Pattern Matching

The New Era of Social Media Isn’t About Feeds

Products like Clubhouse and Twitter’s “Super Follows” offer a new kind of engagement

Will Oremus
Published in
6 min readFeb 27, 2021


A slide about Twitter’s “Super Follows” pulled from a recent presentation for investors

Open Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, or Pinterest, then look at your index finger. If you’re like me, you’ll find it already hovering over the screen, poised for scrolling. Our algorithmic feeds have conditioned us to expect little from any given post, flicking our eyes across each one just long enough to decide whether it’s worth a second glance before we dispense with it forever and move on to the next one.

These feed-based platforms are powered by scale and automation. They encourage users to friend, follow, and like liberally, building sprawling networks on the promise that aggressive ranking algorithms will filter out the chaff and surface the most compelling content. By the same token, they encourage users to post freely: Because the algorithm selects which segment of a user’s friends or followers any given post is shown to, users are incentivized to post repeatedly, without worrying about spamming a captive audience.

Algorithmic feeds are highly efficient at amplifying posts that stand out from the feed enough to pause people’s scrolling fingers. Each social app can choose — and tweak — which types of engagement…