Twitter’s Echo Chambers
Part of the promise of the social web lies in its ability to connect people with disparate interests. It allows users to, with the click of a mouse, connect with ideas and viewpoints far different from their own. In that way, the social web flattens the world and makes it a more accessible place.
That promise is in direct tension with a large part of our human nature. Most humans inherently surround themselves with information, people, and ideas that they are familiar and comfortable with. We stay in our comfort zones. The social web can also amplify the echo chambers that we create to stay in our own comfort zones.
This is a long way of saying that I’m a little wary of Twitter’s new Tailored Trends. Ideally, the Tailored Trends will replace Trending Topics. Trending Topics ranked the main conversation drivers occurring worldwide (or in your area) – it’s an aggregator without nuance. Tailored Trends is an aggregator with nuance – it gives you Trending Topics based on your interests, who you follow, etc. It feels as if Twitter is betting that you care less about the wide world around you and more about the world you’ve created for yourself.
My fear is that this hurts Twitter as a discovery tool. Yes, it will stop you from having to see some of the asinine trending topics out there (#replacebandnameswithfruit or #tellbieberyoulovehim), but it also just reinforces your own echo chamber.
Even worse, it feels redundant. Why would I need Tailored Trends based on who I follow…when I could just view my Twitter stream and see the conversations right there.
This isn’t discovery. It’s reinforcement. And it could create an echo chamber that ultimately limits the utility of Twitter for me.