Social networks: Twitter in the age of the ephemeral and the courtesy

The Californian social media has deployed its “fleets” all over the world, messages that disappear after 24 hours.

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Twitter diversifies the modes of expression on its platform. (AP Photo / Matt Rourke, File)

The social network has been testing fleets or “fleeting thoughts” since March in Brazil, India and other countries, to verify that this ephemeral format encourages shy users to express themselves, without feeling pressure to the idea that their formulation is not perfect and remains forever etched in digital stone.

The experience turned out to be conclusive: “People feel more comfortable sharing things that come to their mind, opinions, feelings,” Joshua Harris, Director of Design, said at a press conference.

“You can copy and paste a tweet into a fleet, adding a comment or not, knowing that there will only be 24 hours left” – unless, of course, you take a screenshot of the “fleet” which can thus be shared anywhere.

The platform comes after its rivals. The fleets look like the “stories”, the ephemeral visual thumbnails created by Snapchat in 2013. Ultra popular, they have already been copied on the various platforms of Facebook, such as Instagram, and, more recently on LinkedIn (Microsoft).

“It can give the impression that we are entering a bit late in the game, but we wanted to be conscientious and explore the format,” said Joshua Harris.

Listen to each other

Twitter is also working on the launch in 2021 of voice tweets. “Sometimes 280 characters is really not enough. And sometimes that’s not the right way to communicate, ”summed up designer Maya Gold Patterson.

His team explored the hypothesis that “hearing empathy, emotion, and nuance in someone’s voice might help people connect with each other differently.” These audio messages have been tested since June on iPhones, in particular by brands. The rollout has been delayed, as Twitter decided not to generalize them before having developed automatic transcriptions, so as not to exclude people with hearing loss.

Alongside the threads of tweets and fleets, the Californian group would one day also like to offer “audio spaces” for discussion, a bit like “dinners organized by very good hosts”, where “everyone can easily take part in the discussion. conversation, ”even without knowing the other participants, said Maya Gold Patterson.

This project evokes Facebook’s “Messenger Rooms”, which allow you to meet friends in a kind of virtual and informal lounges, on video, or even Clubhouse, an audio conversation application launched by invitation in Silicon Valley in the spring.

The pandemic and social distancing measures have led to spikes in the use of video and live tools, and a slew of new features on platforms determined to seize these opportunities.


But here again Twitter wants to take its time, to ensure that these spaces do not suffer from the abuses and incivility that regularly suffer written exchanges.

“We are going to launch this experiment with a very small group of users, belonging to categories that suffer disproportionately from this abuse, women and marginalized people,” explained the designer.

The network of tweets regularly attracts the wrath of associations and politicians who consider it too or not severe enough with violent or hateful messages.

In particular, it is widely associated with the phenomenon of “cancel culture”, that is to say the ability of online crowds to tarnish the image of brands, celebrities or strangers whose actions or comments are deemed insulting by Internet users.

Twitter recalled its efforts to pacify the debate, with the ability to hide offensive comments and inducements to read an article before sharing it just on the strength of the headline.

“It works”, welcomed Christine Su, product manager. “40% more people read the content before spreading it.” The algorithms now also make it possible to “remove 50% of tweets that break the rules before they are even reported”.

She announced that her business was working on other ways to “help people be more respectful and kind,” such as “nudge” notifications to remind someone to behave better, or the ability to behave better. apologize in private.


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