RIP Fleets! You will not be Missed!


If you even semi-actively use Twitter to follow famous people, connect with friends or form unhealthy parasocial relationships with microcelebrities – definitely not me, no way – you’ve probably heard and/or seen fleets, or mentions of them around your timeline sometime in the past few months.

You haven’t? Well that’s no problem, I’ll explain. Released on November 17th, fleets stand for “fleeting thoughts” according to the Twitter team. They are supposed to be for sharing thoughts you decide are too spontaneous for sharing on your timeline – and as such they disappear from your fleets after 24 hours. Sound familiar? It’s because they are. Fleets are essentially a carbon copy of Instagram or Facebook stories in every aspect; mobile only, vertical media, quick reactions, and goes away in 24 hours. You could also reply to fleets in DMs (direct message) and start a conversation that way as well.

When fleets were first released, people were quick to point out the glaring similarities between them and the already existent stories feature on Facebook and Instagram. Most of the day one fleets consisted of people making fun – rightfully so – of how Twitter copied Facebook. As time went on, despite Twitter’s consistent efforts to make the feature more popular among users, people rarely made the effort to put something in fleets; they chose the familiar, old-fashioned timeline instead of “fleeting.”

On July 14th, 2021, Twitter announced that they would shut down the fleets feature on August 3rd, 2021. According to Ilya Brown – VP of consumer product at Twitter – there was a lack of “new people joining the conversation with Fleets like we hoped.” Essentially, the feature was scrapped because not enough people were using it. After the announcement was made public, people started using fleets again, motivated by FOMO (fear of missing out). Personally, I saw as many fleets in this time period than the previous 7 or so months combined; people really wanted a taste of something they’d neglected in the months prior.

August 3rd came and went, and fleets were no more. A few media pieces were written, many people put up farewell fleets on the last day, and the sun went down and rose again the very next day, as it usually does. Fast forward 2 weeks or so to now, and fleets have become a thing of the distant past. Remembrance is too much of a hassle for most – it was barely used or seen in the first place, and people have many more new, exciting things to fill their minds with. 

While the feature itself was a failure, the social phenomenon around it is incredibly fascinating; it’s a quintessential example of FOMO and how quickly the modern person’s minds absorb and expel information. When the next “fleets” comes around, it will be very interesting to see if the same phenomenon is observed.