“I don’t want to bother people,” says Derek Guy, a California-based menswear writer who runs the @dieworkwear Twitter account, which has been inescapable for a significant portion of Twitter users in recent weeks.to their chagrin. “I’m not the one who decides to delve into the chronology of people,” Guy adds. “That’s just the way the algorithm works.”
Guy’s unexpected ubiquity on Twitter proved to be a double-edged sword. He has received a lot of positive feedback, including from people who believe they learned how to dress better from his advice randomly appearing on their schedule, but he also received a lot of hate. The attention has changed the way he uses Twitter. “Now my schedule, I can’t even keep up with it,” he says. “I don’t read all the comments, but a lot of the comments I read are hostile.”
Such a significant change in how people deal with online fame and notoriety may require a change in how we think about the impact of social media, Kobbe said. “Many people are commenting on the problems with platform algorithms that promote hate speech and conspiracy theories, as well as content that can harm people’s mental health,” she says. “But the less discussed other side of this is that people can get their message across to an audience they might not expect. Sometimes it can help draw attention to things that need it, or it can give someone the break they’ve been looking for.”
Suddenly being in front of millions of people, most of them unfamiliar, when you’ve previously posted to a handful of friends is not uncommon on social media. TikTok, for example, has been praised for its algorithm’s ability to pull unknowns off the air and instantly turn them into stars. More kids i want to be a youtuber than astronauts. But for this you need to subscribe. Twitter users like Guy didn’t ask for it – and aren’t always sure they want it. And unlike the people who previously commanded the collective attention of Twitter, these users didn’t necessarily do anything to get their attention. “Most people, when they become a Twitter protagonist for a day, are almost always negative about it,” Guy says.
Recognizing this, Twitter users may need to be a little more conscientious when they tweet. There are signs that this is already happening. Some users, when faced with Guy’s unsolicited tweets on their timeline, decided to attack him or make fun of him in front of their followers by tagging him. Others were equally disappointed, but deliberately avoided labeling him as search for “menswear” shows. But the third group chose a different tactic: instead of yelling about the invasion, they softened their approach. A legion of people have silently blocked or silenced Guy’s account and he won’t know until he clicks on their profile.
According to Kobbe, this is a better and more caring way to deal with the problem. “For many people, being suddenly exposed to a large and not necessarily receptive audience on a platform like Twitter or TikTok can be a confusing and harrowing experience.” This quiet approach does not add to this bewilderment.
Even better would be to change the platforms themselves, she adds. “We need them to be more careful with the people they recommend, especially if it leads to abuse.” If companies don’t, Cobbe has a solution: “We must use law, regulation and other mechanisms to create them.”