So Twitter is now officially the playball of a billionaire with a history of questionable business practices, a strong anti union stance and a self proclaimed free-speech-absolutionism.
Sounds like a plan. Not necessarily a good one, but a plan.
When twitter and jaiku (Anyone remember jaiku? For my peer group, for at least a couple of months, it was our place to go instead of the early twitter) became a thing, it felt great. I just looked it up, that was 15 1/2 years ago. What a ride. Let’s see how much longer we’ll be able to hold on to the saddle.
I don’t think it’s easy to overvalue how big the coincidence of Twitter and the Smartphones evolution was. The ability to connect to people from all around the world on topics that were interesting to us and to be able to have that at the palm of your hand felt magical, not going to lie.
What does this even do?
Somewhere in the early tens it became relatively clear that Twitter management never had a great idea of what Twitter actually is or was for it’s users. With the help of 3rd party clients and Tweetdeck, we managed to evade most of the ads and the dreaded Algorhythm, but it became harder and harder, with more and more features not being available through the official APIs. On my mobile phone, today, I use Fenix, an Android client, to read, but will check the official Twitter app occasionally to look through my notifications, for example.
It was also clear, that Twitter was not really great at “Content Moderation”. As anyone who runs any form of online community will attest, the way you govern your user’s content does, far more than other measures, determine the vibes and the levels of civility in your community. Twitter’s community guidelines are a bit of a mess, are weakly enforced and misused.
For me, twitter became less and less enjoyable to use. Sure I got my occasional kick out of a well performing tweet (which is something I still cannot predict in any way. I know I am funny sometimes, maybe, but even that is not a great predictor).
That’s your fault, idiot!
A lot of that is my own making. I started to follow a lot of people who represented minorities, feminists, a lot of people from black twitter, I started to follow climate scientists. Because that’s one of the great things of a system like Twitter: You can make your own newsfeed. You can get infos about events that are under- and misrepresented by the mainstream media. I know I may sound like a Republican on Fox news, but it’s true for me at least - I used twitter to widen my perspective. On the parts that mattered to me. Voices that mattered to me.
With that came a lot of darkness. Darkness, of course, that is the daily lives of underrepresented folks. The constant onslaught from conservative media, right wing politics and, let’s face it, outright fascists, who only seldom get booted from the twitters. Seeing the daily struggle of folks who just want to live their lives but have to fight instead. Who are, in some cases, institutionally oppressed but still were brave enough to share their experiences of twitter.
I am incredibly grateful to all of these voices, their bravery, their insistence of having a place at the table and being able to share their views. I think I can safely say that I would not be the person I am today without this experience.
Still, this change in who I followed on twitter (it was just personal friends, professional colleagues and the occasional artists I was into in the beginning) did have quite the impact on how twitter felt for me. On one hand, it was still nice to be validated in your world views - I probably share more political views with most people I follow on twitter than I do with my physical peers - and to learn so much about other experiences - At the same time, my growing depression about the general state of the world also ows a lot to my twitter feed.
And then, all my friends left
Unfortunately, at the same time as I stacked my feed with all these diverse voices giving me the heebie jeebies about the state of the world, all the old voices, the friends, the colleagues slowly disappeared. Either that or they got drowed out by the rest. Not 100% sure, but of course a lot of people have left twitter over the years, probably for their best.
Just to clarify once again, because I feel like the stuff I wrote so far could be misinterpreted: I don’t want to say “Please don’t follow a diverse crowd, it will make your life miserable”. In the end, all of the stuff that drags me down on twitter is happening in real life too. The Climate change is real. Racism is real. Misogyny is real. Long covid is real. ME/CFS is real. etc. etc.
I have no idea what happens to twitter now. What’s clear is that Mr. Musk with his free-speech-absolutionism needs to walk a fine line between his desire to bring Donald Trump back to the platform and losing a ton of ad revenue from companies who are not really interested in having their ads displayed in a cesspool of hatred, bigotry and, you know, the rest, unless he wants to turn the birdsite into an even less profitable hole to pour money into (With, I would assume, a lot less users). But who knows what that man wants. Apart from getting old in his own mars colony that is.
I wanted this article to be about my journey on twitter and not about the alternatives - That shall be an article for another day. But, should I be even less active on twitter in the future because of the things to come, you can find me at @firstname.lastname@example.org.
[EDIT]: Shame, completely forgot the image credit for the header image. I found it on Wikimedia Commons, but you can find the original on flickr and it’s been published by the Lousiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency, I believe after the Deepwater Horizon disaster (The photos are weirdly dated to 2007 but I believe that to be a camera set to the wrong date. Bobby Jindal, who is mentioned in the image description took office in 2008). I chose this photo because it was one of the few CC licensed photos of birds in oil slick, which was my first association when thinking about the current state of twitter (and, you know, the rest of it all).