Stephen Fry just left Twitter, moments before I started writing this.
As recently as a few weeks ago, I would have thought this would be impossible. And certainly, it would have seemed crazy that I’d be considering the same action.
I’ve been on Twitter for more than fourteen years. President Obama was about to be elected for the first time when I joined. Since then, I’ve connected with people who have become friends in real life.
It seems like another age.
This isn’t just about Twitter
Social media has taken the same trajectory that the internet has. It started out with such promise. It would democratize communications. Everyone would have their own virtual place to share their thoughts and opinions. We’d get closer to one another. But of course that’s not how it turned out.
The reasons are pretty obvious, with hindsight. Social media makes us the product. Our attempts to communicate are subverted by the algorithms that run the services. They decide what you see. They decide who sees what you have to say. The goal is to turn your attention into likes, clicks, and ultimately, cash.
They own your feed. You are an unpaid intern, churning out content for a giant corporation that can change the rules of engagement whenever it wants.
The only solution is to withdraw our attention
That’s why I left Facebook two years ago. Essentially. I’ve maintained my account, but I’m not posting as myself. I do occasionally post on my author’s page, but even that seems a bit pointless. Over time, Facebook just throttled back any attention I could get on there without paying for it. So why invest the effort? Why keep giving them my attention and creativity, when they don’t want to share even a slice of it with me without making me pay?
I’m not the only one who has noticed this. And yesterday Meta (Facebook’s umbrella corp) laid off 11,000 workers because people are leaving the platform and they’re losing money in other ways too. (Lookin’ at you Metaverse.)
Oh Twitter, you heart breaker
But on Twitter, I’ve taken a slightly different path, particularly since the start of the pandemic. I’ve posted there more often. My goal was to carve out a piece of the site, and make it, you know, fun. Honestly, my Twitter feed is a banal thing, really. It’s mostly my goofy comments on videos and pictures of cats, dogs, capybaras and bears. (Surprisingly few monkeys.) Occasionally I throw up some snark, or attempt to promote a book or two, but mostly it’s about making people feel something positive.
Many people experience Twitter as “hellscape”, but if you don’t engage with trolls and make use of the block button, you can still keep it light.
I will probably keep doing it. If it makes a couple hundred people smile each day, then it’s worth the time.
The end is nigh
But from what I’ve been reading, that time may be short. Apparently, Elon Musk’s takeover is really just a speedrun to its demise. Certainly, firing so many people who kept the site working is a problem. Here’s a couple pieces that explain why:
- Why Twiter will fail shortly [ZDNet]
- A Twitter engineer explains how it will break in the coming weeks [MIT Technology Review]
A verified fiasco
And that doesn’t even get into the hilarious shit show that is what Musk wants to do with the verified checkmark. This piece in the Guardian explains the drama pretty well.
Bankruptcy and Twitter 2.0
Since I started writing this (last week), Musk has now also mused about Twitter going bankrupt. Last night, he sent an email to his employees giving them until the end of day tomorrow to sign up for a “hardcore” work situation with long hours, high intensity conditions in which “only exceptional performance will constitute a passing grade.” Otherwise? They have to leave with three months severance.
Strike up the band!
So if it’s the end, I’ll do my best to make it fun under. Kinda like the band on the Titanic.
How about you?
I imagine that for many, this question of Twitter is irrelevant. It is, after all, only populated by a fraction of social media users. But what about social media in general? Are you finding it enhances your life? Or is it taking you away from the things that really matter to you? Or perhaps you have managed to incorporate it into you world without it being a problem? I’d love to hear your thoughts! I’ve opened up the comments.