I’m well aware that my previous posts have all been rather cynical, so for this week’s post I have decided to briefly present one of my favorite uses of social media; the unconventional one!
Social media has a number of intended uses, the most basic of which are the ability to communicate and connect with other people that also use said social media. Additionally, a social media platform will introduce gimmicks to distance themselves from other platforms and encourage people to use theirs; think of Snapchat’s auto-deleting content, or Instagram’s no-posts-without-visual-media shtick. They might also introduce features that do not necessarily define the experience they provide to their users, but that can be called ‘quality of life’ features, such as Twitter’s poll feature or Facebook’s groups. These features all have defined, intended purposes, but the real fun lies in those cases where those features are used for UNintended purposes.
One of my favorite examples of this requires me to come back to Twitter’s poll feature. This is of course intended to be a method of gathering information about one’s follower base or the general public that happens to see that particular tweet. One might be curious about the demographics of their followers, and might therefore put up a poll with different age ranges, languages, geographical areas, or any other type of information they might like to know. An additional use is of course to gain opinions on certain things, such as ‘did you enjoy movie X’, ‘what are your thoughts on album Y’, ‘what is your opinion of political candidate Z’, etc. But by far its most interesting use, to me at least, is its use as a tool for interactive experiences. I have seen multiple ‘choose your own adventure’ style threads, in which followers of the storyteller collectively decide what actions to take in a short tale said storyteller is, well, telling. This can also be enhanced further if the person in charge of this event happens to be an artist or other type of media creator, because they can accompany the text in the tweet with a visual or even audio aid. These ‘events’ are usually entirely spontaneous, and that unexpectedness is part of the fun!
Here’s a link to one that I could quickly find (and is in english), done by Dutch animator Florian Walraven (@RumbleRaven on Twitter):
A much more individual version of this ‘choose your own adventure’ style of content can of course also be made by using ‘nested’ tweets, where one tweet contains links to multiple other tweets, and you choose which link you click on after going through the text and/or visual/audio media in that tweet. Youtube used to have a similar thing happening with their ‘annotations’ feature, which was intended to be used as a handy link to, for example, merchandise websites, but was instead occasionally used for similar purposes to the ones described above. Unfortunately YouTube has somewhat recently removed the annotations feature, thus permanently breaking all unconventional content that made use of this feature. This was part of a range of different changes the website made that have proven to be deeply unpopular with its userbase.
Another fun and unconventional use of social media features is the stretching of visual content over multiple instances, such as an image that is spread out over two or more tweets that accounts for the space between each image, thus linking up perfectly. This is also a thing in TikTok, where one user will make creative use of another person’s video by aligning their own video right next to it. There are of course plenty of other examples of such uses for social media features, but I thought I’d highlight these as I particularly enjoy them.
In short, people making creative use of social media features allows for fun workarounds to a site’s limitations that lead to unintended but very entertaining content!
I love how you highlighted human creativity on social media with this article! And also how you refer to it as art, which makes me look at the tweets in a completely different light!