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Tech Matters: An introduction to Threads, new Twitter rival

By Leslie Meredith - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Jul 12, 2023

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Leslie Meredith

There’s a new social media platform designed as a more pleasant version of Twitter — text-based without an emphasis on hardcore and often controversial news. Called Threads, it’s tied into Instagram and, like Instagram, owned by Meta, the company we once knew as Facebook.

The only way to sign up for Threads is through an Instagram account. That popular social media platform boasts 1.39 billion daily active users, so it’s not surprising that Threads attracted 98 million sign-ups in just five days. In addition to a built-in user base, the timing for a Twitter rival was certainly good. Since Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter last year and his often confusing rollout of changes like limiting the number of tweets Twitter users can read in a day, Twitter has come under fire. At the end of 2022, Twitter had 259 million daily active users; it now has 209 million, according to online marketing firm Search Logistics.

While there are many similarities between Twitter and Threads, along with some usage differences that will likely change over time as Thread matures, the most interesting contrast is in Threads’ aim to be a “less angry” place for internet conversation.

In an exchange on Threads between The Verge’s Alex Heath and Instagram’s CEO Adam Mosseri, Mosseri said that Threads was “not going to do anything to encourage” politics and “hard news.” He said, “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.”

While I support the aim to build a safe place for communities without the insults and haranguing we’ve come to expect from most social media platforms, I’ll believe it when I see it. And I do hope to see it.

So let’s take a look at how to use Threads with some references to Twitter for those of you who use it. As I said, you must have an Instagram account to join Threads. Like Instagram and unlike Twitter, Threads is for use on your phone only. The reason is more a function of timing than anything else. Back in 2006 when Twitter was launched, most people used their computers exclusively for what few social media options were available. Apple’s App Store did not launch until 2008. Today, the majority of social media use takes place on mobile, making web versions afterthoughts, if they are made at all.

Download Threads from the App Store or Google Play and use your Instagram credentials to set up your account. If you do not have an Instagram account, you’ll have to make one before you can join Threads. Tap the Instagram account you want to use with Threads if you have more than one, and if not, just tap your account. You can write a short bio and add a link to your website if you have one. You can then choose to make your profile public or private (only followers you approve can see your posts). Next, you can choose to follow the same accounts that you follow on Instagram by tapping “Follow all,” select from your list of accounts or follow none (just tap “Next” at the top of the page). Agree to the privacy policy, confirm you want to join Threads and you’ll be taken to your feed.

Your feed consists of posts from Instagram accounts you follow and indicated you wanted to follow here, along with recommended posts from the app’s algorithm. Like with Instagram and Twitter, you can use the icons under each post to like a post, comment, repost or send to a user you follow. Threads are limited to 500 characters and you can add links, photos and videos, but no hashtags.

Because your Threads and Instagram accounts are inextricably linked, you cannot delete your Threads account without also deleting your Instagram account. Instead, if you decide you don’t want to use Threads, you can deactivate your Threads account and this will hide your profile, posts and comments until you decide to reactivate it at some point in the future.

For now, there are no ads on Threads, which is nice, but I’m sure they’re coming. You’ll also see that there is no direct messaging on this app like you have on Instagram and Twitter. But remember, this is a work in progress. Is it worth your time? For me, I don’t see any advantages over Instagram unless you’d like a do-over — curating a new group of accounts to follow. As for Twitter, if you’ve built a significant following there, I wouldn’t jump ship now. Meta has had its own product failures, so better to wait and see with this one.

Leslie Meredith has been writing about technology for more than a decade. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at asklesliemeredith@gmail.com.


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