Twitter Fleets dumb, stupid

Carter Uslabar, Editor in Chief

On Tuesday, Twitter made the internet worse. This is impressive on a certain level, considering Twitter’s usual platforming of Nazis, conspiracy theorists and a certain politician I’ll abstain from naming (despite Nazi and conspiracy theories essentially describing him).

Yes, Twitter introduced Fleets, much to the dismay of social media managers still reeling from Instagram’s recent update. Fleets, which are a story feature, make Twitter the latest social media platform to jump on the story bandwagon. I have no reservations about calling it a bandwagon; even LinkedIn beat them to the chase.

If you’re not a regular Twitter user, you won’t be impacted by this of course, but it’s symptomatic of the ever-changing social media landscape. Each platform, to put it simply, wants to be everything.

This is a sharp diversion from the simplicity of the early-to-mid 2010’s, when each platform had a distinct purpose and focus. Twitter was text, Instagram was photos and Facebook was a mix of both, yet still averted devolving into an unwieldy mess.

Today’s world of social media is largely unrecognizable compared to then. Twitter is Snapchat, Instagram is a mall, Snapchat is like a kid lost at the mall and Facebook is the pit-of-despair parking lot outside that mall where parents patiently wait to pick up their bratty children.

But to return to the subject of this piece, Fleets seem to be a bizarre addition to Twitter’s interface. The ostensible reasoning behind Fleets is that it will decrease users’ anxiety over maintaining a curated presence on their profiles. Fleets seek to allow users to post more casually.

Not only does this seem to perpetuate the toxically manicured imagery of the normal feed, but it’s also a non-answer to a non-issue. Twitter says that Fleets help more people to post, but it’s unclear what exactly was preventing them from sending out a regular tweet in the first place.

While Fleets will reduce the bloat in a standard Twitter feed, which might be good because they won’t be likeable or retweetable, this will likely perpetuate another issue. Twitter and Facebook are well known for being echo chambers serving up whatever opinions their users want ad nauseum. Retweets and likes showing up in your feed are also perhaps one of the best ways to find new people to follow and avoid being exposed to just a single viewpoint.

But the worst feature of Fleets is probably going to be its continued perpetuance of the groupthink mentality that is characteristic of modernity.

I suspect Fleets will allow far-right extremists to become more radicalized and to post more objectionable content with impunity or while flying under the proverbial radar. Of course, Fleets will not be immune to responsibility, as they can be screenshotted and uploaded to databases such as the Wayback Machine, but many will go unnoticed and disappear after influencing pliable followers.

Of course, Twitter’s driving and unstated secondary objective behind Fleets is that it will increase user engagement, time spent (or wasted, depending on how you frame it) on the platform and provide more access to an audience for advertisers.

While social media isn’t inherently bad, any narrative about them existing to build community and enhance relationships is nothing more than a veil of optimism, and Twitter’s Fleets are the most transparent of all.