Could Twitter's new expiring Tweets - Fleets - be a reaction to the cancel culture that is so rampant on their platform?
The trend towards ephemerality in 2020 is going strong, as Twitter has now joined the bandwagon with their own take on short-lived, disappearing user content: Fleets.
Just like Snapchat’s Snaps and Facebook’s Stories, Fleets (short for fleeting, and rhyming with tweets - good wordplay) comprise any user content - i.e. tweets - on Twitter that expire after 24 hours. This includes tweets containing text, images or even videos.
“Twitter’s purpose is to serve the public conversation – it’s where you go to see what's happening and talk about it,” Sam Haveson, Product Manager at Twitter, writes in a blog post. “But some of you tell us that Tweeting is uncomfortable because it feels so public, so permanent, and like there's so much pressure to rack up Retweets and Likes.
“To help people feel more comfortable, we've been working on a lower pressure way for people to talk about what’s happening. Today, we're launching Fleets so everyone can easily join the conversation in a new way – with their fleeting thoughts.”
Haveson's comments paint an interesting picture of what has become of Twitter and the internet by 2020, and Fleets could be a product of something more sinister.
Are Fleets a product of cancel culture?
Twitter has had a history with bringing about controversy for many public personalities over the years, including film directors, actors, politicians and others.
In 2018, James Gunn, the director of the highly-popular superhero film series Guardians of the Galaxy was fired from his director role for the third film because of controversial tweets he had made in 2009 and 2010. Disney, which owns the Marvel brand, quickly cut ties with him.
After a major show of support from the film cast, crew and the general public, Gunn was reinstated almost a year later.
Others are not as lucky. Twitter cancel culture, a common online colloquialism for online movements on Twitter that seek to “cancel” certain people for reasons logical or otherwise. “Cancelling” is a form of online ostracism that seeks to isolate and defame supposedly controversial figures who have either said or done something inappropriate.
Given the nature of “he said, she said” on the internet, a lot of truth gets lost along the grapevine, and one minor misdemeanor can escalate into a mass online campaign complete with negative hashtags and petitions. Sometimes, entire situations can be blown out of proportion where people’s entire careers get derailed, whether they did rightfully earn the internet’s wrath or not.
While not as prominent in the Middle East yet as much as it is in the West, the region has seen its fair share of them, especially in the influencer sphere.
Twitter's introduction of Fleets could help to alleviate this situation, but nothing is stopping a user from screenshotting a Fleet and sharing it with the world years later when it can be used against someone. For now, it's a good start.
As a side note, WhatsApp also joined on this trend recently, announcing that it will introduce ephemeral messages to its platform. Even LinkedIn introduced similar content, in the form of the usual disappearing Stories.