Threads--Haven or Not?
I signed up for Threads last night, and so far, I like how it works. It’s very similar to the Bird App, but allows for 500 characters instead of 140, which I like much better. The 140-character max thing was so… limiting. The change is welcome. I also like the fact you can’t DM. No more scammers slipping into your DMs, no trolls, none of that. It is so annoying to have someone friend you just so they can solicit you for business. Ick. Attaching pictures seems easy enough on Threads, too, and navigating people’s messages seems somewhat similar to that Other App.
The one disappointing thing I’ve found so far while using it is that Threads is not available on desktop. I prefer using my desktop over my phone or iPad. It’s easier for me to navigate, to see, and so on. Since I can only get the app on my phone or iPad, accessing it is more of a pain in the butt for me. Supposedly there are things I can download to allow a desktop to play android apps and games. My security software wouldn’t let me download one such thing due to a virus, and the other I found, after downloading, didn’t have Threads available. So… no dice. If you know of another way to get it on your desktop, please, pretty please, let me know.
[UPDATE: I was able to get Threads on my desktop eventually. I downloaded the BlueStacks App Player, and originally, I could not find the Threads app on there. However, I logged into my Google Play account through BlueStacks, and then I was able to locate Threads to download it. I've been playing around on Threads on my desktop ever since.]
Interestingly, everyone kept posting about the “wild energy” and the “chaos” and whatnot of the first couple of days Threads was available for download, and I’m scratching my head about that. I really have no idea what they are talking about. Everything seemed ordinary to me.
One thing did catch my attention, however.
I kept reading threads about people being so glad to be rid of the toxicity. That the rudeness, vitriol, and ickiness over on the Bird isn’t on Threads. People were so happy to be so happy. It was almost strange, but also very telling about where we are as a culture. The divisiveness of our current time is wearing ordinary people down; we want to get back to being nice again, and desire a place where we can be safe doing that.
Threads was designed to be that haven. It will remain to be seen how long it can continue with the civil discourse and positivity. According to Reuters*, “For starters, the company will not extend its existing fact-checking program to Threads, spokesperson Christine Pai said in an emailed statement on Thursday. This eliminates a distinguishing feature of how Meta has managed misinformation on its other apps.” If an article is posted on another platform first and labeled by a fact-checker as false there, and if someone then posts that article or post on Threads, the labels already on it will travel over, too. That is small consolation. This means that anyone with an axe to grind can create a profile on the app and dispense outright lies, if they post them there first. And while Meta designed Threads more for entertainment, fashion, design and sports, there is nothing keeping politics, controversy, and news off the feeds.
In fact, within hours of launching, according to Reuters, “Threads accounts seen by Reuters were posting about the Illuminati and ‘billionaire satanists,’ while other users compared each other to Nazis and battled over everything from gender identity to violence in the West Bank.”
I didn’t see any of that stuff, since my feed is full of threads from people I had already followed on Instagram. My follower list is a very tight bubble—I had followed bookstagrammers, editors, publishers, agents, artists, and authors mostly.
Back in the day when I first signed up for Twitter (less than two years ago, mind you), my experience was a good one. I followed the same kinds of people as I have on Threads. People were kind, helpful, and wonderful resources. But it didn’t take long before the icky stuff to filter through. Someone would post something, and while dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people might respond, there were always trolls saying awful things. Stuff would get politicized (even on non-political posts), and instead of civil discourse, there would be name calling and threats. It made it so that I stopped posting on the Bird and didn’t keep up with it much anymore. I think I stopped posting much around the time Elon took over. This is purely anecdotal, of course, but it feels like that is about when things went to shit.
But it may be that the same thing will happen with Threads. Meta plans to link Threads to the “Fediverse” where users on servers not operated by Meta can communicate with Thread users. According to Reuters, “Alex Stamos, the director of the Stanford Internet Observatory and former head of security at Meta, posted on Threads that the company would face greater challenges in performing key types of content moderation enforcement without access to back-end data about users who post banned content. ‘With federation, the metadata that big platforms use to tie accounts to a single actor or detect abusive behavior at scale aren't available,’ said Stamos. ‘This is going to make stopping spammers, troll farms, and economically driven abusers much harder.’
People have a chance to start over with Threads, and I’m afraid it won’t be long before the app gets Twitterized. I really, truly hope that it can remain the haven it is promised to be. I’ll enjoy it while I can, but I’m not holding my breath.
*Reuters article referenced: https://www.reuters.com/technology/metas-friendly-threads-collides-with-unfriendly-internet-2023-07-07/