Twitter fucking sucks. It has for a while, and it doesn’t suck entirely, all the time, in every direction, but in a general miasma-sort of way, it definitely fucking sucks. Elon Musk happens to agree that it fucking sucks, and so he wants to buy it. Only problem is, he and I do not agree about what makes it fucking suck. What he wants to fix are things that will, at least for my mileage, make it fucking suck worse. And so here we are with the big question:
What to do about that?
I have no goddamn idea.
But first, more on why Twitter sucks now, and why it’ll suck worse soon.
And yes, ironically I’m writing this on a blog, which is like putting your podcast on vinyl, but this is what I got, so this is what you’re getting.
Twitter’s Three Phases
Twitter used to be my watercooler. I wrote from home, which is to say I was alone in a shed bleating words into a book that wouldn’t see the light of day for at least twelve months, so it was where I went to to meet other authors, editors, publishing professionals, and readers. From there it cascaded out to other creative folks too: comic artists, voiceover folks, and the like.
Then, somewhere along the way, it became a stage. Because that watercooler? It was public. Everyone was privy to it. It wasn’t a private Slack channel. Other people could watch your particular community gather around its communal watercooler like they were checking out a nature documentary. You were on a stage. You were performing, even if you didn’t mean to be. And everyone reacting to your performance was also on that stage and also — whether they meant to or not! — performing. Everybody was audience, everybody was performer, and after awhile, that gets messy.
Somewhere, it entered a third phase — again, without warning. I expect this was sometime in the 2015-2016 leadup to That Election. Twitter stopped being a watercooler, it stopped being a stage. It became a Fight Club.
And no matter what night it was for you, you had to fight.
(It’s tempting to blame this on the individual. And it is on us, somewhat. But don’t neglect to throw blame at the platform itself: rewarding agitation and doing far too little to mitigate harassment, bot activity, and propaganda.)
For me personally, Twitter was a place where I met some of the greatest people I know. I’ve made genuine friendships. And it also had profound impact on my career. I did not set out on social media to have it be that impactful professionally, I just wanted to go somewhere and have fun and make friends and, even when that meant being sort of messy, say the stuff that was on my mind. I’m also definitely a better person because of Twitter, full-stop. I like to hope I’m a work-in-progress: soft clay rather than something carved into stone. Twitter has opened my mind in myriad directions. I have at times been a person whose empathy was at a deficit, and I believe social media has genuinely helped change that. It has given me some of my best days.
It has also given me some of my worst days. Like, not just worst days online, but literally some of my worst actual days. I’ve been on Twitter for (insert a too-large number here) years, and every year the ratio of GOOD FUN to NIGHTMARE REALM changes — the good stuff dips, the nightmare shit rises, and that see-saw never seems to bounce back the other way. It’s probably not healthy that it’s turned into a place where one stupid tweet can bury you in harassment for days, weeks, even years. I still get people telling me I want to burn down libraries (uhh, I don’t) or that I suck for hating Tolkien (I don’t, and all those criticisms you think I made against Tolkien were not against Tolkien) or, oof, do I need to remind you of this? Cancel culture isn’t real, except that it is, and it’s shitty trolls wielding it. I’ve received death threats and doxxing over the absolutely dumbest shit. And you probably have, too. Because that’s Twitter. And I don’t know that a platform like that is all that great if it’s giving you literal days where the goal of people is to make you want to kill yourself — and they succeed at making you feel that way, even for just a moment.
(And note, I’m saying all this as a cisgendered white dude with buckets of privilege. If this is my experience, I promise you it’s worse for everyone on the spectrum of marginalization and under-served communities.)
All that is in addition to the fact the algorithm seems to be more and more punishing in terms of helping reach. I don’t see half my mentions anymore. Some posts reach a lot of eyes; many seem to hit few. It’s a mess. I don’t even know what I’m gaining over there, and it’s starting to definitely feel like there’s a sunk cost fallacy at work in terms of me staying…
And of course all of that is just at the human level. At the sociopolicial nation-to-globe level, haahha aaahaahaAAAAHHHHH I mean, Jesus Fucking Christ, it’s hard to reckon with the fact that Facebook and Twitter helped give us Trump. Like, do you ever stop to think about how this massive digital brain-dump gave us the literally dipshittiest person to ever become president? This place? Gave us that guy? As president? Fuck. Fuuuuuuck. Fuck.
Twitter didn’t create the post-truth era, but it certainly feels like it helped hammer in the last nails into truth’s coffin. Pick a reality, and you can find it on Twitter. To be clear, you can find this anywhere — it isn’t unique to Twitter, and is probably even worse on Facebook and YouTube. Twitter, in fact, has gotten a little better in this regard — way too slow, and way too late, and way too fucking little, but something is something, and I can guarantee you that Elon Musk is not here to keep that kind of moderation in place.
Ultimately, Twitter is this big giant glom of thoughts all connected together in one big ugly stew. It’s no wonder it gets hard to separate out the protein from the filler, to figure out what’s edible and what isn’t, to have a hard time telling if you’re eating something healthful or swallowing a hot quaff of poison. I don’t think it’s doing us any good. It’s not helping our anxiety (at least, not mine). Yes, it disseminates good information, but usually only after bad information (misinformation or worse, disinformation) has taken the good seats and has to be forcibly kicked out. Nuance goes there to die. The service thrives on outrage, and while often that anger and that outrage is justifiable and even reasonable, it can also shortcut the part of our brains that make us feel like we want to get up and do something about it — Twitter tricks us into feeling like, well, hey, we did something about it. We tweeted about it. Didn’t that fix it??
(And never mind the dunk culture stuff. All the dunks are funny and fair, I get it, but you have to realize that at the end of the day it’s like throwing the seeds of an invasive plant in your shitty neighbor’s yard. Yeah, you really got them good, until you realize you just spread the invasive plant further, and now it’s growing into your lawn anyway because that’s how plants work.)
I don’t know that social media helped end the world.
But it sure didn’t save it.
And Now, Elon Musk
I don’t need to tell you who he is. You can Google that for yourselves. Think of him as the ultimate troll. A billion-dollar troll. King of the Trollkin, that guy.
Maybe he’ll do right by Twitter. Maybe he’ll make it better. Or maybe he’ll give it autopilot and it’ll crash into an orphanage. I’m betting on the latter.
The question is, what do you do about it?
I don’t know.
I really don’t.
You can leave. You can stay. No judgment on either. Leaving, you think, well, I can’t give him that win. Every person on Twitter is, essentially, a resource for and of Twitter. You are to him a Tesla driver — if he owns it, you’re driving one of his cars, just digitally. Every tweet is an Elon Musk tweet and you might think, well, you don’t want to give him that satisfaction. And you’d be right not to want that.
You can stay. You can resist and use his platform against him. That’s also good and fine and fair. I dunno that it works or not. It probably just generates more of the anger that the platform thrives upon. It probably gives him the win either way, to destroy Twitter or to have it be like a kicked over beehive.
It’s an ethical conundrum no matter how you slice it. You abandon friends on that platform, or you stay and justify his ownership of it. And it’s not like Facebook is good — or Instagram, which is just Facebook with photos. Again, no judgment here. You do what you gotta. I know that nuance is not a thing we are well-practiced at anymore (in part thanks to, drum roll please, Twitter), but for real, I don’t think there’s One Good Moral Answer. As with many things, you pick a path and make your peace with it, and course-correct when you get better, more useful information.
For me, I dunno what I’ll do. I don’t feel comfortable using a Musk-owned Twitter in a big way. What few gains Twitter has made will, as noted, be almost certainly rolled back. Trump is likely to return. As such, I’ll probably turn it over to a broadcast-only announcement-based Twitter, and see what happens from there. I’ll kill it from my devices, leaving it on like, some sad old iPad with a cracked screen and a stuck button that smells curiously like raspberry jam. I signed up for counter.social today, @chuckwendig, but that site crashed about ten minutes later and has locked me out since. I’m on Instagram @chuck_wendig, but it’s not a great place to have conversations. I have a blog at www.terriblohh right you’re already here, never mind. Should I start a newsletter? Is Ello still a thing? Myspace? Friendcircle? Faceyplace? Gleem? Plumbob? Are any of these real or am I just having a stroke? Oh god, do I have COVID? Is COVID a social media network? Shit, should I fire up my old Gateway 486 and start a new BBS? You know what, fuck it, send me your physical mailing address, I’ll write my posts on various rocks and logs and throw them through your window. Open or closed. ROCKLOG, I’ll call it. Maybe I’ll duct-tape an apple to each post. For health.
I dunno. It sucks. I’ve made a lot of friends there. I’ve had wonderful times. I’ve also had some of the worst moments of my life there, and I get a little frisson of secret joy at the opportunity to escape it. Because, as noted, Twitter fucking sucks a lot of the time. And I fear it’s about to fucking suck a whole lot more. But I also get a crushing sense of sadness. I don’t want to leave people behind. I love some folks there. But am I having fun there? Am I helping anyone? Am I even helping myself? Or is it just an anxiety oubliette, now lorded over by an even shittier billionaire than before? One who punishes his critics and hates trans people and comes from blood diamond money and, and, and…
Some reading material, if you care to have it:
Fonda Lee: Twitter Is The Worst Reader
Kacen Callendar: The Humanization Of Authors
Caitlin Flanagan: You Really Need To Quit Twitter
And finally, something else from me (I know, sorry): Does Social Media Sell Books? A Vital Inquisition!
56 responses to “We Have To Talk About Twitter”
Yes to all this. Twitter used to be my happy place and I can’t lose the connection I have with friends all over the planet. So I guess I’ll stay for now.
It’s not a Twitter replacement, but have you considered Substack? If you moved this blog over there, you would probably have greater reach, and lots of people have had better engagement there than they do on regular blogs and newsletters. Just a thought.
I’ve been asking myself this since the Musk melon got involved. I could easily leave. I follow about 200 people; I have far fewer who follow me. My Twitter name isn’t even close to what you’ll see in comments on blogs so there’s a total disconnect. I seldom post. Mostly I read and try to make funny and encouraging comments to people. Oh, yeah, I guess I do post cat pics but hey ho, doesn’t everybody?
What makes it hard to leave is that those few people I follow—mostly writers or people who blog about mysteries—are really nice people. To a person, I’ve never seen any of them say anything weird or incendiary. Dad jokes, yeah, but that’s what makes me like them. So leaving means, as Kathleen said, leaving people who I know don’t consider me a friend but who I think of as friends.
And yet, and yet….
Same Jo same. I have less then 200 followers and mostly just enjoy hanging out and eavesdropping.
You’re exceedingly good at getting into my head, Chuck (or am I just improving at getting into yours?) I’ve said since this whole Musk takeover thing started that I’d he owns it, I’m out. Reading your thoughts on it though and I am considering turning my use into a one way broadcast beacon. Either way, methinks I’m going with a zero fucks approach. Will the billionaire asshole know or care that I think he can fester in a pile of his own Wednesday morning after Taco Tuesday jalapeno scented burn you a double sized asshole excrement? No, but at least my friends will know where I stand and they can decide to join me if they so choose.
I worked as an actual moderator for over a decade (yes, it was an actual job). I agree with you on Musk. Maybe he’ll make it better. I think there might be solutions, especially high-tech ones, to improve moderation. But I’m not encouraged when I hear him constantly wave the “free speech” banner. It makes me suspect he’s setting the aforementioned “autopilot” option, and there’s already an iceberg in his path.
As for alternatives . . . just hear me out . . . two words . . .
I totally feel the same way. Maybe Discord? Back in the day I met a lot of my nerd friends on forums, maybe that can be a more thriving place to actually converse.
Thank you for all of this. It encapsulates (in a coherent way — what’s in my brain is not coherent) how I suspect a lot of us feel. FWIW, as one of those multi-marginalized humans, I’ve already limited my use almost nothing, but Musk’s “ideas” about Twitter mean that I’m probably on my way out.
Ello I think is still out there but it seems to be all I get are follows by some less than savory bots. The kind of bots with click this link in their profiles.
What about MeWe? It was supposed to be the alternate to FB. I believe it is still ad free and still an active social media site.
I’m not sure what I will do about Twitter. I just can’t believe they caved to him.
I never really got going on Twitter or Facebook, and I’m so very glad for that. Social media is designed to be a black hole sucking a person’s time. That’s not me judging how people spend their time.. or maybe it is, but I’m including myself here. Reddit is so addictive to me that I try not to go there at all.
I never started a Twitter account for all these reasons. I don’t want to be that person, but I knew what this would become the second someone said “140 character posts.” I remember saying, “How is that long enough to express a cogent thought or any nuance?” Now it’s 280 last I heard, so double the shit show.
It’s been odd, not using social media in any real sense for the past 10 years. I read articles and blogs, but leave the status updates alone. It’s like high school all over again. Always being on the fringes of the clique, the last to hear about or know anything, if you hear it at all. You don’t talk to people the way they communicate now, so you’re always at least a little bit lonely.
Being this far out of the circle, publishing and promoting books has been an impossibility. I refuse to change or adapt to fix the problem. If I’d gone along with the social media crowd, maybe I’d have a wider circle of editors and be fabulously wealthy, or maybe a misread status update would have tanked my career by now. I don’t know, and I don’t feel like taking the risk.
At this point in my life, I’m just trying to find a house in the woods.
I’ve been on Twitter for 12+ years. I follow authors, artists, fellow readers & have built a community of online friends. I’m just a tiny voice in the void honestly, so I’ve only rarely had to deal with trolls but I’ve seen what they do & I don’t blame anyone for bailing on that shit. I don’t know what will happen with Twitter. I know I don’t have the mental energy to build a new community somewhere else, but I know if EM makes the changes I think he will, I’ll walk away. And that just makes me sad.
Ugh, TWITTER. I hate it – properly hate it, as in I’M ANGRY THAT I USED TO LOVE YOU hate. I soft quit Twitter 6 months ago after I realised I was in Mean Girls Groundhog Day and it was tearing down my mental health. I’m on Instagram now, and the primary benefit for me there is that there’s no conversation. That makes for a much more peaceful and pleasant experience.
I agree if Elon Musk takes it over it will become determinedly worse.
I am with you all the way on this post. I joined Twitter when it was first being rolled out, back in the day when you could talk to anyone on there. I wound up having a stalker from 1,000 miles away show up on my driveway in the middle of the night (“Have a happy day with my Rottweiler,” I called as he sped away), so I deleted my profile and started a new one some years later.
I found it great for meeting people in my profession, especially after a move. I got some business through it, as well as invites to fun VIP events. Life changed, though, and I wound up transitioning to a writing career. Over time I used Twitter less and less, until I hadn’t tweeted for years.
Doing marketing work for a client brought me back, and lord, what a shock I had (the fight club phase). I was ready to toss the platform again, but the orange one had just been installed. I figured if I couldn’t use Twitter for connecting with people in my work and creative worlds, I could at least tap into the resistance movement.
Fast forward a few more years. I was getting beat up and brigaded by people whom I thought were my tribe on there but apparently felt I was too far to the left for them (how dare I criticize Biden and Obama?!). I began to notice a lot of disordered behavior and toxic comments coming from the people I followed, and when one told me to “take my anger elsewhere,” I did. I’m on Reddit now, and while it doesn’t solve the problem of participating in actual activism, it keeps me informed and lets me spout off without a character limit or having to use my real name.
I still check Twitter via an incognito window to see what folks like you and Sarah Kendzior have to say outside of your other venues, but I imagine even that will stop soon. Frost was right: nothing gold can stay.
Couldn’t agree with you more.
I’m checking out counter social now! It looks cool, but I also have reservations about how they accomplish some of their safety goals—e.g. I like to use a VPN for privacy. The rhetoric they use in the FAQ section is also very off-putting to me. It reads like some of the defensive, fear-mongering alt-right tweets I’ve seen.
I’d like to put in a good word for mastodon (joinmastodon.org) and other federated social sites. (Pixelfed is sort of a non-Meta instagram!) There are still some trolls and awful people in the global forum, but you can find smaller communities with rules and policies that suit your eyeballs and attitude.
As a privacy advocate, I really want these user-maintained networks to succeed for normal people who just want to connect with others.
My husband uses mastodon too.
I am not much of a social media person – mostly just a blog – which may cost me in book sales (who knows?) but is definitely a positive on the time and sanity fronts.
I feel you, buddy. All of this. I joined Twitter years ago and it was fun for a long time. I gained a community there. But it got harder when, instead of community, every intersection of who I am was pretty loudly othered.
I can’t believe I’m missing those damn AOL chatrooms. I don’t know if there’s enough energy in me to start again elsewhere. I’m on a Discord community that’s close to that, but not close enough to Twitter that it can be a replacement.
I know I’ve enjoyed being part of fun threads with you there. It was great for the silly, capricious shit that didn’t really fit in any other platform. If you figure out something better, let us know. I’ll try it out, if only to see if I can be part of something better.
I soft-quit Twitter two years ago (they say, using their Twitter username to comment). I still have a profile, and all my tweets are still up, but I don’t post and rarely visit. My mental health has improved immeasurably, as has my time-management. It does bum me out that I’ve lost touch with the friends I made on the platform, though. And I hate that having a Twitter presence is pretty much a requirement to be published these days.
I’m not completely averse to social media – I use Reddit (which admittedly has its own problems) a fair bit. I’m actually hoping Musk buying Twitter helps popularize another social media platform, one that I would feel more comfortable using.
Really good point about needing a Twitter account to get published. I’m sure my abandoned FB profile and lack of Twitter account (I left a while ago) have even kept me out of some freelancing jobs. I’d love to start a Patreon, but I’ve been told it’s all but useless if I don’t have a big social media following or email list (which is hard to get now without a SM tribe). There’s a big part of me that would like to crawl into a time machine and go back to the pre-internet days.
Yeah, I don’t know what to do. My gut response was, “That’s it! I’m out!” But as a reader/writer, I enjoy the connections I’ve made with authors there. I found your Twitter before I found your work and became a Wendig cult member, uh . . . fan. This is why we can’t have nice things!
I’m interested in CounterSocial but who in the world owns it? The info in the FAQ’s re First Amendment isn’t very comforting, it sounds a lot like the far right talk.
If anyone is the least bit interested I am @Purple_Duckies on Twitter. I am also undecided as to what I will do once the muskie billionaire stomps his branding there. Money doesn’t impress me at all so I don’t know much about him though from what is being posted over there today I’ve learned a few things that don’t look good.
I like the Rock with an apple idea. If Putin goes nuclear on Ukraine we’re all going to need all the apples and rocks we can get. So I hope you are very well stocked with both. Just get on the turnpike and head north to Portland – Maine that is.
Chuck – can you please fix this on the blog:
I follow your blog on my blog but I can’t get post because it only shows as perpetually loading.
I’ve had similar thoughts. I am pretty good about pruning my interests and for the most part, I sometimes feel I’m in an echo chamber, but also seeing and hearing from those of a like mind is comforting and comfortable. I enjoy the the interactions between readers and writers (i.e., Yourself and Stephen King, among others), and I am very pleased, and also dismayed to watch news happening literally in real time as those who are unwilling participants in the horror of the day post images, video, and commentary on what is going on around them as it happens. Literally, nothing happens in a vacuum, which I think the world’s newest incarnation of Stalin is learning the hard way.
It is also discouraging to read the things people post from their positions of ignorance. People toss the ‘isms’ (fascism, communism, socialism, capitalism, marxism, and a variety of others) around as if they know exactly what they mean, but it’s really like seeing someone say “Do you like my dog?” under a picture of an elephant. NO CLUE. I don’t like to think I’m an intellectual snob, but truthfully…I probably am. If you’re a dumbass and you’re willing to shout it to the world, don’t be surprised if the world doesn’t start thinking “Hey Dumbass Communism is not the same thing as Socialism”. I do occasionally find myself doing thinking just that.
Elon Musk is exactly the person that epitomizes the excesses of wealth. He is what the poor aspire to be, the average income despise, and other rich people roll their eyes at. He revels in his own meme’ness (is that a thing?). The idea that Twitter will become this, is disturbing, but I do know that I won’t willingly support anyone or anything that puts that disgusting authoritarian on stage. So, we’ll see what happens, but I’ve a feeling my days on Twitter are coming to an end.
Really interesting post. I would not know who you are if I had not stumbled on a post of yours, while looking at something else, on Twitter. Someone once described Twitter as like a cocktail party where you mingle and move on, although as you suggest, Elon may well poison the canapés.
Seeing your entertaining posts and then the positive response to Wanderers by your fans, tempted me to buy the book, and I absolutely loved it. So when you said you were going to do more on the blog, I signed up.
Twitter is a resource to read Interesting people and follow them someway down a path, not in a creepy way, more like a fellow hiker, you don’t necessarily communicate but you share part of a journey. I would never presume to be forward on Twitter and presume I know anything about anyone.
The thing is, I left Facebook a few years ago and there are a lot of events that I miss out on. Without Facebook If you ever did a book signing or reading in Switzerland, as unlikely as it is, I don’t know if I would hear about it. If I hadn’t been entertained by your tweets on Star Wars, apples, birds and (ahem) bees. I wouldn’t have read a great book. So in the end I’m just grateful to find cool people to follow for a time.
Discovering talented artists and craftspeople through media used to come from newspapers and magazines, for my generation, but we seem to be left to wander those smoldering wastelands in search of something good on whatever platform has enough content to be persuasive.
You also have some nice fans, so only announcements would be sad too. Some sort of moderating of comments would be positive but you would still have to see the hate. The best outcome is where Elon Musk learns to understand that hate is bad and creates an automated hate-seeker bot. So even if Trump is allowed back, every single one of his posts gets nuked by the algorithm.
As a chaotic word-nerd I do hope that if Twitter can’t be saved, it spirals into farce and scandal forever referred to as ElonGate.
My issue with twitter is that, even with people who I agree with, it is an insight into their thoughts that I don’t need. I don’t need to hear people panicking about whatever situation is going on. For every nugget of information I get that is genuinely useful, I get a whole lot of AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! which I don’t need in my life. And it is all public, so people who shouldn’t be up in your mentions are up in your mentions.
But I highly doubt twitter will become the ghosttown facebook is, and if it does whatever platform we move to will also suck because social media is designed to suck.
Hi Chuck! I’m not usually one to break the blogging monologue, but today I feel compelled to. (Like I felt compelled to wear silver, velvet flared pants in 1999. That didn’t end very well for me…)
I’m a writer. Not as accomplished or witty as you, but good enough to make my 14-year-old, Buffy fanfic-writing self quite proud that we’re paying our bills – all the while also sustaining a substantial book addiction – through this craft.
It is that shared love of words, the infatuation with the power of stories, that makes me disagree with your piece.
As writers, aren’t we supposed to be rallying for free speech? Shouldn’t we be the first to cry out in rage when freedom of expression is limited? Even if another’s story makes us foam at the mouth, shouldn’t we be the first to defend the author’s right to tell their story because we, too, have felt the sharp pain of censorship?
I assume you nodded along with my words there, but if you didn’t…well, just pretend you did for a second, alright?
Twitter, or at least what it has become, is no longer giving its users the fundamental right found in every democracy: free speech. It polices, curtails, demonises, and regulates people’s opinions. It has a tendency to label speech some people hate as hate speech while leaving other people to fend for themselves because they’re “bad” people anyway and deserve the cancelling/doxing/harassment.
A small, but loud part of Twitter’s user base has taken it upon themselves to be judge, jury, and executioner while Twitter, the company, gleefully stokes that fire. This leads those silenced into resentment which is the foundation of extremism. And the side-effects of that are of no use to anyone.
If democracy anywhere in the world, not just in the US, is supposed to continue, we need a society versed in critical thinking. And to think we sometimes must risk causing offence. And if it takes a billionaire taking over a widely used tool to re-instate open, uncensored discussion, I’m all for it.
So, as I will continue to fawn over your brilliantly written books and newsletter, I have to disagree with you today. Respectfully, because we’re adults. And because I’d one day like to shake your hand and buy you a drink so we can bond over the things that unite us. Mainly among them is the temporary lapse of judgement that leads us to voluntarily lock ourselves in a room for hours each day.
I guess what I don’t understand is how free speech is currently curtailed on Twitter? It’s not the government, it’s allowed to moderate and mitigate its userbase and content accordingly, for better or for worse.
Twitter regularly pulls posts and users from their platform. Yes, they are a privately owned company so they can do that. But do we want them to? Is it free speech if that occurs? There is no free speech on Twitter in that sense. The hope would be that Musk allows for free speech, regardless of whether we agree with the things people are saying.
I’m not sure I see where the cause for alarm is with Musk taking over Twitter. He hasn’t done anything yet to cause general alarm, but maybe I am missing the thread.
I, too, am all for free speech for all. Even if what people say is ignorant, foolish, or downright evil. Worst case scenario, we know who those ignorant, evil fools are. Rather than pretending they don’t exist anymore because we booted them off a digital platform. They very much do still exist, and now we can’t see them or hear them, and I think that is more terrifying personally speaking.
I absolutely want them to moderate their platform. If a passenger is unruly on a plane, or is in a store spouting hate speech — hell, if they’re in a store and they take their damn shoes off — they can be ejected from that space, and I think that standard is reasonable to maintain on social media sites as well. Musk is a series of red flags that are also on fire.
Unlike a traditional shop where there are clearly stated rules (no shirt, no shoes, no service), Twitter is hazy, at best, about communicating its guidelines on what harassment or hate speech exactly looks like. They state this is because they don’t want to hand a manual to those “bad apples” skirting a ban, but it’s just an easy way to create vague enough rules they can lay out to suit their biases.
Also, the online space isn’t a direct replica of the real world. Different space, different social structures, different rules of engagement, and “laws”. To think that we can apply the exact same rules to an online space as we do to real life is…illogical.
It’s not illogical, it’s literally the reality of business, like it or not. Twitter can set whatever rules they want. And will continue to be able to, under Musk.
“It polices, curtails, demonises, and regulates people’s opinions.”
Not really. Twitter moderates its content, like many other platforms. More recently, it has started placing warnings on blatant lies and misinformation. Content that doesn’t meet its standards can be freely posted on any number of other platforms, including the lies/misinformation. Twitter has no control over what is posted on other platforms, privately or publicly owned. In that sense, it’s no different from other popular platforms.
If you rely on Twitter to have an opinion… you have far bigger problems than being “censored”.
“This leads those silenced into resentment which is the foundation of extremism. And the side-effects of that are of no use to anyone.”
I have a really hard time imagining someone becoming extremist because they were “silenced” on Twitter. I have a much easier time imagining already deranged extremist scumbags using the platform to build themselves an audience. Willing to consider any evidence to the contrary.
“To think that we can apply the exact same rules to an online space as we do to real life is…illogical.”
Did I miss a post in which you outlined these differences?
The vehemence of your whining is… puzzling
“The hope would be that Musk allows for free speech, regardless of whether we agree with the things people are saying.”
There are already many platforms that cater to the “post anything” element, tho. Where you can find e.g. ISIS recruitment videos and clips of beheadings, if you so desire. To a large degree, Twitter owes its popularity to limiting and labeling extremist content. I don’t see how the platform benefits from becoming just another repository for digital mental excrement.
“Worst case scenario, we know who those ignorant, evil fools are.”
That would only make sense if people were required to post under their (verified) full real name. However, that’s unlikely to happen (I hope I’m proven wrong).
I attended a group therapy session many moons ago. The group leader, a self-styled psychotherapist, set the agenda and clearly wanted us all to agree with her. I didn’t agree with her, and said so. The look she directed at me when I maintained my position was terrifying. It told me all I needed to know about the damage a toxic leader of a group can inflict if they’re not open to a reasoned difference of opinion. Needless to say, I left. If all compassion and empathy drains away from Twitter, I shall leave place, too.
I shall leave *that* place, too. Oops.
I feel this. Totally. We need to think about what we want out of our online connections and relationships because it feels like we’re allowing the bar to be set very low. I have no answers (and have been thinking about this for the last, dunno, presidency?).
I do know that everyone shouldn’t invest much time in the ‘seems familiar so we’ll give it a go’ sites in a panic – for example, watch everyone delete their Counter Social account tomorrow when they read that the creator is a Zimmerman-supporting MAGA-ergh…
I’m oddly comforted at in seeing so many people feeling the discomfort I feel though – if so many of us feel this way then someone else feeling that will be one of those ‘smart techy-types’ will (hopefully) already be working on their attempt at a solution.
There is a single steadfast rule for being alive right now, and it is: Do not bet against the dumbest possible outcome.
The algorithm for social media – all of it! – is “keep serving the raving drunk at the end of the bar triples and don’t worry about what he does when he stumbles out to the parking lot, finds his keys, starts up and drives off. Not our responsibility.” FleeceBlock, Twitter, the bunch of it. We are a dumber, more ignorant, more worthless society for all the “progress” of the past 20 years.
To paraphrase Cato the Elder, “Twitter delenda est!”
I tried Twitter briefly. It reminded me of something my father-in-law used to say. “Opinions are like a**holes; everybody has one.”
Not leaving, not yet. I do curate heavily there and that’s easy for me since I’m not a public figure.
I’ve also been online a long time and have seen things come and go. And I have other hooks I can build from if it comes from that.
I wish folks generally would take the hint that our plutocrats have too fking much power over society and people and the earth, and then be moved to change that. But I’m too old to hold my breath on that one.
For the record, you bring joy to me, Chuck
I used to Tweet a fair bit. Then I trailed off, then I quit entirely. I just checked. Last tweet was at the end of 2016. Thing is, when I stopped tweeting, I had something like 700 followers. Now, I have 1255. That’s gotta be part of what’s wrong. I don’t think any actual people decided, “Hey, this guy who never tweets anything, I think I’ll follow him due to the profundity of his silence.” So, over the past five-and-change years, the ghost ship of my twitter persona has picked up 500 and some bot-barnacles? Or what? I dunno.
I haven’t made a decision yet. Twitter doesn’t generally take much notice of me (which is fine!), but there are things I use it for. I can get news, breaking and already broken, from the people closest to it and most affected by it. There are some few rational folks on the hellsite offering cogent wisdom about events. And — a biggie — stormchasers take to Twitter a couple of days before a big storm event and during, so I have an idea of what’s going on and where. I know that if they’re going to use their gas money to come to my area, I need to batten down the hatches good and hard. I also like all the cute animal photos I see.
But I can’t envision Musk making things one bit better.
I have very similar thoughts to yours. On one hand: I have built a community of people whom I genuinely like on twitter. Not a lot of people follow or care about me, but the ones who do are really great. I occasionally benefit from being able to share things there, but not often, and not much. It’s more about having an opportunity to hear what other people whom I respect have to say, and to engage with people I like who don’t live close by. (Like you!)
On the other hand: is it really USEFUL? Is my time there well spent? Would it be better if I diverted all that energy into my physical community, in my physical neighborhood? A friend recently pointed me towards Patricia Lockwood’s novel, No One Is Talking About This, which was outstanding (and which I think you might appreciate, Chuck), and after I finished it I honestly didn’t feel the urge to turn to twitter or facebook at all for weeks. It was only when I got covid and was quarantined at home that I wanted to be in those spaces, and it’s because I was lonely for human interaction. And I think that says a lot, actually, about me and where my priorities lie.
I don’t want to lose the connections I’ve built with cool people whom I like and who like me back. I also realize that in the proliferation of alternatives to using the phone, everyone has chosen their primary thing, and not everyone’s primary thing is the same. So when I leave twitter, which I am because Musk is not going to make it better and I simply do not want him to profit from my eyeballs, how do I keep in touch with the people I care about keeping in touch with?
Thanks Chuck. Now I don’t feel like I’m going crazy. Well, I probably am but it’s so good to read your blogs.
You could try tumblr, you know? It’s counter-intuitive, absolutely bonkers unnavigable, a bonafide hellsite (affectionately) and I’d been fighting against joining since its inception when Fandom began to move there because i found it all of the above and thought it would overwhelm me and I’d never be able to do anything useful or properly fannish with it. But… it’s actually fine? Like, there’s so much interesting and varied stuff floating past my dash (that has nothing at all to do with why I finally joined which was because it’s the only place where you could find a small gathering of K-Drama fandoms, and boy, K-Drama … what a wealth of fresh, innovative, original stories, and no, I’m not talking about Squid Game, I’m talking about The Devil Judge and The King’s Affection and The Crowned Clown and Beyond Evil. This is where the narrative sirloin is AT, ahem, but I digress…) and you can engage, or not, have discourse or just reblog shit posts, laugh and create, be aggressively social, actively queer or just float in the marinade of fannish spaces abound. Because the site doesn’t know you, it doesn’t want anything from you and it’s not interested in functioning. (And Neil Gaiman does very well there, but pshht that’s our secret, cause he’s the only big name author within a mile of it and we’re charmed and delighted by his refusal to be anyone but himself) Anyway, just leaving that here in the hopes you feel better aand agreeing that we need to learned that there are NO ultimately right moral choices. Just shades of compromise.
I was permabanned from Twitter a couple years ago for saying someone should slap the smirk off Mike Pompeo’s face.
Moved to Reddit and never looked back. The upvote/downvote system is not perfect but it’s way better than just a like button.
Even if Twitter wanted me back, I’m staying on Reddit. I’ve found some really interesting niche writer/genre subreddits too btw.
The only subreddit I’ve been booted from was r/police. They don’t appreciate criticism. What a surprise.
I totally agree. Reddit is a much better platform for weeding out the riff raff. I never understood why Twitter didn’t implement more of a self policing strategy.
One of my favorite days on Twitter was watching in real time as You Might Be the Killer came into being. Whatever problematic uhhh… personalities may have come to light after that is beside the point. That was a glorious day, and I bought the movie the second I was able to. I just adore everything Wendig, so I hope you keep blogging. Much love! <3
Twitter has been a cesspool for a while now, but I really don’t get the Musk hate. What do you think he will do that affects you? I doubt Musk bought Twitter for the sole purpose to reinstate Trump. If he does you can block both of them. Most of the bellyaching is from my friends on the left who have no problem being the product for Google and Facebook, also owned by billionaires who I would consider worse than Musk.
Spot on, man. Thanks. This is going to be a total fucking shit show.
Thanks Chuck. Your post gave me the best set of laughs for ages. You said it, and more than once. Give Twitter the flick before the Trump crazies flick back.
If people are interested in what YOU have to say and want to keep up with YOU, they will follow YOU. Don’t do the easy thing and stay in an established environment that is beyond toxic and showing NO signs of getting better in the future. Most people are better than Twitter. Most people have a problem with Twitter. But most people keep going back to it because it’s easy… It’s the same with any other trash pile social media platform. Leave! Keep up the blog, a place that isn’t bogged down by negativity. 🙂
I’ve read so many outlets focusing on “Free Speech” and not a single one talking about how social engineering, which is easiest to do on Twitter and slightly harder on FB, is used to hurt people. The Free Speech argument is so 1999. It’s like before Y2K and forum moderation. The fact that folks can and do target others, and that harassment levels vary based on who you are, who you’re connected to, and what your blue check is (and how you get that check or pay for it) does not bode well for a platform that’s been overrun by bots. The question for me isn’t “why leave Twitter.” The question is “when will social media platforms understand that creative professionals and small business owners need different tools than your platform provides”. And that’s a specific challenge when we’re required to use the tools.
Twitter. Yeah. I stopped posting on it around March, 2017. Sometime or other after that it started showing me some tweets in my “mentions” column that didn’t even mention me but whose accounts I follow. Tweets from people like Terry Irwin and Katy Manning. Not a lot and not all the time, but enough to convince me to stick around for the good people.
I think, one day, I’ll try weeding through the many accounts I follow from all areas of life – news, opinions makers, etc. – and keep only those I feel happy about following. I’ll make it more like Instagram, where I only follow friends, family, a few famous people (only positive ones, mind you) and some accounts with beautiful nature and travel photographs. Fewer than 60, anyway.
I do have a life outside social media, you know.