News on Twitter

My past year in J-school has forced me to be a more faithful follower of current events. At first I got my news from papers – I had quizzes on local papers and the Daily Tar Heel. Since then, Twitter has become one of my main sources of news.

I still use Facebook, but only to keep up with friends and waste some time, not for news. In my opinion, it’s not great source.

For one thing, the things that pop up in my news feed are often more influenced by popularity than timeliness. That’s fine when it’s a Spring Break picture, but there have been multiple times that I’ve seen a story that someone posted at the top of my feed, thought, “No way. Not again,” and then realized that it was posted six days earlier, but had been liked by a friend recently.

And maybe other people are better readers than me. Maybe that’s just a pet peeve. A 2014 Pew study found that 30 percent of adult Americans on Facebook use it to get their news.

Plus a lot of friends my age don’t see the point of Twitter, but I definitely prefer it for news. Twitter is often where I first hear about a story, and what I turn to if I know that something is going down. One downside, of course, is that there are so so many tweets that ones that you would’ve liked to have seen can get lost if it’s not checked frequently enough.

Twitter is trying to provide a solution to that. In January, Twitter announced the “While you were away” feature that places a few tweets at the top of your feed as a recap.

“With a few improvements to the home timeline,” said Paul Rosania, product manager, “we think we can do a better job of delivering on that promise without compromising the real time nature of Twitter.”

I hope that this feature will improve the way that I get news from Twitter by recapping important stories if I haven’t been on for a while. However, I’m a little hesitant because Twitter is terrible at understanding what I care about (second only to Trivia Crack which sends me notifications to tell me that it misses me).

I follow a little bit of everything on Twitter: newspapers, UNC student services offices, celebrities, funny accounts, city governments and of course, friends. When Twitter recommends that I look at something, it’s usually because multiple accounts that I follow have interacted with it. So even though I mostly use Twitter to keep up with current events, whether serious or entertaining, Twitter seems to think I only care about Carolina basketball. Makes sense. Many of the friends that I follow have Carolina in common. But accounts that I get news from, say the New York Times and the Washington Post, are less likely to favorite the same thing, or interact with content at all.

What’s popular among the accounts I follow doesn’t necessarily mean it’s relevant to my interests and motives in getting on Twitter. I’m not bothered by the “while you were away” feature – I’ll scroll by it if I don’t care about it. Beyond that though, I hope that future updates will either leave my feed alone or ask me what I really care about.


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