Yesterday, Twitter users reacted mostly negatively to the widely-reported news that the social media app was looking at removing engagement metrics from tweets. The move, which is being tested on Twitter’s new public beta app ‘Twittr,’ would hide the number of likes and retweets a tweet has gotten.
Many folks thought this meant Twitter was planning to remove the numbers altogether. But that’s not the case. If implemented, the feature would require users to open up a tweet in order to see its number of likes and retweets.
Twitter’s head of consumer product, Jack Coleman, said the platform is considering the feature as a means to make communication between users a bit friendlier, per NBC.
“We’re working on changing the product and changing the policies to improve the health of the conversations,” he said. (He also mentioned that Twitter, like YouTube, is putting significant effort into taking down accounts that are spreading hoaxes and conspiracy theories.)
But some users see the proposed changes to engagement metrics as less of a promote-healthy-conversations change, and more of a cover-it-up-when-big-accounts-get-ratio’d change. If you’re not familiar with “getting ratio’d,” here’s the deal: When someone tweets something wrong or unpopular, they tend to receive a very high number of replies, and very low numbers of likes and retweets. So, someone who tweets a sexist or racist comment may receive 10,000 replies from angry users, but only 500 retweets and likes from users who agree. That’s what it looks like to get a big ol’ smacking dose of The Ratio.
Some Twitter users see hiding likes and retweets behind a tap as an attempt on Twitter’s part to assuage the public embarrassment (particularly for users with high follower counts) of getting ratio’d.
Twitter is proposing to hide engagement metrics (likes/retweets) to make the site “friendlier” by removing the appearance of ranking.
Here is the truth: they find the concept of “the ratio” embarrassing to powerful people and embarrassing to be associated with.
— Alexandra Erin (@alexandraerin) March 13, 2019
RIP the ratio, the capricious, cruel but necessary online moral corrective. https://t.co/oElBzfmvK5
— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) March 13, 2019
Twitter is removing like and retweet numbers to protect billionaires and thought-leaders from the trauma of being ratio’d for their idiotic statements https://t.co/lfvuF2wQtX
— Murtaza Mohammad Hussain (@MazMHussain) March 13, 2019
Twitter is getting rid of the ratio so assholes can feel better about saying dumb shit. Fantastic.
— Dylan (@dyllyp) March 13, 2019
It’s worth noting here that the feature may never actually be implemented. It’s simply in a testing phase. But even if it were to roll out, the hiding of engagement metrics wouldn’t be as stringent as a lot of folks seem to fear. And while implementing it would stop a tweet from looking ratio’d when it comes across users’ timelines, it wouldn’t remove the act of ratio’ing altogether — it’d just make seeing a tweet’s ratio one tap away.
Twitter also announced yesterday that it’s using Twittr to test a new way to thread a tweet’s replies. You can see that in action below:
Here’s what Twitter’s new twttr app looks like when reading a conversation thread pic.twitter.com/qWMf8orGSQ
— Matt Navarra (@MattNavarra) March 12, 2019
The platform also said it’s making changes to its in-app camera, but those changes aren’t in beta — they’re scheduled to roll out across its iOS and Android apps next week.