When We – Brian X. It was like a blast from the past when Chen and Mike Isaacs — both longtime tech journalists — received an assignment from our editor last week to review Meta’s new social network threads.
We’ve both written about the social network for more than a dozen years. Over the past half-dozen years, the social media landscape has been largely stagnant — except for the rise of short-video app TikTok — and was dominated by Meta, which owns Instagram and Facebook.
The arrival of Threads, which was spun out of Instagram and aims to be a prime venue for public, real-time conversation, shakes up that scene. While the new app may perpetuate a fad, it could also be a potent threat to Twitter, which has retained its crown as the hub of conversation for more than a decade.
But how many of us will stick to threads? we thought how we’d approach it because one of us – Brian – is a casual twitter userand the other – Mike – is long time twitter addict, which may affect our experience with Meta’s new app. Here’s what we found about the pros and cons of threads and whether it can become a part of your life.
Brian Hello Mike! It’s been a long time since we’ve done collaborative reviews. Years ago we wondered about new PlayStation and Xbox releases. And now we’re together again – why, again?
mike Yep, we’re back, this time with a look at the most popular social app threads of the moment, created by Meta. After playing with it for a few days, I’m starting to wonder if I can kick my Twitter addiction by replacing it with the “friendly” social network devised by Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg.
So far, I’m enjoying it. But it definitely feels like a mini version of Twitter. No hashtags, heavy on influencers – and worst of all, a lot of people in my replies don’t like my jokes which usually do well on Twitter.
Brian, I’m concerned that not everyone who comes to Threads from Instagram knows how to post.
Brian Well, this is interesting. Threads is a Twitter clone, but Meta is introducing the concept to people who never tweet and are on Instagram. So there is going to be an awkward phase of adaptation.
But let me digress for a second. Threads is a free app that you download from the Apple or Google App Store. To set it up, connect it to your Instagram account. Threads then invites you to follow all your friends on Instagram.
From there, it shows a timeline of posts, and you can create short memos that are published for public viewing. You can embed pictures too, but the focus is on the text, just like on Twitter.
What are the differences from Twitter that you immediately noticed?
mike It feels like Twitter, but on easy mode.
For one, the threads are algorithmically curated, much like Facebook or Instagram. This means that when you come in, you see a bunch of different posts based on your interests, whether they were posted five hours ago or five minutes ago. (Is this posted, or is this threaded? Have we decided on wording yet?)
This is different from what we are used to on Twitter, where the key feature is the reverse chronological timeline. This means you see every single post from the people you follow in reverse order, which has made Twitter indispensable for breaking news and live events.
With threads, I think the algorithmic curation is intentional on Instagram’s part. They have said that they want to make the thread “friendlier” with people entering it. It strikes me as a bit awkward, but I’m also not being bombarded with hate speech and racist comments, which I consider a huge plus.
Brian For me, Meta’s interest-based algorithm is a big change. Because of this, my threads feed a lot of posts from accounts I don’t follow, mainly influencers and brands advertising their products. I see very few posts from my real friends.
To be honest, Twitter’s timeline isn’t great either. Quality is degrading due to changes that affect what people read on the site, including the need to pay $8 a month for a Twitter Blue subscription to show your posts on others’ timelines .
Another big difference between Threads and Twitter: The character limit on Threads is 400 characters, while it’s 280 characters for free accounts on Twitter.
Are more characters a good thing?
mike I do not think so. Conciseness is the soul of wit, isn’t it? In my opinion, the bang-up message of a tweet comes across concisely, not writing a blog post inside a concise message.
Twitter has been testing this paid Twitter Blue option where people can post extremely long tweets of up to 10,000 characters. I feel like this is taking away from the original point of Twitter’s truncated messages. But maybe I’m just a punk.
I’m curious: How has it been for you to have your Twitter-self overlap with your Instagram following on threads?
It has been a schizophrenic experience for me. I’m very different on my Insta than I am on Twitter. On Insta, I usually post things I’ve cooked that week or the latest concert I’ve attended. Twitter is my place to write about work and the tech industry, while occasionally posting bits of my personal life as well. Threads seems like a mix of both – at least for the time being.
Brian It’s been difficult for me too, so I haven’t posted much. Like many people, I switched my Instagram to a private account years ago because I didn’t want people to see pictures of my family. It became a “friends-only” network.
With Threads, I now have to re-think what I share publicly. It’s a journey.
mike Totally listening to you. I’m still going to try it, but I’m curious do you think this will be the next big thing? Especially considering that you are somewhat less active on Twitter than I am.
Brian I don’t bet on tech products as if they were horses. But based on my reporting on how everyday people — those who use technology but don’t care about it — engage with social networks, they probably won’t be posting much on threads.
The truth is that Twitter is not a social network and neither are threads. Both are broadcast platforms for big brands, celebrities, politicians and media outlets to share information with their followers.
This type of network is not conducive to how people actually interact in communities. In social clubs, people gather in small groups based on shared interests. They don’t shout to a crowd in a huge conference room as we do on Twitter and now on threads.
mike Absolutely. I have a decent number of Twitter followers, most of whom know what they’re getting from me and understand when I’m joking. But I am well aware that when one of my tweets goes viral and goes beyond the circle of people who know me, I will 100 percent be misinterpreted – and probably even vilified. We call this “context collapse”.
Brian Meta knows this too. You mentioned a few years ago that Mark Zuckerberg said that people were increasingly moving away from large social media platforms to smaller, more quiet networks. These included private Facebook groups and messaging apps.
mike Shout out to the private Slack and Discord groups I’m involved in that only have a few close friends.
Brian And that all makes sense. People have learned that it is not a good idea to share a lot of personal information in the public domain.
Besides, if I want to talk to you, why would I @ you publicly instead of messaging you? It is perhaps the biggest drawback that Threads has compared to Twitter – direct messaging – that makes Threads a poor product at the moment. But it will take some time to be added, as that feature is already a part of Instagram.
mike I think there is a kind of performative element to speaking in the public sphere, where my conversation with you takes on a different tone and meaning – as if we were talking on stage in front of an audience. There is some fun in this. But it can often become unusable very quickly. As you noted, messaging helps avoid this.
Brian Text has already lost the battle when it comes to connecting with brands and influencers. The growing popularity of TikTok and Instagram’s Reels is proof that casual tech users, especially young people, would rather watch videos of celebrities and influencers they follow and not read their tiny text size .
At the end of the day, it’s hard to compare Twitter and Threads because Threads is part of Instagram, which is much bigger than Twitter. If the features improve, I can see myself eventually switching from Twitter to Threads due to the sheer size of Instagram, which allows me to gain more followers. (I am @bxchen on threadsBy the way.) But like others, I probably won’t be spending much time hanging out with friends there.
How are you?
mike Right now I’m juggling the uncomfortable juggling act of posting different things to six different networks, and it’s not fun at all. But I believe that at least eventually something will come to fruition and I can stop pondering the posts. At least I hope so.
see you later but… threadsI think?
Brian You have to follow me first, Mike.