When I opened an account on Twitter several years ago, I naively made the following assumptions.
1. I could follow newspapers and other publications so I would get stories I’m interested in.
2. I could follow worthy charitable institutions, cultural organizations, and entertainment venues, which would keep me up-to-date about events and projects.
3. I could follow colleagues and other academics, journalists, commentators, and experts of various sorts, who would keep me informed about developments in areas of expertise I share or wanted to learn about. Also, specialized academic journals and institutions.
In fact, nothing worked out.
1. New organizations bombarded me with the same headlines over and over. How many times do you want to read “Longtime Trump attorney says he made $130000 payment to Stormy Daniels” on your feed?
2. Worthy charitable institutions showered me with pleas for money. Cultural organizations sent redundant notices of events I did not want to attend. Restaurants I might visit twice a year sent me their menus every day.
3. Most people in category #3 did not actually alert me to developments in their area of expertise. When not ranting and raving, they sent me links to #1 and #2 along with snippets of text expressing their outrage and indignation. Meanwhile, the tweets of people who tweeted responsibly got lost in the deluge. When you think about it, if you tweet once a day, or a couple times a week, how likely is it that people who receive tens of thousands of tweets daily will see yours? They’d have to watch their feed all day long.
As the years passed, I realized I had filtered out nearly everyone and everything, whereupon I deleted my account.
So what would a useful Twitter look like?
I would like a Twitter that, like a good personal (human) assistant, sent me an email once a week with:
(a) News related to my interests that I might have overlooked. No headlines; I see those on my own.
(b) Cultural events and entertainment options I might actually want to attend. Once.
(c) The latest academic scholarship related to my interests—this is likely to be no more than 10-20 articles or books per week.
Twitter is an enormously inefficient method for accomplishing (a), (b), and (c). Currently, it’s much easier to do periodic google searches. Maybe after years more of AI development, Twitter could give me want I want. But I’m not holding my breath. Generating content that people scan once a week is no way to make money. Twitter can’t work unless it can make itself an obsession.