In some ways, I should be furious that a self-indulgent billionaire manbaby brought about the practical end of Twitter.
Twitter was once a very positive platform for my [tech] career and keeping in touch with colleagues throughout the industry. There are multiple people I met solely on Twitter and then engaged with in person at whatever conference only after engaging with them a whole year prior; some of these people are now close friends nearly a decade later. I’ve gotten jobs from knowing people and companies via Twitter. I’ve been kept critically informed in real time on important current events happening in the world. The phenomena of a sizeable percentage of traditional news outlet content literally being ‘Breaking News: Someone tweeted X yesterday’ should be well noted by now. And hey, all that on top of the same platform entertaining me as a consistent pipeline of pointless shitposts during extended family holiday get-togethers? Amazing.
But this practical end of Twitter is really only an accelerated demise; Elom didn’t ruin Twitter, he only [laughably, horrifyingly, honestly-impressively] has done such an inconceivably terrible job since acquiring it that he made the long-burn end come so much faster than anyone could have ever anticipated. It’s been years now that I (and many others, I know) have looked in the mirror and wondered what I even get out of Twitter and social media in its current form. Even with the positives held constant (though they haven’t been, I’d say), the number of negatives has long since grown such that the net experience is a toxic one for many.
As a cis white dude in tech named ‘Chris’ (a frequent archetype, as you can imagine) I’m aware that if I consider my social media experience ‘toxic’ while playing the game of life on ‘Easy Mode’ it must be an order of magnitude more toxic for many, many others. I experience no death threats or marginalization on the basis of my ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, etc. I know many, many people that do.
Traditional, centralized social media companies rely solely on doing anything to continue your unwitting desire to click on random bullshit indefinitely.
One major negative that has affected everyone to some degree is the nature of traditional social media’s reliance on the advertising revenue model. We’ve reached critical mass of advertising revenue on these platforms being squeezed to its absolute unbearable limit. A sporting event or streaming video platform will forever have the upper hand in forcing an onslaught of advertisements in front of your face for the full duration of the product you want to consume to a finite end. Traditional, centralized social media companies, however, rely solely on doing anything to continue your unwitting desire to click on random bullshit indefinitely. You know, your engagement.
The endless attempts at engagement to drive the beast that is an advertising revenue model have long made Twitter an awful experience. No, consuming Twitter via a 3rd party product like Tweetbot was never a complete alternative. Although advertising methods will continue to be developed long in to the future to support such a model in general - I’m looking at you, NHL, with your digitally enhanced dashboards debuting this hockey season - I think we’re reaching a point where people are more willing to find niche alternatives or Just Not Do It™ when it comes to social media.
And so, ironically, I should instead be thanking Elom for expeditiously throwing Twitter in a burning dumpster with shocking efficiency. I can waffle back and forth for years about the nature of my social media usage, the effect of relentless engagement and its propensity to cause someone to be unable to embrace boredom and distract themselves from experience real life - but it’s extremely easy to draw a hard line at “I refuse to support far right conspiracy theorists and Nazis.”
The Year Of Mastodon (and the ‘Fediverse’) On The Desktop
The events of the last two months(!) have pushed people to alternatives in a way that we’ve never experienced before. I’d been hoping for a long time that an alternative would become popular and viable (I just recently discovered I have a mastodon.social account from 2018!); it seems that Mastodon is finally becoming just that. I’ve only been using it for a couple days on this last go around, but the experience is far, far different with so many people embracing it and eyeing Twitter burning in a dumpster in their rear view mirror.
I’m very keen on the web returning to the idea of protocols over platforms. To that end, I’m indefinitely limiting my Twitter usage and going in on the ‘Fediverse’ and one of the few instances in the modern hype cycle of Decentralized Everything that - dare I say - may actually make great sense: decentralized social media. I’ve removed all main links to Twitter from my website, removed all usage of Twitter as a 3rd party OAuth provider, and replaced what I can with my Mastodon account: @[email protected].
Mastodon may not end up being the long game implementation of choice in the decentralized social media game; hell, maybe even Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s Bluesky Social and the AT Protocol will be. But it’s clear that whatever The Next Twitter is, it will (or should) be built on the tenants of decentralization and shared governance in a way that doesn’t fit any single company trying to get rich on advertising and engagement, and I’m thrilled about it.
God I miss RSS.
Are you a respectful professional in the tech industry looking for a home in Mastodon? Check out hachyderm.io! Thanks so much to Kris Nóva (@[email protected]) for administrating this awesome instance.