Spoiler: It’s not looking good
What’s the difference between a train wreck and Elon Musk running Twitter (rather, X—ugh) into the ground with one bad business decision after another? A train wreck is less painful to watch. Even before the billionaire king of cringe finalized the platform’s name and logo change, people with X accounts were wondering how to jump ship and where to go next. What’s Blue Sky? How does Mastodon work? Is Bondee still a thing? (It ain’t.)
Then July rolled in. The clouds parted and down came Threads, a social media platform identical to Twitter (damn it all, I’m not going to call it X—it’s a shit rebrand, and I won’t give it the dignity of further acknowledgment) in form and function. It also happens to be connected to your Instagram account. If you’re on IG, congrats, you’re halfway through the door! Gaining followers isn’t hard either, as long as the people already following you on IG are curious about Threads, too. Even the idea of “threads” as we know traces its origins to Twitter—more proof of derivation.
The vibe on the first day was… guileless. And awkward. IG-based influencers brought their brand of tacky “how are my followers today?” rhetoric to the space, as if it were natural. A certain contingent of digital migrants un-inoculated to Twitter’s toxic fumes were excited for a digital breath of fresh air. Intensely normie energy filled the space.
And then there were honest-to-God Twitter users—the chronically online, incomprehensible soldiers of the IDGAF war, wry and clinically facetious. These are users who’ve acclimated to extremely harsh discursive conditions for the sake of being online, and Threads was simply an opportunity to become more online than they already were. But more importantly, they wanted to see if Threads had jokes.
Because here’s the thing: Twitter has jokes. Only on Twitter will you find rage-bait spun into punchlines, queer folks clowning on alt-right pundits, memes that hover the line of human decency and milkshake ducks as far as the eye can see. Only on Twitter will you find the incomprehensible gibberish of “a concentration in motherological studies from the university of servington” assembled with the eloquence of Proust, plus an audience savvy enough to give it the laugh it deserves.
And, not for nothing, Twitter developed the unintended (and yet highly marketable) feature of giving users the ability to clown on Elon Musk directly. Blue check marks and the spreading disease of AI art be damned, where else will you gain access to the tools required to ratio a billionaire?
In contrast, Thread is sterile, bland and un-distressed. In a conversation between journalists Brian X. Chen and Mike Issac for the New York Times, Cheng remarks: “Threads is a Twitter clone, but Meta is introducing the concept to never-tweeters who have been on Instagram. So there’s going to be an awkward phase of acclimating.” Those accustomed only to Instagram’s post and story-based engagement mechanisms aren’t necessarily initiated when it comes to concepts like ratios or quote retweets or even Twitter’s niche communities and subcultures, like Rat Twitter. (Don’t ask.) To sum it up, Mike replies that Threads “feels like Twitter, but on easy mode.”
Not that any of this is a bad thing. In fact, this sterile environment is what draws many users to Threads in the first place, where they can treat the space as a blank canvas un-besmirched by Elon Musk. (Even though, from my personal experience, Threads seems equally as overrun by techbros, tacky motivational speakers and corny life coaches.) Still, perhaps what leaves some underwhelmed by Meta’s new hotness is the fact that it changes nothing. Other social media platforms in the past (whether it was Bondee or Mastodon, or even Multiply and Friendster) either defined the paradigm of social media, shifted the paradigm or at least made an honest effort to change things up. Despite many branding the platform to be a Twitter killer, Threads merely perpetuates the paradigm that Twitter previously set. Like…It’s still the same. Just less funny. In the fight between Musk and Zuckerberg, everybody else loses.
Words Jam Pascual
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver