher from the University of Maryland. Caroline Orr.
“It’s not something that can be replaced by any of the existing platforms.”
At the moment, a potential solution for Twitter is not in sight.
“Facebook is important, but I think it’s getting old,” Lister said.
Twitter’s smaller competitors are likely to take away users, including Mastodon, which has grown in popularity since Musk bought Twitter.
“But these will remain niche, none of which will be the social scene that Twitter is trying to create,” ASU’s Hass said.
He and North both mentioned Reddit as a potential replacement, though North said the forum-based network was limited by its fragmented and complex structure that couldn’t easily replicate Twitter’s use.
Can a replacement appear? “Yes,” added Lister, but he noted that such intelligence takes considerable resources and significant time.
“You can’t just do it overnight.”