I've used social networks since the 80s. Threads is the most annoying one I've tried

Here's why Meta's Threads is my least favorite of all the new Twitter alternatives.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor
Thread app
Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

I started using social networking in the days of Usenet and online services, such as CompuServe, GEnie, and Prodigy. I'm still a heavy social-network user. Today, besides the usual, I'm also on the newer, would-be Twitter replacements, including Bluesky, Counter Social, Mastodon, and T2. Recently, I joined the newest one, Meta's Threads -- and I'm not impressed.

Here's why.

Also: How to join and use Meta's Twitter rival Threads

Starting from the top, Threads is supposed to be a more text-friendly version of Instagram. Indeed, you must have an Instagram account to get a Threads account. Personally, I'd have just added more functionality to Instagram, but that's just my opinion. 

However, you can only use Threads via an Android or iOS application. Now, some people can write text easily on their phones. I'm not one of them. Sure, I can text a few words, but even Twitter's 280 characters are a challenge for me. And I'm not alone. Give those of us who "talk" through a keyboard a web-based interface already. After all, all the other social media services do.

I also like going to social networks for breaking news, especially Twitter (before it went toxic). You won't find that on Threads, either. In a discussion about Threads, Instagram and Threads boss Adam Mosseri told The Verge's Alex Heath, that the "incremental engagement or revenue" from getting "into politics or hard news" isn't worth it. Instead, you can talk -- or share pictures -- of sports, music, fashion, beauty, entertainment, and more. In other words, it's quite a bit like Instagram. 

Also: Changing this phone setting instantly made the Threads app better for me

And that's by design, Mosseri explained: "The goal isn't to replace Twitter. The goal is to create a public square for communities on Instagram that never really embraced Twitter and for communities on Twitter (and other platforms) that are interested in a less angry place for conversations, but not all of Twitter."

Yet serious discussions don't have to be angry ones. It's just that Twitter is embracing the anger by welcoming formerly banned users and extremists. 

I have nothing against fluffy topics. My social-networking followers know I'm fond of cats, dogs, dad jokes, Marvel movies, and Broadway musicals. But, I also care about more serious topics, such as tech and business news and views -- and, yes, occasionally, politics as well. I'm not keen on the idea of a PG-13 social network.

Speaking of light and easy topics, you can't -- for now -- add GIFs natively into your Threads posts. There is a GIF workaround, using third-party keyboards, but I don't get why that functionality wasn't built in from the start. 

Threads also desperately need a chronological thread option. Facebook is infamous for playing games with your feed, so you can't get messages in time order. 

Also: 5 things to know about Threads before you entangle your Instagram account

In Threads, it's even worse. The app shows you a disorderly mix of posts from people you follow and recommended content from people, groups, and companies you don't. At this point, you don't get to decide what's recommended -- instead, that's Meta's call. 

And in my opinion, that's crazy. Say you want to talk with your buddies about a baseball game in real-time, which is a trivial task on other social networks. Good luck trying to have that chat on Threads as the social network is currently constructed.

A related problem is that ads are intermixed into your feed. Worse still, there's no easy way of telling them from real messages. This issue is really annoying. And, by the way, I'm really not interested in buying Barbie's Dream House. Seriously, no. 

You can improve your reading experience by going to the top of your Profile page. Once there, tap on the top right two-bar icon. This will bring you to Settings. From here, go to Settings/Notifications/Threads and replies to toggle your notification options. It's not a perfect solution, but it helps. 

Another problem with Threads is that I don't know when someone tags me in their post, unless I happen to stumble over their message. That kind of chance encounter is no way to start a conversation. 

Also: Is your iPhone 'Charging On Hold'? Here's what it means and what you should do

Meta also promises that it will support "decentralization" soon, which means you'll be able to talk with your friends on other social networks that support the ActivityPub protocol. Today, Mastodon is the most popular social network that supports this approach. It's handy, but combined with Threads' messy message stream, I'm not expecting much from it early on. 

Now, let's turn to security. Privacy might not matter to some of you, but if it does, then Threads isn't your friend. But, then again, neither is Facebook nor Instagram. Meta's privacy record is dismal; Threads isn't likely to be any better.

Tristan Louis, an internet veteran and CEO of Casebook PBC, did a deep dive into Threads' privacy settings compared to the other social networks. Louis found: "It's worse than other social media platforms."

Louis also said: "Threads wants to know EVERYTHING about you, while Twitter is more limited in its data grab. Mastodon and BlueSky are clearly trying to fight each other over who is capturing the least amount of data, with Mastodon having a clear lead so far." Specifically, Meta's properties track "some areas, like political/religious belief, sexual orientation, credit score, or health and fitness." There's a reason you can't get a Threads account in the European Union, and privacy is at its heart.

Threads' killer feature is that -- if you're one of Instagram's 1.628 billion users -- it's a trivial task to join in. If you're an Instagram member, you can join Threads in far less time than it takes to read this article. What will really make Threads grow is that you can bring in all your Instagram friends. Just hit the Import from Instagram button, and you're good to go. Unlike the other new social networks, you don't have to find your friends all over again. 

Also: How to find your followers and friends on Mastodon

However, that level of integration doesn't mean guaranteed success. Google also automated bringing in users to its late social network Google+. While I liked G+ a lot, it never caught fire. Will Facebook and Instagram users really want to be on a third Meta social network? And one that already looks a lot like Instagram? Personally, I doubt it.

Still, even while Meta isn't pushing Threads as a Twitter replacement, Twitter's losing members, and it's not just because of politics. With owner Elon Musk's neglect, Twitter keeps failing. People want a new, Twitter-like service, and, thanks to Instagram, Threads has taken the lead.   

But let's say it turns out that you hate Threads -- can you just quit? Nope, not yet. You must also zap your Instagram account to get rid of Threads today. Let me repeat that: if you get dump Threads, you'll also kill off Instagram. Meta's working on fixing this, but if you're a loyal Instagram user, you're stuck with Threads for now. 

Also: How to enable UWB on Android (and why you should)

If Meta cleans up Threads, it might still be a success. Personally, it's my least favorite of all the new social networks. In short, I'm finding it more annoying than useful. 

But, while a social network depends on its technology and interface to work, what makes it successful is the people you hang out with. If your crew ends up on Threads, that's where you'll be too. For now, you'll be more likely to find me on Bluesky and Mastodon, but each to their own. 

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