I deleted my second Twitter account over a week ago, in response to the news that the Twitter board had agreed to sell the company to Elon Musk. Which makes it the second time an obnoxious Trump supporter drove me off the platform.
Actually, the buy-out was the kick in the pants I needed to leave, but it was getting increasingly clear how much I dislike Twitter long before the news. I had started to realize that I was checking it unnecessarily — just to see what was “news” — and worse, that I was finding myself having vehemently strong opinions about stuff that just doesn’t matter. And being cranky and irritable to people for no reason. The Twitter algorithm seems designed to keep me upset and on edge.
It’s kind of a drag, because I was looking forward to having a read-only account so I could check in on responses to Sasquatchers when it comes out on the Playdate next month. I have to admit it was a lot of fun to see reactions to the Playdate during its launch week, after following the work the Panic team has mostly-secretly been doing on the device and its development environment for years. I liked the idea of Twitter not as a social platform, but as a crass promotional platform.
Which honestly is just another excuse. There are plenty of independent developers who are plenty successful without having social media accounts. The “I need this account for work” idea is pervasive, but it’s not actually true for most people who don’t work directly in social media or PR.
And I saw so many of those types of excuses in my timeline that it made me kind of sad. It reminded me too much of all the times I’ve quit smoking, and my brain starts coming up with tortured justifications why it wouldn’t be that bad if I just bought a pack and had only one. On Twitter, I kept seeing these variants:
- I need this account for my career: I definitely understand how this seems true, but I’m increasingly skeptical that it’s actually the case. I’m in no position to judge, because I’ve most often worked on projects that have other people dedicated to promoting them (and sometimes promoting me as part of it). But if it is true, then it seems like it should be the perfect spark to try and build a community that isn’t so dependent on a company you have absolutely no control over.
- Wait-and-see: “I’ll wait to see if the deal goes through.” Or “I’ll wait to see if Musk institutes any changes.” Or “If he allows Trump back onto the platform, then I’m gone,” etc.
- Much ado about nothing: “It’s not actually going to change anything.” I saw a ton of these, and I couldn’t tell if they were supposed to be reassuring, or scolding people for making a big deal? In any case, if one of the crappiest billionaires alive takes over a communications platform to take it private, and you can’t tell the difference, then maybe that’s a sign it’s already a terrible place to be?
- You’re no better than the rest of us: “None of you threatening to quit because of Musk will actually leave.” “You’re going to be back here within a month,” etc. These were the most pitiful, because they sound the most like dependence. After all, even cynical, performatively self-aware dependence (“This place is garbage, but it’s my garbage!”) is still dependence.
Last time, I tried both Microblog and Mastodon to “ween” myself off of Twitter. Microblog isn’t for me, and I’m skeptical that Mastodon is, either. (Although I do have a Mastodon account for anyone interested). I kind of hate to say it, but I think Mastodon really is Twitter without “the algorithm,” which makes it just as pointless as I first thought Twitter was back in 2007.
For now at least, Instagram remains my deeply problematic centralized social media platform of choice. It’s astounding just how much they’ve abandoned the pretense of providing a service to users of the platform, but still, it’s nice to have the outlet. Until that becomes intolerable, I’ll keep cranking away on this blog, hoping that RSS feed readers and Web 2.0 come back in a big way.
Edited for hypocrisy: I got tired of having to run the gauntlet of sign-up requests every time I followed a twitter link. My re-activated account is read-only for real this time, so if you see me commenting or doing memes or getting in arguments and such, feel free to mock me ruthlessly.