One hundred and sixty-two thousand retweets. Two hundred and eighty-nine thousand likes. Donald Trump’s tweets routinely garner engagement on such a scale that it’s hard to really understand what any of those numbers actually mean.
That just changed.
A new Twitter feature, announced in a June 15 blog post, displays retweets and likes in real time as they come in — and oh boy is it both simultaneously totally captivating and super depressing.
Here’s the deal: When clicking on a tweet in the past, users were shown the number of retweets, comments, and likes the tweet had at that specific time. Wanted to check if the count grew? If you were on a smartphone, you’d have had to navigate out of the tweet and tap back in. Basically, you had to refresh the tweet to see any growth.
“Tweets now update instantly with reply, Retweet, and like counts so you can see conversations as they’re happening – live,” explained Twitter’s VP of user research and design Grace Kim.
A video showing likes piling up demonstrates just how compelling this is.
In this new Twitter reality, before you can even begin to thumb out your pithy response to the latest nonsensical outburst, hundreds if not thousands of people could have retweeted it right in front of your very eyes.
It’s quite a sobering realization.
And sure, on the face of it this isn’t that big of a change. People still retweet and like stuff, and the corresponding numbers displayed below a tweet get updated when they do. But watching those tallies increase by the second — knowing that each time there’s a bump some random person somewhere just decided to “like” the garbage in front of you — provides a visceral sense of connection to other users that was previously missing from the Twitter feed.
Dare I say it introduces a bit of much-needed humanity into a product that at times has been more than a tad lacking?
At the same time, however, it’s also super depressing. When the numbers were static, it was much easier to overlook their true significance. Now, as each and every “like” is added to the count, it’s impossible to ignore the cold, hard truth: Real people (and sometimes bots) are out there constantly retweeting garbage — one clearly visible click at a time.