The platform X, formerly known as Twitter, has been one of the most popular places for users to broadcast their every thought under 280 characters since 2006. With a short, snappy format and trending topics that set everyone abuzz, 415 million global users use X to microblog news, memes, reactions, and conversations to internet controversies.
With Elon Musk’s July 2023 takeover that rebranded Twitter to X, it seems the platform will also soon undergo more transformations. Today we’ll be looking at some of the currently addicting mechanisms of the app, as well as some of the effects of features that Musk is proposing to add.
Engagement Releases Dopamine
Twitter/X is most popular with men, who comprise 56% of the user population, and users between the ages of 25 and 34. On X, users can give and receive likes, retweets, and followers that offer you a sense of social validation. Each time someone engages with your tweets or responses, you receive a notification that pushes you to open the app for prolonged engagement.
Each time you see a new notification or interaction, your brain also releases dopamine, a feel-good chemical that is also associated with drug use and gambling. This hooks you into the app to make it increasingly more addicting over time.
Short, Snappy Format
Twitter became distinct from other social media platforms for its short 280-character limit per post. If users wanted to post something longer, they needed to begin a thread of tweets. These brief messages break down thoughts or concepts into bite-sized chunks that make it easy for you to consume more content in a shorter period of time.
However, X Blue, a subscription of $11/month gives users the ability to create posts of up to 25,000 characters alongside other exclusive features. This offers another addictive format that encourages readers to absorb longer posts as they engage in neverending content.
Personalized Algorithms and Trending Topics
X’s algorithms analyze your behavior and engagement with particular users and topics to show you more content you find interesting. The platform also features a personalized column of Trending Topics, with hashtags and phrases over particular topics that generate a high volume of conversation, from sports wins to celebrity drama. These topics encourage you to join these popular discussions through reactionary memes, a like, or a retweet to maintain high engagement.
More Videos, More Commerce
Musk is planning to turn X into an “everything” app that capitalizes on the attention economy. Users can currently purchase, sell, and set NFTs as hexagonal profile pictures under the X Blue subscription. X will soon also be a banking app that will allow you to manage finances and purchase commerce. Following the growing popularity of Tiktok, Musk aims to turn the platform more towards video content and highlight creators, who will be eligible to receive a percentage of the ad revenue the company receives in an attempt to encourage more content creators to flock to X.
Now that users have a higher possibility of actually earning money through increased engagement with X, this can also lead to addictive use. As you, a content creator, are able to earn money from ad revenue, you will become more incentivized to maintain and increase your activity on X.
Do you find yourself using Twitter as a journal, compulsively tweeting your innermost thoughts? Do you find it difficult to start working and stay away from engaging with the Trending topics? Have you noticed your usage rise since the X takeover? It may be time to break free of your X/Twitter addiction. Here’s how:
- Go to your phone settings and turn off notifications for Twitter/X.
- For iOS users, go to Screen Time under your settings to set a time limit for your daily Twitter/X app usage
- Don’t subscribe to X Blue, which can see up to 6,000 posts a day. Unverified accounts can only see up to 1,000 posts per day, which is still a lot, but may help you begin to set a cap.
- Download digital tools like Freedom, which allow you to block distracting apps and websites like X in a customizable list for a time of your choice.
Once you’re able to successfully log out of the application, you’ll be free to engage with the world around you, and increase your work productivity, advance in your creative projects, and strengthen your personal relationships with friends and family. Instead of tweeting your thoughts, consider writing them down in a journal or notebook, which will also give you more than 250 characters to express your emotions.
X/Twitter won’t stop being addicting. In fact, with Musk’s proposed ideas, it’s likely the app will only become more addicting with time. But now that you know how these mechanisms try to pull you in through personalized Trending Topics, short format content, exclusive features, and dopamine rushes, you’re more aware of how to resist these mechanisms with the help of digital tools like Freedom. And with so much free time, you’ll soon notice how much presence you have been missing in your daily life.
Written by Lorena Bally