Why Twitter’s layout changes are important

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By Dylan Lemert

Dylan Lemert, Preface columnist

    Before you accuse me of being overly nitpicky, I should have you know I believe Twitter to be one of the best social media platforms of the past decade. 

Obviously I say this with some subjectivity, but I like the way Twitter doesn’t coerce me into publicizing my personal life, I like how I can use it to stay current with global and national news, and I think the 140-character-per-post limit is a smart move as well as the company’s trademark.

That being said, if you’ve used Twitter over the past week or so, you may have noticed a change in the way the website looks. What used to be a running feed of users, text and links is now punctuated by pictures, either in the form of linked photos or sponsored ads.

For all the good decisions Twitter has made, I think the decision to place photo ads in a platform known for text “microblogging” is a poor one.

Aesthetically, photographs pop. Web designers know this. This is why over the past decade Facebook has made it a point to make the pictures in their news feeds bigger and bigger, until at last it gives off the impression of looking through a digital scrapbook of sorts.

For Facebook, and for other platforms like it, this picture-emphasized form works. The majority of users on those sites are there to share pictures anyway, whether they be graphs, memes, screenshots or selfies.

The Twitter logo. The company grapples with new changes as it looks to go public this week.  Image via/Wikimedia Commons
The Twitter logo. The company grapples with new changes as it looks to go public this week.
Image via/Wikimedia Commons

But for those of us who prefer the written word to feed-clogging visuals, Twitter has until now been the informational antithesis of most other major social media platforms. Until now, it’s been Twitter’s distinct lack of visuals that has proved refreshing.

Maybe Twitter’s recent changes are simply the company preparing itself as it goes public this week. Maybe the thought process behind it is that by adopting a more universally-accepted format, the company will be more marketable, and therefore more valuable.

Whatever the case may be, all of this is not to say Twitter hasn’t been great for photo-sharing before. It’s just that before I had the option of choosing whether or not I wanted to see a particular photo or link or what-have-you. Now I feel like that option is on the verge of fading away.

Before, my own agency determined what I would see. Now, it simply feels like I’m being told what to look at.

Truthfully, that’s the issue many users have had with the ever-evolving juggernaut of social media. As these companies become more and more prominent, they demand more avenues to gain advertising dollars. The result is what happened to Instagram about a month ago (which so far has been fairly tasteful), and what’s happening to Twitter now (which has been a tad more intrusive).

Twitter is great because it’s built upon a brand of controlled freedom. It limits what we can say to 140 characters or less, but in this way it challenges us to be creative with what we’re going to say.

It teaches us to think before we type.

Although it may be descending down an unsavory path, I suppose in retrospect Twitter has earned the right to do so. Personally, I will continue using Twitter as long as it continues to be a hub for new and shared ideas, even if it takes a few twists and turns I don’t necessarily like.

Then again, perhaps I am being overly nitpicky. From here, I’ll just leave it to time to decide if that’s all for nothing.

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