Twitter has recently introduced a new feature that makes a tweet favorited by an account you follow appear on your timeline. The feature first rolled out for a number of accounts but it soon spread out to more users. This move has frustrated a lot of Twitter users especially because favorite tweets have always been semi-private.
Twitter has initially only shown tweets and retweets of the accounts they follow. Retweeting is an integral part of Twitter. Users retweet tweets that they want their followers to see. Retweeting is a public way of showing others what interests us and while it’s acceptable for retweets to appear in timelines, it’s a very different story for favorite tweets.
Users use the favorite button for different reasons. One is by simply acknowledging a tweet or as a way of saying thank you for the tweet. Others use it to bookmark a tweet for later use or it can be someone’s way of saying that they found a tweet funny or inspiring.
Favorites can be seen if you go to an account’s profile page and under “Favorites”, however, most of the time, a favorite tweet is just something that passes between the person who favorited the tweet and the account he favorited it from. With the latest change from Twitter, your favorited tweets are also making an appearance in your timeline for the rest of your followers to see.
For old-time users of Twitter, this change is simply unacceptable because it appears to be that the microblogging site does not completely understand how users use their service. On the other hand, if you try to look at it at a beneficial way, this change can benefit Twitter users who have not organized a specific list of accounts that they follow. New users can properly understand how the service works upon seeing what others have favorited. Additionally, it could also show some important conversations that are easily overlooked unless you go on a follow spree on many accounts that often interact with each other.
For weeks, users were forced to accept the change without any explanation. For others, this ended the straightforward stream of Twitter that separated it from other social networks. Is this a sign that Twitter is going for random, after all these years?
Finally, Twitter offers an explanation to this feature. In a tweet-response to some users, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo explained that you only see favorites if you pull-to-refresh twice and there are no “new tweets from accounts you follow either time”. He also offered that when you pulled to refresh twice, it gives off the signal that you’re looking for more content.
In additional words, Twitter is simply feeding you this kind of tweets because there are no other content for you to notice at that second. This could also be the company’s strategic way of motivating users who don’t follow many accounts to follow new accounts that they may not have found otherwise. Although Twitter has a Discovery Tab that shows these kinds of tweets, it is not apparent how many users actually use that feature.