We normally welcome new features on social networks, but Threads' latest wheeze is a terrible idea: it's automatically sharing some of your posts on Facebook and Instagram, with no way to opt out of the new feature.
According to Threads: "We’ve launched an update to make it easier for people to see the latest content from Threads directly on Facebook and Instagram. But we’re listening to feedback like yours as we continue to build on this."
The feedback they're getting, it's fair to say, isn't very happy. And it's making me wonder if Threads, the most credible rival to the dying Twitter, is going to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
What's wrong with this new Threads feature?
The first problem with it is that it seems entirely random and shows posts without any context. For example last night on Instagram it showed me a Threads post by a writer I follow, replying to somebody I don't. The entire message said: "yes and many of them are ham". It's undoubtedly intriguing, but it's also been pulled out of a thread I wasn't part of and wasn't reading on a completely different social network.
And that's the second, more serious problem: Threads is sharing Threads posts to social networks that aren't Threads. For many people, different social networks have different vibes, different purposes and crucially, different people, so for example for me I use Instagram for work/creative stuff, Facebook for old real-life friends and so on. But what Threads is doing here is effectively this:
Me: Post this to Threads, please.
Threads: Post it to Instagram! You got it!
Me: No, just Threads, please.
Threads: Instagram and Facebook! Right on it!
The problem here, I think, is a familiar one: the people who make decisions on social networks aren't normal people who may have very good reasons not to want to share absolutely everything on every possible network all of the time. It's an attitude beautifully satirised in Dave Eggers' book The Circle, where a thinly disguised tech firm has the motto "All that happens must be known" and its employees are genuinely baffled that anybody might think otherwise.
The reason is clearly to promote Threads to users of other Meta services and to drive engagement on the new service. But the effect, for me and what looks to be an awful lot of equally disgruntled users, is to make people less likely to post on Threads. Rather than drive engagement, this seems set to reduce it. I sincerely hope Threads will rethink and at the very least add an opt-out – or better still, make it opt-in.