Anywhere But Here
Twitter was an accident from the start, and not always a happy one. Years of feckless leadership have brought it to the present crisis, a bit like that famous line from The Sun Also Rises about how Mike Campbell went bankrupt: “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”
Enter you-know-who, an erratic billionaire whose own tweets long ago crossed the threshold of self parody. Touting Silicon Valley’s dozy brand of techno-libertarianism as an operating principle, his ownership sends clear signals that any hopes for thoughtfully guided decency and community on the platform have likely gasped their last.
For those of us who’ve been around “the bird site” since the beginning, it’s a bitter coda. The place has been heading south for a good long while, but it’s also where lots of us found—and re-found—our tribes. For web nerds of my generation, first came blogs, then came Twitter. (Okay, okay. There was Usenet and message boards before that, but c’mon, really.) You might think your home town sucks sometimes, but that doesn’t mean you’re any happier watching an arsonist burn it to the ground.
If there’s a silver lining, it’s the little glimmer of creative urgency coming from everyone figuring out where to head to next. With bad actors sitting atop all the other dominant venues it feels like a Kang vs Kodos moment. Something new (or old?) is needed.
Suddenly, all my journalism colleagues are jumping on Mastodon. Tumblr has returned from the dead with a new marketing push. People are even posting on LinkedIn, for Pete’s sake. And then there are the old-timers like me. The ones with blogs, who once again are whispering the letters “RSS” like a mystical incantation.
For my own part, I plan to ramp my Twitter usage down to pretty much nil. I’m not deleting my account because A) I want to retain control of my identity on the platform, and B) on occasion there might be something work-related that deserves to be broadcast to the widest possible audience, “ick factor” be damned. I’ve dusted off my Mastodon account and will be posting stuff there that would otherwise have gone to The Bad Place.
I’ve also made a technical tweak to this site that I’ve scratched at for years but wasn’t motivated enough to follow through on until now: the ability to create title-less posts, which lets me publish short notes here that are on the level of a tweet/toot. We’ll see how that experiment goes.
You can’t go home again. I don’t imagine any of these will fill the Twitter of Old-shaped hole in my online communities, but it’s a path that leads someplace else. And right now that’s where lots of us are headed.