During his recent trip in India, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey noted that he wants to make follower counts a less significant element in the app, even going so far as to say follower counts are 'meaningless' in one session.
That'll no doubt put a hurt on those 'influencers' who've spent copious amounts of time following and unfollowing people to build up their stats, but Dorsey's logic does seem sound.
As explained by The Verge:
"By emphasizing an account’s number of followers, Dorsey believes that it incentivizes individuals to post more polarizing content that has the potential to go viral and attract more followers, creating a more divisive and toxic discourse on the platform."
Definitely, you can see that in effect, and the same is evident on all social platforms where follower counts are listed, including Facebook, where people initially competed to have more 'friends' (and then regretted it when their feeds ended up crowded with updates from people they didn't care about), and Instagram, where some parents are now concerned about the psychological impact of their kids getting fewer Likes on their photos.
Omg this Instagram mommy blogger is celebrating her sons bday by writing about how out of all her kids, he “statistically” performs the worse on her Instagram. And she’s worried one day it will ruin his self esteem ???????? pic.twitter.com/QpFfJwDOab— Stephanie McNeal (@stephemcneal) November 19, 2018
Listing such metrics leads to competition, which leads to behaviors aligned with that, as noted by Dorsey. So what's Twitter going to do about it? They're going to make the follower count font smaller, as shown in the right hand side image below.
Okay, probably a case of right idea, wrong initiative.
I mean, it makes some sense - Dorsey says that they initially made the follower count font slightly bigger, not really thinking about the consequences, but now, by making them smaller, people will care about them less.
It's a very minor shift, sure, but it does show that Dorsey is looking at measures to improve the platform, and the focus of what people are doing on it. And definitely, it does feel like reducing the emphasis on such metrics can have an impact - on Snapchat, where follower counts are not present, people have to rely on their content (though they compete on other elements like 'Streaks), while on LinkedIn, your connection count display is capped at 500, which limits such emphasis.
Does that then improve discourse on those platforms? Well, maybe - getting likes and attention for individual posts is still a big focus, but it does remove one element, and lessening it could potentially kill off an entire industry of fake follower factories and bot makers. Maybe. It's hard to say.
It's definitely interesting - maybe not as interesting as Dorsey's dress sense.
But interesting to consider nonetheless.