I spend hours on Twitter every day and have for years, even though it constantly makes me angry, sad, and confused. But all that time has taught me one thing—no one should ever tweet. Most tweets are bad, and you never know when a “good” tweet will turn problematic. Then there’s all of the abuse, which is much worse. Despite all of that though lots of us just can’t quit the site. Now Twitter is rolling out another new option to try and make the experience better. They’re launching a “ fleet” function for all users, which will let people post temporary Snapchat-style tweets that will disappear after 24 hours.
But we’re not sure that’s a good thing.
Earlier this year Twitter announced (in news we first came across at The Verge) it was testing a new feature in Brazil called “Fleets.” These fleeting tweets (oh….we get it), are designed for users who are “insecure to tweet because tweets are public, permanent and exhibit public engagement counts (likes and retweets).” The idea behind the program was to make it easier for people to post without worrying about what anyone else will say, immediately or in the future. In a blog post Twitter said:
“Fleets are for you to share your ideas and momentary opinions. These posts disappear after 24 hours and have no Retweets, likes or public comments. In an initial survey, people told us that, once the Fleets are gone, they are more comfortable sharing everyday and everyday thoughts. We hope that those people who are not usually comfortable with Tweeting use Fleets to talk about the reflections that come to their head.”
Twitter with less accountability and even fewer evidence of harassment? Not ideal! But the test must have been a success. Today the company announced it is rolling out the function for users everywhere.
Fleets won’t look all that different from regular tweets. They will be “based primarily on text,” and you will still be able to “include videos, GIFs or photos in them.” You’ll also be able to respond to them by clicking on a fleet and sending a Direct Message or emoji. And others will be able to respond to yours. “Your followers will be able to see your fleets at the top of their Home Page, and anyone who can access your full profile will also be able to find your Fleets there.” Also, users will be able to respond to your fleets if your DMs are open.
Fleets seem unlikely to save anyone from scrutiny or consequences anymore than Snapchat guarantees a photo will disappear forever. The “kids” know how to screengrab. And 24 hours is a long time for the “olds” to have it emailed to them.
The question is whether or not fleets will improve the Twitter experience for users as a form of communication. Maybe, maybe not. But at least fleets guarantee that after 24 hours we’re protected from ourselves. Because even though we know we should never tweet, we do it anyway. At least this way we won’t have to go back and delete them all ourselves later.
Featured Image: Twitter
This post was originally published on March 4, 2020 and updated November 17, 2020.