Al Rasheed: Tired Twitter accounts cheapen website’s intended use

By Sophia Al Rasheed / Columnist

As Twitter shares rose above 70 percent after its initial public offering late last week, speculation over the consistency of Twitter’s growth has become a concern. The numbers indicate the success and popularity of the website, but some investors are worried that the momentum will be difficult to maintain. The company did spike in its number of users in 2011, but this increase isn’t likely to continue, as Twitter has failed to gain a following as strong since.

But for a much more important aspect of the website — the creativity and quality of Twitter’s content — this lack of growth is a good thing.

It might not appear so at first, but those who have been with Twitter since before the recent increase in popularity are aware that Twitter is an art form, and the recent expansion and increase in users has only cheapened this effect. The sale of Twitter stock in hope of expanding the company’s number of users is a classic example of financial and personal gain interrupting a precious, and slowly decreasing, art form.  

A little clarification: If you don’t consider Twitter an art form, then you probably use it in the incorrect way. What distinguishes Twitter from other networking sites lies within the content that surrounds it. In order to have a successful account, you’re confined to writing tweets that are worth posting — basically, tweets that will be of interest to everyone else. This sounds odd, considering social media usually screams “Look what I did! Look at me!” but when you view successful Twitter accounts, you will see that they pander to their audience. Whether your tweets come in the form of retweeting a news article, serve as an outlet for your political views — the tweets during the 2012 presidential debates were a goldmine — or, most commonly, provide other users with comedy, you need to take your followers into account. Bragging about accomplishments or whining about your day, which is what many users incorrectly use Twitter for, are not a good use of the canvas.

Now the problem with the spike in popularity is that many new users do not adhere to these guidelines that maintain the quality of tweets and choose instead to contribute flashy or nagging tweets. Or worse, some misused tweets provide a repeat of current personas and jokes: for example, the five separate “She Ratchet” accounts that thrive on these repetitive jokes and have managed to acquire a huge following despite their lack of authenticity. Many of the accounts that have contributed to the million-user increase last year are simply repeating jokes that have already been made or personas that have already been taken. You’ll likely find “female problems” and “The Hangover” character Alan Garner accounts — commonly referred to as parody accounts — to tweet the same line such as “I would rather break my fingers than make two trips to get my groceries.” 

The creator of the famous account “Awkward Girl Problems,” whose identity shall remain confidential, has been aware of this ongoing problem. Awkward Girl attracted more than 100,000 followers since she created her account in June 2011 as a creative outlet for problems that many people in the college age group — and, simultaneously, the age group for which Twitter became most popular — can relate to, such as her use of puns (“I like big buns and I cannot Rye”) and ‘90s pop-culture references (“Miley Cyrus looks like Scary Spice meets Care Bears #VMAs”). I noticed a decline in the amount of tweets she sent and asked her if it had to do with the increase in popularity of Twitter and trying-way-too-hard-to-make-you-laugh accounts, and her response indicates the same concern of money over art.

“Parody accounts cheapen Twitter and are an insult to writers who put time and effort into their tweets by stealing that content and showcasing it to a bigger audience,” said Awkward Girl. 

“I’ve received emails from other big anonymous accounts offering to buy my Twitter or trade [retweet] for [retweet], which is always super insulting. Those same accounts have then stolen tweets of mine when I declined their offer. For people like me who try to come up with original and creative content, it’s a bit disconcerting to know that the general public doesn’t care if the content is stolen, just so long as a steady stream of funny tweets are being pushed onto their feed. It feels like everyone is trying to be a comedian.”

What surged Awkward Girl to popularity in the first place was the ability for her to appeal to a wide audience of people, and this was accomplished through her distinct understanding of the awkwardness of being a 20-something in a large college setting, a task that isn’t easily accomplished by everyone. It takes talent to create a genuinely entertaining account and requires actual experience. 

Twitter as a company might hope to have its number of users grow, but the quality of the website internally rests on a select few who can contribute to it and a select amount of tweets to keep material from being cheapened or becoming repetitive. In this case, it’s essential for quality to reign over quantity.

Write Sophia at [email protected].