Twitter is a game. 

This is a thread I had posted on that went a bit viral. I was just expressing the way I look at the design of social media these days and how it's felt to me for a while. Not new ideas, and after posting it I learned that people are writing books about this very idea, and there's lots of scholarly work on it, but it seemed to resonate with people. I removed it from there, and am sharing it here.

Please feel free to use this text and these ideas if they're helpful.

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Twitter is a game. 

Twitter isn't what you think it is. You already know this, but you might not have said it out loud, or really thought as much about it as you can. Twitter is, in fact, a game.

Twitter is the most successful and popular advertiser-paid, free phone game ever invented. People play this game day and night, from nearly every device, in almost every circumstance. And they believe it is a central part of their identity and lives. It is also still, a game.

Twitter is a game. 

One of the reasons we don't tend to outright notice that Twitter is actually a game is because nearly every aspect of the user interfaces we use today are gamified. Even our text messages on our phones are gamified now. Any modern looking service on the web, is also gamified.

Twitter is a game. 

Twitter is a game, and many of us are addicted to this game. The reward system is based on an economy of likes and retweets, follows and followers, verifications and interactions with media that feature people's tweets. The game has taken over parts of society through the media.

Twitter is a game. 

If you want to experience how deeply gamified every interaction on Twitter is, just use Mastodon. It is barely gamified at all. And users who depend on Twitter for their gamified rewards notice this immediately and feel disappointed. Because it's just conversations.

Twitter is a game. 

Without the reward system and the economy of likes and retweets that Twitter offers, some users feel disappointed when they try something like Mastodon. It isn't giving them the reward they get from this game which is engineered to provide it, keep you playing, and serve you ads.

Twitter is a game. 

Mastodon is less gamified. It's more straightforward online social interaction. It doesn't use algorithms to reward certain kinds of behaviour, it doesn't make likes and retweets prominent, it doesn't promote certain posts and not others, or provide verification as a goal.

Twitter is a game. 

The invisibility of the gamification on Twitter is just like the gamification on other Social sites, like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc. All of these are games that demand your unpaid content production and reward you with a system of flashing lights and access to new levels.

Twitter is a game. 

Corporations have cracked the puzzle that integrates video game systems into the social, economic, and political life of millions of human beings. That's what corporate social media really is. And breaking free from it is essential for the future of humanity.

Twitter is a game. 

Understand that Elon Musk knows perfectly well that Twitter is not a town square. He knows this is a phone game, a very popular phone game that hasn't been monetized to its full potential. Full monetization means as many users as possible with as much conflict as possible.

Twitter is a game. 

Twitter, as a corporate gaming system, will never take a path that is good for people, or planet. It will always prioritize profits, no matter who owns it.

Twitter is a for-profit game, that we are addicted to, that we can not stop playing, that will continue to generate millions in income for billionaires. Musk will do what is most profitable with this game, not what is best for people. Just as Twitter ownership always has.

Twitter is a game. 

I hope you can stop playing this game, stop working for billionaires for free, stop accepting little dopamine hits for payment as you create content for their data collecting machines and advertising profits.

I hope you will choose freedom.

Twitter is a game. 

@continuation makes me think of the TNG episode:

Twitter is a game. 

@delicasey exactly! also I posted that same thing (the TNG game) about wordle when it first came out and I still haven't ever tried it or even learned exactly what it is. I'm the lone holdout, the data of the wordle-verse.

Twitter is a game. 

@continuation wordle wasn't so bad tbh. it was a nice distraction shared during a covid wave and didn't reward unhealthy behaviour.

i've not used it since it was bought out tho.

Twitter is a game. 

@delicasey they'll say anything to get you to play... 😁

I just saw the wordle cubes take over everyone's posts over there and my instincts tend to be quite contrary so I immediately refused to even look at it. lol

Twitter is a game. 

@continuation fair enough. can relate.

Twitter is a game. 

@delicasey The partner played it and loved it but I refused to even hear how it works. lol

Twitter is a game. 

@continuation @delicasey t'was very annoying, I had no idea why people were just posting square emojis

@raphaelmorgan Same! I've noticed a whole bunch of otherwise empty Wordle posts from newbies in the last week. Bit of a waste of timeline space IMHO ;)

@continuation @delicasey

Twitter is a game. 

@continuation @delicasey Haha, same. I don't even know how it's played. I don't usually take pride in ignorance, wanting to know new stuff is cool and human, but this just smelled like another hyper-capitalist trap.

@delicasey @continuation
I remember rewatching this episode of ST: TNG ('The Game') about 5 years ago and thinking the dynamic seemed eerily familiar ;)

@raphaelmorgan @cstanhope

#StarTrek #TNG #TheGame

Twitter is a game. 

@continuation I posted this recently. Somewhat ironically I was reminded of it by Evan Prodromou (he worked on early fediverse stuff) over on Twitter when I went over to request my archive before finally deactivating my account. It's Kathy Sierra's observations about Twitter in it's very early days.

headrush.typepad.com/creating_

Even though the fediverse has not been profit driven so far, it still shares many design decisions with Twitter that we should be aware of I think.

Twitter is a game. 

@cstanhope Wow, thank you for sharing this! Yes, it's exactly the slot machine dynamic. And yeah, fediverse has less gamified versions. Thankfully it seems people who come and stay here have a system of values that makes them want to change behaviour as well - so that could be the key, IMO.

Twitter is a game. 

@continuation Yes, I agree. And hopefully we can try to help each cultivate those values a little. :)

@continuation the major difference here (beside decentralisation) is absence of algorithms to promote posts and no ad space. It's interesting how Mastodon web UI hides repost and favourite count from the buttons, but android app does not and mimicks twitter a lot in that regard.

Twitter is a game. 

@continuation However, Mastodon is not free of the effects that Twitter made popular. If you want to get your message out to many people, you need many boosts, ideally by accounts with many followers. So you need many followers yourself. To get these, you have to wwite many toots that are ideally boosted. You have to appear relevant to many people. So you must feed the machine. And of course it helps if you are already known outside Mastodon.

Twitter is a game. 

@continuation you lose when you sign up

Twitter is a game. 

@mjdxp 🤖:The only winning move is not to play.

Sadly… 

@continuation Yes. Sadly it only works because we use it to top-up or replace more sustainable relationships to meet our healthy need for connection. I must say that , by structuring interactions within “communities” of users, is a healthier alternative. Though the addictive potential is still there.

Twitter is a game. 

@continuation Yep, mostly true. Interaction or User Experience designers have been recommending each other books about game design for quite some time already. Like this one here.

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