It’s become quite common these days for people to start a Twitter thread with the phrase - “Twitter is a free university”.
And then go on to share a mundane listicle with no depth.
This simple Twitter search reveals the problem.
This has become so rampant that a few weeks ago that I made a meme about it😆
I don’t have a problem with listicles. They are useful yes. There’s value in curation, especially in a world as noisy as we live in today.
But that doesn’t mean every listicle is useful. Or that every curation is valuable.
In an attempt to churn out “content” to satisfy the algorithm, we end up indulging in lazy writing and producing shallow content that’s not useful to anybody.
In fact, it’s more harmful than useful.
And it sure as hell not free.
Free is an interesting word.
Every copywriter worth his salt knows that he can use this word and manipulate his audience.
That’s just how the human brain is wired.
We love that dopamine rush of “Free”, Of getting something in return for nothing.
And it’s a so much more special when the free commodity we’re getting is education - The most valuable thing in the world.
It’ not Free
Let’s be honest.
Nothing on the internet is “free”. If we get something without paying money, then we pay for it via other means.
Most times we pay for free stuff with our data (to companies like FB and Google)
And almost always we pay with our attention.
Attention is the scarcest resource of the 21st century.
Not Gold, not Diamonds, Attention!
Attention is where you focus your mind.
It’s important because what you pay attention to has the power to make or break you as a person.
Like it or not, your mind is shaped by the information you consume.
Each bit of information we process is a signal to our subconscious mind that this is the kind of information we like more.
It tells us that these are the kinds of behaviors we want to indulge in more.
When we consume shallow “free” content, we get conditioned to enjoy it.
We lose our capacity to process any information with depth.
And most of all, we lose our ability to create work with depth. We lose our ability to focus, and to do deep work.
So no, nothing is free in this world. Everything comes with a price.
And on Twitter, when you consume shallow content, the largest price you pay is your attention, it’s your mind, it’s your ability to do great work.
But all threads are not bad
My discomfort with the “Free University” phrase doesn’t mean I hate all threads.
I think threads are a great way to share your knowledge, and learn from the knowledge of others.
But it’s important to filter the signal from the noise.
A simple heuristic to figure out a thread is worth your time, is to check if the writer is sharing insights from his experience or not.
If the content he writes is formulaic and bland then the thread isn’t worth consuming.
That will be information you could easily get from Google or Wikipedia anyway. (And when you actively search on Google for that information, you are more likely to retain what you learn. As compared to when you’re passively consuming on Twitter.)
Why you really followed that person was for the lessons from their experiences, that’s their “personal brand” right?
Are they sharing that? Is there anything “personal” about that thread?
In my writing course, I talk about the 3 types of threads that are actually useful.
These are the ones you should read and write if you want a high quality Twitter account:
- Curation - Done with taste, with context and on niche topics. This is information that’s hard to uncover otherwise. Hard to find on Google or Wikipedia, can only be derived from the unique experience of the writer.
- Stories - Business stories, breakdown of complex concepts, lessons from one industry that can be applied elsewhere.
- Personal Journey - Stories of transformation, lessons learned doing interesting things, major life decisions, getting over adversity. These are my favorite. But also the hardest to write.
Do this next time
As a creator - Next time you sit down to write a thread, think about which category is it a part of, and how you can share your unique insights with your audience. They will love you for it.
And as a consumer - Next time you read a thread, think about why you had followed the writer, and is the thread living up to that promise, is the writer really saying something useful or are they just using their copywriting skills to exploit your attention?
Will this content help you or harm you in the long run? Coz there’s no middle path 🤷♂️
Twitter is YOU
Twitter is not a free university.
But It’s anything that you make it out to be.
For me, Twitter is a place to find like minded people from across the world.
Meet with them, have interesting conversations with them, build friendships.
Every follower is a potential friend.
And everyone I follow is a potential mentor. I learn from their experience more than their “content”.
That’s how I use Twitter.
How do you? Tell me on Twitter 😉
Thank you for reading.
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Eternally Curious. Writing, Learning, Building in Public. Writing about Ideas + Inspiration + Insights for Indie creators 🎨| Simple tips to make 10X Decisions in Business and Life 😇 | Creator Economy FTW 💸 | Product Manager