Twitter carries out open heart surgery on ‘favourites’

Written by Jamie Freeman

Twitter suddenly launched a new feature. Or did they can an existing feature? The way they tell it, they just made a minor change. “We are changing our star icon for favorites to a heart and we’ll be calling them likes.”

You make it sound so simple Twitter! But the two things have different meanings; they aren’t interchangeable concepts.

“You might like a lot of things, but not everything can be your favorite.”

I’m not entirely convinced that favourites in the plural isn’t a reasonable notion. What is certainly true is that I don’t really love that many tweets. On the other hand, I might hold many in such high regard or as being so important that I want to elevate them to an all-time list of my favourites.

The problem was nicely summed up by Lauren Laverne, tweeting “Not sure I want to ‘heart’ harrowing news stories.”

“The heart is more expressive, enabling you to convey a range of emotions and easily connect with people.”

I think you’ll find that it expresses just the one emotion; love. Surely that is the universally acknowledged meaning behind the heart icon? (The animation that accompanied the announcement suggests that a heart means everything from ‘hugs’ to ‘congrats’. Congrats?!)

People already have a way of conveying a range of emotions. It’s called language. lists 47 synonyms for the word ‘love’. Yet Twitter expects you to be able to use a single icon for countless other completely different concepts.

Internet users have also developed countless creative ways to express themselves using shorthand, hashtags, acronyms and slang. Oh, and the entire set of emoticons. We’re not short of ways to say ‘hugs’ or ‘congrats’.

The concept of ‘liking’ something is not the same as ‘favouriting’. I have a friend who specialises in translation of texts related to the holocaust. She probably favourites all kinds of links, articles, statements and resources. I very much doubt the likes most of them, much less loves them.

Are they trying to appeal to a younger audience? Their announcement might imply something along those lines, saying "we know that at times the star could be confusing, especially to newcomers". But to me, a long time Twitter user, it feels like Twitter sees my name not as 'Jamie', but as Jamie with a little red heart over the 'i'.

We're not all fourteen year old newbs, we don't all love everything, we don't all equate a heart with 'congrats' or 'wow'. Most of us actually relish the complexity of language and don't really want to see it mashed down into a simple red icon that's supposed to mean... well, anything we want.


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