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Have you noticed the change? Twitter: The inside stories.

Twitter is changing, and so are its communities. In this series of articles, we talk to those who know the platform best. Its users. From carers to photographers, and artists to disability rights campaigners, there is usually a Twitter crowd for everyone. But what happens when this breaks down? What happens when algorithmic anarchy shatters the communities we once held dear?


This week we talk to Matt, an artist, introvert and good friend of Aunty Social World. Matt has been a Twitter user for just over 10 years, and more recently has played an active role in Twitter's arts and small business communities. As an amateur artist, Matt has recently started to branch out into selling his artwork through his own brand, Where the Dark Things Are.

Matt has had a varied working life; from being a children's nurse, a museum officer, an education support lead (work experience and foster children), and a Bereavement/Coroner's officer -so has developed a great understanding of supporting people from various backgrounds, including those who are neurodivergent and those who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. Despite all this, Matt says that he still has no idea what he wants to be when he grows up.

With his insider knowledge and wealth of experience, we were keen to hear Matt's thoughts on the recent changes at Twitter and the effects this has had on its communities. Over to you, Matt...

The interview - Matt James

What do online communities on Twitter mean to you?


The online communities that I take part in the most are the art communities in all honesty. Art 'moots' (mutual followers) and also small businesses with USPs that appeal to me.

The art community has always been very welcoming and supportive, and as an introvert and someone who doesn't deal well with face-to-face communication, I think I have made some friends that I can lean on when I am down, but also understand when I am not as engaging.


In regard to the small business community, I feel good about supporting people who are trying to live out their dreams, even if it is the odd like, retweet or discussion about their work. This gives me a sense of purpose aside from my own personal work and employment, which helps me separate from that when imposter syndrome kicks in (which it does a lot).

Has your experience of online communities on Twitter changed? If so, what do you think has caused this?

Unfortunately, the development of ad-driven threads (ads not just in the basic timeline, but also in personal conversation threads) I do NOT like this. Also, the AI art discussions and the difficulties in general that artists have experienced in sharing their work in order to market and promote themselves have led to many of my art 'moots' leaving Twitter, or not posting as much as usual. This has also led to a drop-off in engagement.


I had a lot of interaction and have a decent Twitter following (over 500), but how many of these people are now fully active is not as much as it used to be. The algorithms are certainly not helpful in this regard. The various attempts by the new owner of Twitter to 'improve' the basic site have not been successful, or encouraging for creatives.


What do you think is important for Twitter communities to stay connected in the future?


I fully believe that the ability to share (art and creative news) and a small summary is a very good and successful approach to running social media, and being able to link, follow, and share, is superior to other 'socials'. Instagram is basically a photo album (sharing what I like is a trial), and while Tik Tok has its benefits, is very narcissistic. Tumblr had a resurgence due to the problems Twitter has had but seems to have lost its integrity as a way to communicate effectively.

I honestly feel the Twitter base model has a better way of engaging a community in a positive way than other social media platforms, and if you can sift out the rubbish, it will shine. However, saying that, the ability for trolls to remain on the site is something that needs to be looked into. Moderators for chat forums were a thing in the past, and I wonder if it needs to be looked into once again for a site like this, which has various fan groups, and creative communities, that can feed abusive engagement and victimisation. Twitter communities need to support the individual more, perhaps with moderators that are nominated by the communities, and offer better engagement without prioritising monetisation. IMHO


Do you still see yourself using Twitter in twelve months' time?


I will likely be using Twitter in 12 months' time. I enjoy the no fuss interaction (I can involve myself as much or as little as I want), the shared creative energy, and support.

The only reason I can see for lack of use is if the communities I interact with are unable to share as they used to, and the people who are attempting to market their businesses are forced to use a different platform, or changes made by the CEO would mean a subscription fee.

My hope is common sense prevails, but if not, I would undoubtedly find other ways to support my Twitter moots, and stay in touch. After all, despite challenges, humanity always finds a way to communicate, for better or worse. There's plenty of pigeons in the back garden.



 

Matt is not alone in thinking that Twitter has changed. We've noticed it. People we talk to every day are noticing it too. Engagement seems to be at an all-time low and once-familiar faces are nowhere to be seen. For those of us who are left, it can feel isolating and frustrating that the communities that once thrived now feel like empty shells. But as Matt points out, where else do we go? Even this new version of Twitter is still miles ahead of other platforms when it comes to actually connecting to like-minded folk.

How do you feel about the changes at Twitter? Is Twitter now broken beyond repair, or is there still hope for the future? Is it the platform itself that is to blame, or are people themselves changing? We would love to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments below or connect with us on Twitter (we haven't given up on it yet!).

Finally, we want to say a big thank you to Matt for taking part and giving us his honest opinions about Twitter. You can follow Matt on Twitter or visit his Red Bubble shop here.



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