Twitter is dead. X is here. The all-in-one platform that X CEO Elon Musk envisions as a rival to others, like WhatsApp, is constantly introducing well-thought-out, strategic changes.
Scratch that. The changes to X are actually just a grab bag of whatever Musk is thinking about at any particular moment, such as his latest decision, the removal of headlines from the platform.
Now instead of seeing the banner picture and the headline, users will see just the picture. Many are lamenting this change or finding workarounds, like this publication. It’s a vexing decision because one of the things that drove Twitter was journalists using it to share their work.
Nevertheless, the detractors are missing the true benefit this latest mercurial move provides. No longer can people form a visceral reaction, or even comment, on just the headline.
Commenting Before Clicking
Whether you are a writer or someone merely using X to share things you find interesting, we’ve all had the experience. We hit send and sometime later start getting the disjointed replies, which make it obvious that our interlocutors have not read the article under discussion but instead only the headline.
This isn’t a problem that’s isolated to X. It pervades all social media platforms. Yackler Magazine published an article in 2016 with the title, “Scientists say giant asteroid could hit earth next week, causing mass devastation.” The opening paragraph stuck with the gag for only two and a half sentences before revealing the truth.
“Scientists have discovered a massive asteroid that is on course to hit the Earth next week, and are scrambling to find a way to divert the object,” the author wrote. “The asteroid has been named 2016-FI and measures approximately 1 km across. If it strikes a populated area [it] could wipe out entire cities and potentially devastate an entire continent or … nah. I’m totally messing with you. There’s no asteroid (at least not about to strike next week).”
The article was actually about a joint study between Columbia University and the French National Institute, which concluded that only 41 percent of people who shared items on social media had actually clicked on the links they were sharing. When it comes to the percentage of people opening the link before commenting on those shares, there isn’t a ton of data. But if you’ve used the internet before, then you must suspect that the number has to be in the single digits.
A Boon to Many, a Curse to Trolls
Musk just saved a whole lot of X users from having to deal with the comments of the solid majority who don’t read articles before posting. Or he just denied a whole lot of people from having their fun. There are a few perspectives here.
Regardless, though, it’s a good move. The change probably won’t increase X’s user base, though. In the analytics game, you always want to keep people on your site instead of driving them away. But driving people away, literally and metaphorically, once made Twitter great. And now that greatness is gone.
For the diehards who remain, though, X just became a slightly more peaceful place. The change has reduced the likelihood of ad hominem attacks, replies that have no relation to the original post, and the complaints of those with furrowed brows struggling in vain to understand the situation that remains at least for the moment.
Musk may be making it up as he goes along, and this move may not prove the most business-savvy in the long run, but by thwarting the trolls who live to comment without reading, he deserves plaudits.
Now it’s time for me to share this article on X, where I encourage you to argue with whatever banner picture is chosen for it. As Musk may yet learn, engagement is engagement, particularly when people don’t even have to click on the link to drive the numbers up.