The Twitterverse exploded yesterday with an update to the ‘favourite’ icon. Where there has always been a gold star, with the words “you favourited this” or “@soandso favourited this”, suddenly there was a red heart. A glaringly red heart, like a gaping wound carved into the blue skin of Twitter.
Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognises before it can speak. ~ John Berger, Ways of Seeing
I’m mourning the loss of the gold star and all that its presence in my Twitter world represented. I’ll start by explaining how I used the Twitter gold star.
- It was a bookmark. “I want to find this again so I’m saving it” or “I’m saving this to read later.”
- It was a thank you for a comment or share.
- It was a log of conversations and comments to which I wanted to return.
- It was a LOL or a high five. “Hilarious!” or “haha good one.”
- It was a like. “Good share / nice post /effective point,” usually followed by a retweet. But it wasn’t just a like.
As well as being reminiscent of award stickers from school days, the gold star, in conjunction with its description as a ‘favourite’, was a nuanced symbol of Twitter communication.
And now it’s been replaced with a glib red heart. Superficial. Facile. Flippant. Lacking in nuance. These strings of blood-red hearts in my feed make me feel like I must be in some kind of sappy, thoughtless feeling-saturated love-in.
I don’t mind giving a bit of heart love while watching a Periscope broadcast. I don’t mind the practice of likes on Facebook and Instagram. In these worlds, a user can ‘like’ something in a transient way, and then forget about it. Click. Forget. Liking works for me because on Facebook I’m engaging about my non-work non-academic life. On Twitter I’m often engaging in discussion on education, research, politics, parenting or work. As a point of difference, Twitter gives us a record of those things we’ve favourited (or now, ‘liked’) meaning that the star/heart favourite/like is a way of curating a feed of personalised information. This is a good thing.
The change in language is a change in purpose. ‘Liking’ a post is different to ‘favouriting’ it. Do I want to *star* a confronting article, an opposing viewpoint or a harrowing news story? Maybe. Would I want to *heart* it? No.
Twitter says the star was confusing to newcomers. It was versatile.
Twitter says the heart is more expressive. It is less expressive and more one-dimensional.
Twitter says the heart is a universal cross-cultural symbol. Yes. Of love. Twitter isn’t about love for all its users. I don’t follow celebrities, unless you count edu-gurus and academic-crushes. So I don’t want to dole out ‘likes’ or ‘hearts’.
Those of us who use Twitter as a professional and intellectual tool have been left without one of our favourite aspects of that tool; the ability to keep a log of those things which interest, intrigue or provoke us, without necessarily ‘liking’ them.
To some, Twitter’s new attempt to engage and build its user base might be a simple change of shape and colour, but shapes and colours carry meanings. A gold star is a symbol of quality. A red heart is a symbol of emotion. I love Twitter but want to engage with ideas in that space, not spew out feelings.
Bring back my gold star.