At the end of July this year, Twitter’s stock price crashed by around 20% when the company took steps to delete around 1,000,000 fake (or bot) accounts. Instead of seeing this as a good thing, investors decided to offload their holdings. I guess it makes sense: all those ads being served to robots were hardly doing any good. If I were an advertiser, I might be wanting some of my money back, although anybody who didn’t know Twitter was full of fake accounts is an idiot.
I’ve been on the service since 2009 and I’m hardly your typical user. I’m lost somewhere in the backwaters. My following once struggled up as high as 310 and is currently down at 293. But I guess I lost fewer fake followers than some. When I first used Twitter Audit nearly 4 years ago, it reported that 93% of my followers were real people, with just 14 fakes. Now, I’m 99% real, with just 3 fake followers.
I gain followers at the rate of about one every couple of months. They often unfollow again when I don’t follow back, or even when I do. I only follow back if they look like a real person who isn’t trying to flog something. This is exceedingly rare.
My recent followers (soon to be unfollowers) are a food app (probably followed me because I follow Kitchen Stories, which is a food app I have – but I don’t need another one, thanks); a roots music TV network (unlikely to watch or follow, sorry); some kind of book marketing service (I should probably remove the word “author” from my bio, which is only there because I didn’t want to put “teacher”); and some kind of news website (there’s too much news as it is). The occasions when what might actually be a real human person much like myself turns up in my follower list are so rare that I seriously doubt it’ll ever happen again.
Which is why I think Twitter is doomed. Not because people don’t want to follow me (though God knows I can be fucking funny and I have impeccable taste) but because almost everybody on Twitter is there either to self-promote or start arguments. If you’re the type to try to avoid both of those things (which is to say: political twitter + tweeting compliments about yourself twitter), then Twitter is more or less a howling desert without even the relief of a tumbleweed emoji to break the monotony.
The real reason I know Twitter is doomed is because none of my students are asking me about it. Even a couple of years ago, whenever I mentioned that I was on Twitter, there would always be a couple of students who wanted to know my handle (which I never give, natch; anonymity is essential in my line of work), and even some who would make a point of arranging to follow me when they’d left school and a decent interval had passed.
That doesn’t happen now, and I think that’s because that young people aren’t even giving Twitter a go anymore. Like TV news viewers, Today listeners and newspaper readers, Twitter’s demographic is ageing and replenishers aren’t joining.
Of course, I’m hardly relevant, but unlike a celeb or politician I actually care about the people who follow me. I teach a rolling total of around 150 students a year, and even two years ago, maybe one percent of my students would show an interest. As of now, it has been a couple of years since anybody did. Furthermore, when you try to discuss modern social networking and media mores with students, Twitter has gone the way of Facebook as something the olds do, but not them. I mean, we’re constantly being told we have to talk about “online safety” etc. with our students, but their reference points are not ours. They’re all on Chatsnap or whatever. Amazingly, turns out, that toxic discourse, misogyny and Brexit are turn-offs for teens.
Anyway, Twitter is doomed. Sell your stock.