Twitter has come under some scrutiny lately after people started noticing that Twitter was essentially turning some of your favorites into retweets. Most people instantly reacted that this was a terrible idea and that Twitter should be ashamed of itself. While it’s true that Twitter should be ashamed of the half-hearted way they handle abuse on the system, this move may not be as diabolical as people are making it out to be.
First, let’s clear up some confusion. Twitter is not turning your favorites into retweets. What it does is say, ArcticLlama favorited this tweet into the streams of other users that follow you. Previously, the only way to notice what someone favorited was to go and click onto their actual user profile.
The issue, of course, is the difference between a favorite and a retweet. The problem is that users make different use of the favorite depending upon who they are.
Some people use the favorite to give a thumbs up, or kudos to a tweet without publicly promoting it through the timeline. There are a lot of reasons to do this, including, but not limited to, the tweet being potentially embarrassing, or even not just something that fits. It is these people that are having the biggest problem with Twitter’s new Favorites are retweets, because something they don’t necessarily want to be showing to other is now popping up in their timelines.
The Good About Twitter Favorites
The upside of this move is that many people don’t retweet at all. There are a lot of reasons for it. I didn’t retweet much when I first started on Twitter out of fear of retweeting the “wrong” kinds of things, that is, something that the few people who followed me wouldn’t actually want to see.
What this update may be aimed at is that a certain number of Twitter users have begun to view retweets like they view links. They don’t want to give out any “credit” to others for fear of bumping up any sort of ranking above their own. These people will favorite tweets, but not retweet them. By forcing at least some of these tweets out into the Twitter stream, maybe this encourages them to just share in the first place.
When a Favorite Isn’t a Favorite
Then, there’s me. I use the Favorite function on Twitter as a bookmark, because, you know, Twitter doesn’t actually innovate or add useful features that its users WANT anymore. There are numerous ways to bookmark something or set it read later. My phone has a share button, then I can click Google Keep, or Evernote, or even Pocket, but that’s a lot of clicks for a quick scroll through.
The problem for me, then is that my name is now associated favorably with something that I haven’t even read yet. That’s why I favorited/bookmarked it for later; I didn’t have the time to read it just now. So, there is an implicit endorsement of things that might turn out to be utter garbage.
In the end, Twitter is deservedly taking some abuse because, a) it rolled this new “feature” out silently, and b) because while it may server TWITTER’S ends to have more things shared into timelines, it doesn’t necessarily server the USER’s ends. When a company starts neglecting its user’s needs for its own, it’s time to watch out below. Let’s hope this is a one time thing, and that Twitter goes back to caring more about its users than its metrics.