The Twitterscape has evolved steadily in the last five years, but maybe never more significantly than in the last week. With the addition of photo/video previews and inline interactions nestled directly into the tweets themselves, it's a whole other playing field—one your Twitter-phobic friends will actually like. Here's how to ease them in.
Longtime Twitter users can take one look at their feed and immediately know who's playing hashtag games, who's succumbed to a spooky halloween name, and who's trying to burrow their way into the hearts of weird Twitter. To the uninitiated, though, the words in that last sentence could be totally rearranged and it would still mean the same to them—absolutely nothing.
That's always going to be true to some extent—new things are weird!—but this recent spat of interface tweaks, as much as they annoy the Twitter faithful, make it easier than ever to dive into the stream.
The first major shift was Twitter's introduction of those ever-divisive lines that threaded tweets into actual conversations. You likely noticed about a month or so ago that your feed was no longer in the same reverse chronological order you've grown accustomed to. While that method was great for seeing only the latest spewing, it made following any sort of conversation nearly impossible unless you were willing to put in the legwork.
Now, instead, assuming you follow all of the involved parties, any time someone replies to another tweet, that bit of the conversation will be listed in (actual) chronological order, so you can actually get a sense of what it is you're seeing.
Longtime users may still be decrying the new feature because change is scary, blah blah blah, but if it's your first time trying to grapple with a feed, this is actually a far more intuitive way of getting in on the action. You don't have to explain to your friends what's going on any more. You can just tell them to follow the thin blue line.
If there's one thing you can be sure the kids want these days, it's photos. Just look to the thousands upon thousands of photo apps popping up in the App Store daily—and the number of people joining Instagram—as proof. This also happened to be just the area where Twitter was sorely lacking—until now, that is.
Like making sense of conversations, picking out the photos on Twitter was a relatively annoying ordeal; you really needed to want to see that photo before endeavoring to, once again, leave the main feed. And if you're someone for whom Twitter is still something of a new, shiny, confusing thing, you're probably not even going to realize that half the tweets you're seeing actually have photos to offer. Hashtags, websites, and photos all looked pretty much the same in that scrolling blur, and it took a considerable amount of time for someone to become deft enough at Twitter to spot what was what with any sort of ease.
For someone who's seeing Twitter for the first time, it's far easier to understand the potential joys it can bring when, right off the bat, you're slammed in the face with a YouTube, snapshot sensory overload.
Most of all though, Twitter's more inviting to your friends who are used to Facebook and Instagram because Twitter is turning itself into Facebook and Instagram. You get the same sense of instant voyeuristic gratification that you get when you speed through your Instagram feed or Facebook timeline. Casually peering into someone else's life has never been so guilt-free, and Twitter's capitalizing on that by letting you casually peer into all your Twitter-friend's thoughts.
When you look at the new timeline, it really has borrowed all the best bits from every major social network to create one monster, friend-monitoring machine. It's just like Facebook status updates if your friends were forced to condense their thoughts and cut out all the crap—everyone's dream come true. Just as Facebook's like, share, and comment buttons are right there on the post, Twitter has put its fav, retweet, and reply buttons out in the open and right at their fingertips. And of course, all of this comes without Facebook's overly complicated, often concerning privacy codes. In part, admittedly, because everything on Twitter is supremely public by default.
Even Instagram addicts can jump on board. Readily available pictures make your main Twitter feed essentially the same thing as your Instagram feed, just with more words. Twitter even has filters built right into its mobile app for all your instant nostalgia needs. And again, the readily available buttons to reply, favorite, etc. make interacting with others barely more than an afterthought, just like it is on Instagram. Most people click that little heart under photos recklessly and without any real consideration, but the people on the receiving end will still feel that little endorphin rush when that notification lights up. Twitter can now offer you that very same symbiotic, totally thoughtless relationship. Because that's what online friendship is all about.
You can use Twitter to share pretty much any and every way you're able to on any other social network you might be using now, and that's the beauty of it. It's become insanely flexible, highly approachable, and everything a borderline luddite could want. So friends, welcome to Twitter.