Twitter Lists Are Underrated

Lists can help solve some of Twitter's major pain points

"Unfollowing everyone on Twitter and switching to lists for better control of my feed. Nothing personal, love you all! " - Github CEO Nat Friedman 9/19/20

Twitter is my favorite social network.

It is a treasure trove of enlightening blog posts, news articles, research papers, and video content that I would never see in the stagnant echo chamber that is my Facebook news feed; a place filled with content posted primarily by former classmates who seem to have frighteningly homogenous political opinions and little apparent interest in seriously engaging with opposing viewpoints.

On Twitter, I have the freedom to engage with a heterogeneous network of thinkers from diverse geographical and ideological backgrounds. The platform has vast untapped potential as a tool for research as well as monitoring current events and trends. A 2018 study found compelling evidence that Twitter isn't very polarized. Average users are exposed to a diverse range of ideas and post content that is more politically moderate than what they receive in their feeds.  

Unfortunately, the abundance of content comes at a high psychological cost:

  • Information overload makes me feel like I'm drowning as I navigate an infinite array of never-ending newsfeeds. Finding the signal that I'm searching for in a sea of noise takes work.
  • Fear of missing out and fear of not knowing compel me to constantly check the application for anything important I may have missed. "Just one more refresh, just a bit more scrolling..."

Twitter lists are an under-appreciated feature that can increase the platform's potential to facilitate productive social discourse. They help address existing issues by:

  • Allowing for the creation of multiple newsfeeds with content from personally curated groups of users, thus reducing information overload. Using Tweetdeck to manage lists provides a much smoother Twitter user experience.
  • Providing raw data, via the Twitter API, that can be used in applications that push relevant content to users and reduce the amount of time they spend searching and scrolling.

Lists have helped satisfy my craving for nuanced political and economic discourse that transcends the left/right paradigm and focuses on addressing systemic issues rather than proposing simplistic band-aid solutions. They also help me effectively track technical, social, and cultural developments in the rapidly evolving crypto industry.

Twitter could become a vital part of the digital public square with the help of well-curated lists and better ways of interacting with them. It could help citizens fulfill their obligation to be well informed and perhaps even allow us to escape the bubbles of groupthink that social media has trapped us in.

Jack Dorsey recently announced plans to transform Twitter into an open decentralized platform by using public blockchains to put users in control of their data. This shift will open up new possibilities in terms of what sorts of applications could be built using lists and drastically increase Twitter's potential to serve the common good.

You can get started with exploring lists by checking out a few that I've made:

And some public lists others have created:

Tweet me @shingaithornton with any thoughts on lists or suggestions for how to improve the ones I'm working on.

Shingai Thornton

Shingai Thornton