In the hours before the Threads launch, I was pretty sure I would never use it. I didn't need another social media platform, especially not one from Meta. In fact, I wondered if I needed social media at all.
Twitter stressed me out. Instagram only offered low engagement, and my Facebook is limited to birthday and anniversary greetings (and the occasional death notice). Where would Threads fit in? It turns out it fills a social media-sized hole that, up until recently, had been a black pit of despair.
Threads' early arrival and the relatively open launch were unexpected and served to step around my initial misgivings. Instagram literally handed me a virtual ticket and I hopped on board, curious about the Threads ride.
The only real moment of trepidation I've had in this Threads journey was when it asked if I wanted to follow all the people I currently follow on Instagram. Considering how quickly I normally would've said "no" on any other platform, I thought this was a trick question. Still, I had the sense that this might be a core component of the Threads experience, and, ignoring my apprehension, I said yes. I think, by the way, that this was the experience of most early Threads members.
Now, as soon as a current Instagram member I follow joins threads, I automatically follow them. It's an incredibly smart and powerful network effect that is, in part, responsible for Threads' rapid and seemingly organic growth.
Like any new social media platform, much of the discourse on Threads is about Threads. Posts include navel-gazing about missing features, quirks of the system, and the clear differences between it and Twitter.
If I'm being honest, Threads didn't have to work that hard to win my affection. Bluesky, another federated platform, held my adoration for a short while, mostly because it wasn't Twitter. However, Bluesky is developing too slowly and most posts suffer from desperately low engagement. We come to social media, after all, to be seen, don't we?
As my Bluesky experiment faded into the background, I came crawling back to my abusive platform, Twitter, a place where journalists are openly scorned and anger and misinformation are actively promoted (all you need is $8 a month, a Blue Check, and a nightmare).
Threads could have been just another Bluesky, an upstart social media alternative that promised more happiness than pain, to win me over, but Threads immediately felt like something more. Instead of the quaint-but-leaky-house approach of Bluesky, threads felt robust and relatively full-featured.
I was startled to see so many celebs and notables on the platform almost from the moment it launched. Credit to Meta and Instagram for an obvious outreach program. In the early days, this meant that you had a semi-decent chance of real engagement with someone who has millions of followers on Instagram but just a few hundred or thousands on Threads. That's obviously changing as millions stream onto Threads and, because they're following the same people they do on Insta, the follower numbers for each notable are rising in tandem.
Nice touches like higher-resolution images that can also appear in portrait mode (vertical), larger (500) character counts, and the ability to drop in almost any video clip or GIF made the platform feel rich and useful.
Every interaction is designed as a thread from the get-go, which makes following along any conversation easier.
The clean design and total lack of ads is a breath of fresh air coming from Twitter, where Promoted Tweets often have more in common with the garbage-late-night-shopping channel content than contextually relevant offers.
I know this Threads honeymoon can't last
There are little things missing from Threads, like a GIF gallery, and there are bigger issues, such as the lack of a chronological feed. Threads' light-touch algorithm is like an out-of-touch uncle. It knows your favorite things but sometimes forgets where you live or what you do for a living. Threads can just as easily show me a Thread from a day ago as it can show me one from two seconds ago.
Because Threads auto-follows everyone I ever followed on Instagram, I rarely choose to follow anyone. That's not normal social media interaction. When I find content I like, I usually click to follow the creator. Walking into Threads is like buying a furnished home, but one that's been done by someone with very good taste. I don't even feel the need to add or remove pieces or even move anything around. But that makes the platform feel less organic.
There are no ads in Threads but I've seen complaints about all the influencers and brands that appear unbidden in people's feeds. That doesn't bother me much. The great thing about a scrolling platform is how easily you can scroll past things that don't interest you.
I have no idea what's popular on Threads but the lack of a popularity contest is probably a good thing. Yeah, there are already Threads Influencers ("Theadfluencers") but nobody is making brand deals because they have X-number of followers on the platform, at least not yet.
Threads is also hobbled by a lack of desktop access. I started using Threads while on vacation, so I barely noticed this deficit, but now that I'm back at work, I'm also returning more often to – God help me – Twitter because it's open in a Chrome tab while Threads is trapped on my iPhone (it's on Android, too).
Threads will change (and the ads will come)
Threads will add features and change over time. It won't feel as special because instead of 100M people on it, a billion might be using it. At that point, we'll start seeing ads – probably a lot of them. Plus the composition of the Threads userbase will change to better reflect the general population.
Inevitably, people who aren't as positive, or people who are interested in just recreating Twitter, will join and Meta will have to contend with the same difficult moderation challenges it faced on Instagram and Facebook.
Threads is the social media respite I need. If Twitter and its hoards of sycophantic Musk-serving trolls are darkness, Threads is, for now, the light.
I'm just not sure how long it will shine.
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A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of PCMag.com and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.
Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.