What is Twitter’s new vanishing tweets feature?
In March 2020 Twitter began a trial in Brazil that allowed tweets to vanish after 24 hours, similar to the stories feature on Instagram and Snapchat.
Known as ‘Fleets’, the vanishing messages will not show up on people’s timelines and instead can only be viewed by tapping on a user’s profile picture. What’s more, people can react to them only with direct messages – replies will therefore be a private conversation instead of a public discussion. The company’s product lead Kayvon Beykpour has said the feature has been introduced to address some of the anxieties that hold people back from talking on Twitter.
How does a fleet work?
To create a Fleet you will need to tap the plus icon on the story row at the top of the app – images, videos, and GIFs can all be included so long as it’s up to the standard max of 280 characters. Once you post, anyone on Twitter can view the Fleet if they click on your profile picture – this unlike Instagram stories where you can use the ‘close friends’ option to share your story with a select group of your followers.
What is the point of Fleets?
The purpose of introducing Fleets is to get users to share their fleeting thoughts that they otherwise would have been unlikely to tweet. In a blog post, Twitter said it will be looking into how the new feature “changes the way you interact and if it allows you to share what you’re thinking more comfortably.” As such, Fleets can’t be retweeted, and followers will not be able to ‘like’ the content.
This new feature is Twitter’s response to its users wanting the choice about whether certain social media content is more or less permanent. As of March 2020, every single thing you have ever tweeted is, by default, stored and searchable forever. In the past, this has proved problematic for some people who have had their old tweets dragged out at job interviews and during other professional situations, as well for reporters who have struggled to segregate their public and private thoughts on the platform.
The hope is that Fleets will make the platform more appealing to those people who no longer want their posts hanging around forever. In this sense Twitter is joining other social media networks working on ways to reduce the pressure some people feel about racking up likes and other metrics, with Instagram trialling removing likes in 2019.
What are the concerns?
As is the case with anything that is not permanent on social media, there is a fear that disappearing tweets could make it trickier to hold people accountable for harassment online and could even encourage it.
This is because it will be more difficult to collect evidence and place the responsibility on the user to take screenshots, rather than Twitter to go through its servers. In addition, if people feel they will not be held accountable for their Fleets it may result in them posting things that they would not usually say for fear of repercussions.
To combat this, Twitter has already said that Fleets will be subject to the same rules as tweets and the company will take enforcement action against violators and users can also report content. As such, the company will keep a copy of Fleets “for a limited time” to review any content deemed unacceptable, before deleting it from Twitter’s systems. However, there are concerns that this policy would not be able to stop the spread of other potential harms, such as fake news.
Remember if using social media is making you feel stressed, anxious, depressed, or unwell, there are steps you can take to improve your well-being while using the platform:
- Take a break
- Use a timer to limit your expose on the app
- Spend time with friends
- Talk to a trusted friend or family member
- Delete the app
At this stage, it’s unclear whether Fleets will become a permanent feature, or even be rolled out globally and Twitter is welcoming any feedback from users.
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