Why I Don't Retweet Anything

I still read Twitter (despite my efforts to quit entirely), but I've stopped retweeting. My last retweet was on July 17th and it was of a tweet I wrote for a company I co-own. And if things continue as planned, that will be the last retweet I ever do.

Why No Retweets?

Retweets are Twitter's original sin. Akin to Facebook's Share, or Tumblr's Re-blog, the Retweet is what allows content on Twitter to spread virally. It allows for users to effortlessly spread false or misleading information with impunity and encourages readers to never go past the title of an article (despite Twitter's admittedly laudable attempts to address this issue). Retweets allow users to easily dunk on each other and act as super-spreaders of identity-reenforcing and tribalistic memes that only serve to make Twitter a worse platform.

Quote retweets are a little better (at least they require the user to express some opinion about the content they're spreading), but they still allow for the easy dunking that's a mainstay of the platform.

To their credit, Twitter has long known that the retweet button causes problems on their platform. The original designer of the feature has even said as much.

Chris Wetherell:

“We might have just handed a 4-year-old a loaded weapon,” Wetherell recalled thinking as he watched the first Twitter mob use the tool he created. “That’s what I think we actually did.”

Both Pine.blog and Micro.blog don't have retweets, and Manton does a great job explaining why (I used the same reasoning for Pine.blog).1

Manton Reece:

When you have to put a little work into posting, you take it more seriously. I wonder if fake news would have spread so quickly on Facebook if it was a little more difficult to share an article before you’ve read more than the headline.

Putting in the extra effort to actually articulate an intelligible thought helps me better understand the content myself and it helps me gauge whether or not the given post is even worth sharing. On more than one occasion, I've stopped myself from sharing something because I realized that it just wasn't all that interesting.

How I (Still) Use Twitter

While I still read Twitter, the vast majority of my posts are cross-posted from my microblog. I still favorite posts (because my favorites are automatically saved to Pinboard so I can find them later), but for the most part, my interactions are read-only.

Because I spend most of my "social media time" either reading articles on Pine.blog or browsing Micro.blog, reading Twitter now feels like wading through a nuance-lacking, toxic cesspit rather than acccessing the real-time information platform I once knew and loved, which in turn drives me further away from the platform. I see people I follow there cooking amazing meals, telling fanciful stories, sharing hilarious memes, but all of that is drowned out by the hate and vitriol in every next post.

With all that said though, I do still share stuff on the Web. I just do it by writing a post.

A sample pseudo-retweet
I'd love a browser plugin that removes the Retweet button and hides all retweets. It seems like a few exist, but none that I tried worked. Presumably Twitter tries to circumvent them.

Virality is a fact of life on the Web; neither innately good nor bad. For too long we've seen it as something to be harnessed, to utilize. But a virus is incredibly difficult to control and, like with today's real-world troubles, a pandemic of memes and satire does enormous harm to our individual health and to the health of our society.2

tl;dr Pandemics are bad. Both online and in meatspace. We should limit their spread and stop retweeting.

1 Pine.blog will show you when someone retweets or re-posts your blog posts if you allow for Webmentions, though I'm considering letting users configure this behavior. Retweets also poison the mind of the poster, not just the reader.
2 In an effort to be transparent, I have asked others to retweet my posts before an an attempt to gain some traction outside my bubble. I'm going to stop doing that too.

Filed under: twitter, social media, misinformation
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