Greg Morris

Designer, Pretend Photographer, Dad

My Lukewarm Take On Threads

Meta rushed out its Twitter competitor come rip off due to the current rate limit disaster going on over there, and everyone rushed to try it out. The combination of a vast number of people using it, increased moderation efforts and hype around ActivityPub integration met in a perfect storm of interest that meant tens of millions of users flooded in. I was one of them that jumped on the Zuck bandwagon, and I’ve got some conflicting thoughts.

Initial Impressions

I downloaded that app when it was launched. In fact, I was that sad I pre-ordered the app a couple of days before. Not because I was excited, but I was pretty intrigued to try it out, as I do with most new apps with significant hype around it. I don’t really want to get involved with a Twitter replacement, but I enjoy kicking the tyres on most things just to see what they offer.

Only a matter of minutes after porting my Instagram account data into Threads, I was deactivating it and deleting the apps. The homescreen was filled with clout chasing ‘influencers’ spouting all kind of drivel that really wasn’t what I needed in my life at this point. I had escaped one hell site that I was moderately addicted to, and just the thought of using Threads gave me horrible flashbacks. For a few hours, anyway. I read some posts, listened to some thoughts and a few messages exchanged with other people using Threads, I logged back in again.

In my haste to get away from the service, I had unwittingly deactivated my Instagram account too. Meta are unable to untie the two once you’ve signed up (something they claim to be working on a fix for). So, I am actually thankful I logged in again. This time around I followed a few more people and began to realise the benefits of the service. Don’t get me wrong, the thirst trap algorithms are still turned up to 11, and I hate it, but there is a benefit to having many people you want to follow in one place. Threads mixes my worlds together with Photographers from Instagram, tech people that never Twitter and also friends that never ‘got’ Twitter but were pushed toward Threads from Instagram.

Half Baked

Reporting suggests that Threads was rushed out at least a couple of weeks before it was ready, and even at that point I think it would have been an MVP. Meta has thought about the important things such as muting and blocking, but the edges of the service are more than a little rough. Including the inability to attach photos without the app crashing. Something initially blamed on iOS17 betas, but is also plaguing Android users.

It is hard to know if the terrible experience on the main feed is to combat a lack of content and users (usually referred to as a cold start). I hope that it will be turned down once the user base is high enough. However, it is quintessentially Instagram in the sense that it shows you people you follow first and then quickly ramps up the influencers posts. The app takes on the annoying approach of showing you a glimpse of an interesting post that then disappears once the app loads, never to be seen of again.

Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri says that a chronological feed is “on the list” but how long that list is who knows. Given the app’s tendency to not only crash but log you out in the process, and the lack of any web app, I would say that list is pretty long.

Will I Use It?

I absolutely hate this idea that platforms are only as valuable as the traffic they provide but it is true most of the time. Users flocked to Twitter because it was the place to be, provided up-to-the-minute news, and for publishers it provided access like never before. All of a sudden, you could see what people were up to, and at the same time drive traffic to whatever it was that you were producing. Rapidly working its way into journalists' lives, as well as publishers bottom lines.

The same could be said about Instagram. It provides access to even more people of note, albeit through an airbrushed and filtered lens. Users can show off their best life, showcase their work and influence the purchasing decisions of more than a billion people. What Meta are really good at is recognising this and maximising the results in their favour. They don’t care what you post, only that you are posting and consuming as much as possible. It is social media manipulation in the most obvious sense – and I hate that.

Threads is also a pretty nice place to be. If you can mentally filter out all the noise, that hopefully will die down in a few days. Currently it feels as if we have all realised that Twitter was wrong on so many levels and want Threads to be a nicer place to be. I have no doubt that tools, dunking on people and attention seeking will come, but Instagram have promised that their moderation efforts are aimed to make Threads a pleasant place to be. However, Meta doesn’t exactly have the best track record and may already be hitting issues.

Ultimately, I am conflicted. I know in my heart of hearts that using a product by Meta is the worst social media decision. Even if it appears that Meta is the better of two evils, it is still evil and nothing can change my mind on that given their history. However, I am actually enjoying being able to interact with more people again. I am catching up with people that I haven’t followed for a very long time, and that is great. I see myself diving in a little until Threads introduces ActivityPub – at which point I will probably divert everything back to my blog.

I am excited for a time when I can take part in the discussions happening on Threads, but not have to use the service or their terrible app. Let’s hope this doesn’t take too long but I have a feeling it might not be this year.

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