We’ve all been there, glancing over the trending topics on Twitter. Your heart starts racing when your eye catches a familiar name. Have they left this mortal coil? Yet another celebrity to strike off your fantasy meeting list? Or worse, have they been canceled? Was it something insensitive or outright bigoted? Have they been MeTooed?
In a matter of seconds, you mourn both the loss of the person and the loss of their character. And all of those seconds add up, creating mounting tension in what’s already a cultural powderkeg of an app.
Then you discover the shocking truth. It's their birthday.
It doesn’t have to be this way — When celebrities trend, we often only see their names and must click or tap our way towards finding out they have a new project coming up or it’s their birthday. Sometimes, users add the context for us all with RIP hashtags, but with major hoaxes popping up as recently as a month ago, it’s clear we can’t trust those either.
In a time when we are surrounded by the specter of violent, gasping death, the dangers of a police state, and the growing threat of full-blown fascism, who needs microdoses of grief over a beloved celebrity?
For news stories, Twitter offers much more information. Sometimes, it directly pulls headlines, but more often Twitter’s Moments team creates succinct, unambiguous copy. If a celeb story gets big enough, it can also receive this treatment, but on-the-fly editorial decisions can lead you to briefly think Betty White or Tony Bennett is dead. As more people understand how to gamify the trending algorithm, the vetting and packaging of news stories should be applied to trending names or even overall trending topics.
Who needs microdoses of grief over a beloved celebrity?
As a platform increasingly committed to stopping the spread of misinformation, Twitter cleaning up an entire section of its product feels like a no-brainer. It would likely require the hiring of more people to parse the difference between figurative and literal deaths and would have far-reaching benefits.
The creation of Moments for more trending topics would make it easier to navigate Twitter after someone is actually facing consequences for bad behavior. There’s a pivotal moment in the Twitter cycle where people start sub-tweeting a person or entity and you must become an amalgamation of all the great fictional detectives to figure out why everyone’s upset.
Just think, instead of being forced to become Nancy Drew on a regular basis, you could enjoy Twitter as it was intended — as an endless void of Factual Opinions.