Why is Twitter no longer No 1 on the Top Tools for Learning list?

thumb-440352_640After 7 years at the top of the Top 100 Tools for Learning, this year Twitter fell back to No 3 place in 2016, and there’s been some talk why this is the case, so I thought I’d examine some of the reasons here.

Anja thought it was because the mainstream had taken over my questionnaire!

But I think there’s more to it than that. For sure, many people who were living on the new frontier of social media who began to use Twitter in its early years in 2007/2008, saw its potential to connect with many different people around the world, and over the years have benefited greatly from this new experience of building a global network of trusted connections.

But it is true that over the years the dark side of Twitter has emerged – in the form of the trolls – and this is something that has put off new users signing up to Twitter.  In fact, now that Twitter is up for sale, we can see that this is one of the things that is deterring potential buyers. For instance, Bloomberg has reported that Disney Dropped Twitter Pursuit Partly Over Image

 Walt Disney Co. decided not to pursue a bid for Twitter Inc. partly out of concern that bullying and other uncivil forms of communication on the social media site might soil the company’s wholesome family image, according to people familiar with management’s thinking.”

Business Insider has also reported that Twitter trolls were part of the reason why Salesforce walked away from a deal.

“Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff finally killed all rumors of a potential Twitter acquisition on Friday when he told the Financial Times that it’s “not the right fit” for his company.”

But there may also be other reasons for Twitter’s decline, for example the growing commercialisation of social networks – where people are constantly being sold to – makes it a very different place to be than 10 years ago. Luis Suarez also believes that Vanity Killed the Social Media Star.

“it all comes down to, finally, come to terms with the fact that our very own self-importance has managed to destroy Social Media and just leave it at Media, as we become … it.:

What is also becoming clear is that messaging apps are now bigger than social networks, as Business Insider explains

“Users around the world are logging in to messaging apps to not only chat with friends but also to connect with brands, browse merchandise, and watch content. What were once simple services for exchanging messages, pictures, videos, and GIFs have evolved into expansive ecosystems with their own developers, apps, and APIs.”

In fact  messaging apps have soared up the Top Tools List this year: WhatsApp is up 8 places to #13, Slack is up 63 places to #20, and Trello is up 39 to #43.

So I think there is a combination of factors at play why Twitter has lost its No 1 spot.  What about you, do you think there are any other reasons that have contributed to this?

7 Comments

  1. Hi Jane, what a fascinating and rather thought-provoking read! Thanks a lot for putting it together and also for the link love! Much appreciated. I have been thinking a lot about this particular topic myself as well, since I voted for Twitter as my number #2 learning tool and I think the reason why it may have fallen behind, is not a single one, but several of them as you well pointed out. However, if I were to pick up a single one I’d say that it all happened when we perceived that Twitter transformed from being a social networking tool into a media tool. The moment we stopped having conversations online via Twitter with it, the moment we just focused on broadcasting out loud our marketing messages and forgot to listen, the moment we decided to turn ourselves into just another medial tool, that’s the moment I think Twitter stopped being a learning tool for a good number of people.

    And it gets perhaps a bit worse than just Twitter, because, if you look into the Top 10 list, for instance, most of the learning tools are ‘isolated’. They don’t require dialogue, conversations, discourse. They are just related to you picking up a topic and learn more about it through Web resources. I think that’s key. Somehow we decided to stop talking to people, i.e. conversing with them as an opportunity to learn. And instead we decided to become a bit more selfish and just focus on me, me, me needs vs. we, we, we needs, which is part of the reason why I wrote the initial blog entry you referenced above.

    I think most people have come to terms with the fact it’s a lot tougher to learn with others than on your own. Why? Well, on your own you don’t have anyone challenging you and what you know and what you learn. With others, there is a great chance someone may be challenging you in a constructive manner about what you know and since we are not used to that kind of interaction, because, you know, we forgot to master the art of hosting a good conversation, we decided to switch off. It’s sad, but I guess that’s what happens when you decide your learning can happen through media tools versus social networking interactions.

    It will come back, I’m pretty sure. The moment we realise we have become the media, and therefore the product, and we have that strong sense we are no longer learning as much as we could, or should, we will start questioning why and eventually revert course. I’m hoping … 😀

  2. I’m a learning designer, building online professional development courses. I have seen a move away from conversations and towards sharing interesting stuff, often via automatic sharing features. It’s made it dull compared to how it was before. Also we used to share a bit of professional stuff and a bit of personal stuff and that made for richer exchanges too. In short, I think it’s got a bit boring.

  3. One of my Masters students noted (in our class Twitter discussion) that in Kevin Kelly’s new book The Inevitable, he devoted a chapter to Screening. Kelly noted the evolution of communication from oral to text based to visuals and touchscreens. In some ways, Twitter is still a text-based app even with the ability to add images and videos.

  4. #3 ain’t bad, though! These seem like good reasons. Weakening signal to noise ratio could be another. Really though, if the only learning tools that are beating you are YouTube and Google, you’re still pretty hot stuff. Long live Twitter!!

  5. I’m actually thinking about another one – if messaging apps are taking over, what is Facebooks good for? Collaborative work – organizing, exchange of information not on the walls but in closed or semi-closed or even hidden groups.
    And that’s a feature Twitter doesn’t have. And from my experience there’s been a lot of big things done by means of Facebook as a preparation/management/organizational tool.

  6. stephen

    Hi Jane

    Thanks, interesting observations. I agree with Nikos – the openness of Twitter which helped it grow has resulted in it feeling quite chaotic. Following 100+ people makes the feed unreadable and unusable, even if you use lists. The result is that the good content that people share gets lost in the noise. I think we need more focused areas to collaborate and share, with options for groups and privacy if we want them. Certainly for learning at work at least. Still love twitter, but don’t love the act of scrolling to find something useful in the feed.

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