People who use Twitter often imagine it as a kind of prison from which they yearn to escape. In his book The Twittering Machine, Richard Seymour suggests that, as well as seeking pleasure on social media, “we can become attached to the miseries of online life, a state of perpetual outrage and antagonism”. No social media platform typifies this more than Twitter. For years, one of its most enduring clichés has been referring to it scornfully as “the hell site”, “the cognitive function decline machine”, or the “why-am-I-subjecting-myself-to-the-terrible-opinions-of-Laurence-Fox-every-single-fucking-day app”.
This means every time Twitter announces a change to the site – however mundane – people react like their landlord has broken into their flat and painted their bedroom a garish purple. They throw their hands up to the sky, tear at their clothes and weep, “y’all… literally all we want is an edit button”.
Yesterday, when Twitter revealed that it would be introducing “fleets”, the reaction was much the same. Regardless of how the company describes them, fleets are best understood as direct rip-offs of Instagram stories, which were in turn ripped off from a Snapchat feature; there’s no creative force on Earth more bold and exhilarating than Silicon Valley innovation. We know that fleets will disappear after 24 hours, and can include text, photos and videos, but I still have some questions…
Why Is Twitter Ripping Off Instagram? Why Isn’t It Happy Just Being Its Own Horrible Self?
Every social media company has its own USP. Facebook is for occasionally checking up on what the people you didn’t like at school are doing now, in order to reassure yourself that your life is cooler than theirs (“Imagine owning a house and being happily married with kids – so basic lol!”). Instagram is for thot shots, chirpsing, body dysmorphia and watching people you know in real life doing actually nice things.
Twitter, meanwhile, is all about subjecting yourself to a daily barrage of the most hateful, spiteful and stupid opinions imaginable, and occasionally getting a brief libidinal thrill from replying to them with a witty retort like “fuck off”, “shut up, cunt” or, most waggishly of all, a series of sarcastic crying-with-laugher emojis. So why, instead of embracing this nightmarish but compelling brand identity, is Twitter trying to copy Instagram?
Just like casinos want you to spend as much time as possible at their slot machines, Twitter’s business model depends on capturing as much of your attention as possible. Stealing ideas from other platforms, which have already proven to be successful, is just another way of making sure you’re glued to your phone in a trance-like state for as long as humanly possible. Still, “Fleets” is a cute name, right?
Is Twitter About to Get Way Hornier?
There is no more effective method of flirting in the contemporary era than replying to someone’s Instagram story with a flame emoji: allowing the option of being easily ignored, yet making its intentions clear, this move is classy, unobtrusive and deeply chic.
Insta has become, for many of my generation, one of the chief avenues for flirting with people, hooking-up and even falling in love. I know plenty of people who’ve given up on dating apps altogether in favour of an Instagram-based dating life. Maybe the introduction of “fleets” will see a similar transformation of Twitter into a hook-up app. The “reply straight to DM” function is a potent temptation indeed, particularly if you’re drunk.
Sadly, though, there are no hot people on Twitter.
Is Twitter About to Get, If You Can Imagine This, Even Bitchier?
The whole idea of fleets is that they’re “ephemeral” and don’t last forever. According to Twitter’s design director, Joshua Harris, and product Manager, Sam Haveson, “Some of you tell us that tweeting is uncomfortable because it feels so public, so permanent… Because they disappear from view after a day, fleets helped people feel more comfortable sharing personal and casual thoughts, opinions, and feelings.”
Fleets are supposed to be a remedy to this, but as long as the screen-shot function exists, they won’t be. I would caution against being lulled into a false sense of security, because nothing you post on the internet is truly fleeting. That amusing little fleet you dashed off at 1AM about watching The Crown and finding yourself cheering on the IRA? Good luck justifying that during a job interview 15 years from now.
If you’re a Twitter user and imagine for one second that there isn’t going to be at least one group chat taking screenies of every single one of your fleets, roaring with mocking laughter at them, and analysing point-by-point why they make you the corniest person alive, I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news.
What Will It Actually Be Used For?
Tweets which weren’t good enough to make the grade but you still felt the compulsion to write. In Twitter’s own incredibly annoying words, “That thing you didn’t Tweet but wanted to but didn’t but got so close but then were like nah.” But maybe you were “like nah” for a reason… perhaps “that thing” was fucking tedious and absolutely not worth sharing.
Goodbye quality control, hello banality. Look out for such searing insights as “[this song I’m listening to] is a total banger!”, “I’ve just eaten like six satsumas in one sitting" and “I’m bored lol”.
Is This Going to Flop Just Like ‘Voice Notes’ Did?
Yes. No one wanted to listen to your whiny, nasal little voice, and they don’t want to read your Fleets either.