This website was archived on July 21, 2019. It is frozen in time on that date.

Sonya Mann's active website is Sonya, Supposedly.

Critiquing Twitter’s New Followers Notification

I’m joining the grand tradition of ragging on Twitter for its weird and bad design choices! Let’s zoom in on a particular feature that I dislike. Here’s a notification that Twitter presents to me every day, from which I derive zero delight:

People who recently followed me on Twitter. If I clicked into the details here, I would find that 90% of these people use spammy hashtags in their profiles.
Brett Shavers is legit, but 90% of these people use spammy hashtags in their profiles.

It is good that Twitter collapses distinct follow events into one notification. Unfortunately, I still feel negative about the experience. Being followed on social media has the potential to generate joy — hooray, people are paying attention to me! — but the reality is closer to getting an unsolicited sales call.

What if Twitter defaulted to not notifying me of new followers? That would keep my focus on conversations — where my focus naturally wants to be anyway — instead of urging me to grind my user stats upward. There’s no reason why Twitter must deliver a notification when someone follows you. What if you had to manually look at your list of followers to check on this? People would still do it, of course, but it wouldn’t be a behavior encouraged by the platform’s design.

Vintage spam. Photo by GM.
Vintage spam. Photo by GM.

Getting rid of the “people followed you!” notification might also cut down on the amount of #marketing and bot accounts that insta-follow me based on keywords in my tweets. From their perspective, the utility of following me would be lessened because Twitter’s design wouldn’t assist them in shoving their messages in front of my eyeballs. On the other hand, the change might encourage those accounts to proactively tweet at me, which would be horrible. I think it’s at least worth A/B testing to see what the actual behavior is.

Of course, changing this notification feature would be treating the symptom rather than the sickness. Well… sometimes you gotta do that. Eliminating the problem altogether would involve fundamentally changing how Twitter works, which I don’t want. Public broadcast systems naturally attract spam, but you can mitigate the effect on genuine users.

Sign up for my newsletter to stay abreast of my new writing and projects.

I am a member of the Amazon Associates program. If you click on an Amazon link from this site and subsequently buy something, I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you).