The Walking Ghost Phase Of Twitter, And Where The Hell Do We Go From Here

The walking ghost phase is, for those not in the know, when one suffers a heroic dose of radiation and appears to return to full health before eventually expiring badly. It is a time of false hope before certain death.

It feels like Twitter is in that phase, right now. That might be dramatic, but Musk buying it — and in just a matter of weeks tanking it, firing everyone, trolling everyone, and allowing some of the worst people to return — does not inspire confidence. Nor should it. It’s easy to see the hemorrhaging. You feel it, honestly. This great bleeding, blanching feeling — the color going out.

I don’t wish for this. Twitter has been routinely good and bad, a place of great joy and comfort and community while also serving up a maelstrom of harassment and bad faith and mis/disinformation. It was big and messy and chaotic, but I guess it was our big and messy and chaotic. I know there’s still this feeling that it still can be, or even still is, ours — that there is value in staying and fighting, in supporting who remains, in maintaining community, and I believe that can be true. But I also am now feeling like it’s a little like insisting you can fight J.K. Rowling by promoting Harry Potter — like somehow you can take ownership of this thing from the inside when really, you’re just enriching the worst people and only helping to boost them by remaining within their ranks.

It is different than that, to be clear. The metaphor fails in a number of ways. Certainly there has been some truth that staying and resisting Musk and his influence has been… well, I don’t know how useful it’s been, but it’s been fun to watch, and certainly he’s not making any friends except for the absolute worst fucking people. It can’t be great for his public profile to be mocked relentlessly by awesome people. The joke is of course, Musk bought Twitter, but he’s the one who got owned. As a result, I think there are an increasing number of people who before might’ve thought, “Hey, maybe a Tesla might be nice,” but are now going to reconsider that decision, at the very least wondering, “Will he put Donald Trump and Kanye West into my Tesla’s OS — at least, before the car autopilots me into a wall and catches fire?”

At the same time, Musk doesn’t seem to care, and as what I suspect is a total narcissist, seems to enjoy the negative attention. (Trust me when I say, the only real way to deal with a narcissist is “flat gray rock.” They thrive on even the worst attention. Attention is attention is attention.)

There’s certainly some suspicion too that his very goal is to detonate Twitter, and I can see that from the perspective of someone who really really wants to kick the teeth out of democracy’s mouth — but it’s also hard not to wonder if he’s just, as noted, a narcissist, and an incompetent one at that. One who has been convinced by his own money that he is in fact an Iron Man genius instead of what he really is: a third-tier Batman villain shitlord eager to let every psycho jabroni out of Arkham to keep the circus going. I can’t imagine this is doing his image any good. It’s hard to uphold the notion that he’s really this Good Guy trying to Save The World and interested in Free Speech when… you just look at all the stuff he says and does over there. And after a while, it gets both ugly being trapped with that, and also, as Lincoln Michel noted, pretty boring.

And yes, I recognize the irony here: I’m linking to Twitter in a post about how Twitter is shellacking the bed with shit. Twitter is bad, yet many of us hang on, because at the moment, it remains provably the bulwark of social media. But it’s also one under siege by its owner and under revolt by its users. Maybe it’ll fall to rubble and be rebuilt. Or maybe the Chief Shitlord in charge will simply bolster the walls and build his own social media apocalypse bunker, and the rest of us will find boltholes out before the Musknauts hunt us in the vents.

As for what I’ll do?

I used Twitter a lot on my book tour for Wayward this last week, but once again I’m deleting it from my phone. I don’t need that agitation readily accessible. I will retain my account and likely transition it more to broadcast only, using it to signal boost and such, but I expect to fade away, like Marty McFly in that family photo.

(Though no, I won’t delete my account.)

As to where I am at now?

Well, I’m here, obviously.

I’ve noodled on newsletter or substack, but no firm plans there.

Instagram is reliable.

I’m at Mastodon here. I like it but it’s also still really hard to explain and in part because I’m still not sure I understand it? And individual instances seem pretty hinky and subject to fickle laws? Each instance its own weird island?

I just got onto, too, @chuckwendig there. I have little impression of it except I like the typography, and it seems like a Very Serious Place.

Then there’s the opposite —, which so far, is the “stickiest” (honey pun?) of the sites, meaning, it’s the one I use and keep going back to because it feels pretty good, pretty natural, pretty nice. It blew up over the last day or two, I think doubling their userbase, so there are bugs — and further, it’s still in the early days, and so it only has an app, no desktop, and works better on iOS than on Android, and so forth. So it’s still rough seas, but like I said, it’s snappy, peppy, has a lot of good fun conversation already there and has been nice to see writer pals and comic folk and so forth quickly find a niche. It’s a little like if Twitter and Instagram had a baby, with Myspace as the weird uncle.

(Note, they are not the Trump-affiliated Hive, that is a different company.)

(Oh I’m also chuckwendig there.)

There has also been some agita about this, that Power Users such as myself [lol] are Pied-Pipering other people off of Twitter to this new, untrustworthy island run by untrustworthy people. So please let me assure you, I am not standing on virtue for Assume it could be wildly unstable. Pretend it’ll go away in a week or Milkshake Duck itself into oblivion. I dunno. What I know is that I like it right now and it’s fairly happy over there and it seems like it has its heart in the right place in terms of community and harassment and moderation, but again, it’s new, run by people I can’t vouch for, and for all I know it’s operated by a sentient Russian botnet. No idea.

I do think panic over this is a little ironic if it’s coming from people still on Twitter, because Twitter is verifiably owned by a fucking lunatic, now, hemorrhaging staff and operating with almost no actual content moderation, with a steep rise in fresh harassment — so it’s not like Twitter is somehow stable and safe. Some have said not to trust my “information” with a new social media site like Hive, but I dunno what information one thinks I’m giving them. I didn’t send them a vial of my genetic material or something. If it sucks, I’ll ditch.

Certainly there is also some feeling too of betrayal, that leaving is abandoning, that choosing to not use the site as vigorously or remain at all is tantamount to watching others drown, and I understand this. At the same time, I don’t think anyone should remain on that place if it’s not fun or interesting or if it’s serving them up a largely negative experience. I think there’s a dangerous path thinking we must somehow be obligated to a space that could become harmful. I think that stops being community and starts being a cult.

Right now, it’s just nice to feel nice somewhere that isn’t Twitter.


I may write up a more proper tour report, but I am pleased to say that the book tour was really nice, I met some very cool readers, and if you were one of them, I thank you. I also signed a lot of books for folks who couldn’t make it (often due to sickness, since there are a passel of respiratory bugs parading around out there, which I was afraid to bring home but as it turns out it was already here waiting for me since my kid is sick, oh shit).

I hope people enjoy Wayward and I’d love it if you told folks about the book and shared reviews and also bought seven more copies for yourself and then seven more copies for those copies so they can each have a family, and soon you will have a pyramid of books, and from this pyramid you can command armies. Or something. Whatever. What I mean is, leave a review if you’re able?

The holidays approacheth so if you want me to sign and personalize Wayward –or any of my books! — then you should go through Doylestown Bookshop.

Also remember I’m doing Let’s Play Books (12/4) and B&N Bethlehem (12/10) still, so you can grab books from there and come see me.

Okay! See you… *checks notes* somewhere on the internet? I’m sure there will be another dozen new social media sites next week. I will be chuckwendig on Circlezero, Frandspottr, Apple-Eater, Gl0rm, Pfft, and Substation 69. Bye.

11 responses to “The Walking Ghost Phase Of Twitter, And Where The Hell Do We Go From Here”

  1. I think I followed you on Mastodon and I definitely had on Insta, around the time of the Wendigo sandwich (damn, that was tasty).
    The centralized nature of Twitter made it a lifeline for activists, disability advocates, and an effective marketing and networking platform for artists and indie authors like me. Watching Melonhead destroy it is like watching a family member you only sorta like but tolerated for reasons go into a sudden and final decline. With no advertising budget, that’s gonna hurt. 🙁

  2. The proliferation of social media sites I’d never heard of is… certainly a thing. I have hope one of them will become a good replacement for Twitter. Mastadon just doesn’t quite do it, Hive… might? But as people have pointed out, it’s so much harder now to start a social media company than it was when they first popped up. The fact that Hive is only two people gives me pause. Not because I think they’re nefarious (who knows), but because it’s such a herculean effort for only two people. Or maybe Twitter will tank so much the muskrat will sell it at a fraction of what he bought it for, to someone who can repair and rebuild. I guess we’ll see.

  3. Added you via Instagram. Twitter just makes me mad, even pre Musk–I find I’m a much more horrible person there than I am on any other platform. I can easily avoid the likes of Kari Lake or anyone named Trump on Instagram and Facebook, or even tumblr, if I ever get back on it.

  4. Can’t claim I did laps on Twitter, cuz I didn’t. But I can claim I deleted my account when Musk reinstated DT, cuz I did. I grieve for those who vibed with the Tweet form. Perhaps there’ll be a renaissance. Or a new birth?

  5. Yeah I deleted my Twitter, the account, bc fh, the day the guy who has authority over what you will see there and who will see you told people to vote Republican. I’m more concerned with what he will do with that authority and all of the personal data including geotags and god knows what sorts of sentiment analysis machine learning algorithms he is working on off the reactions his shitposts generate. It needs to go. I’ll catch you here. Great seeing you at Doylestown, congrats on the new book, staring at it atop my pile as I write this, can’t wait to read it

  6. I have two twitter accounts and manage my work’s. I deleted my professional personal account, and am close to doing the same for my other personal account. I followed professional folks on that and never posted and linkedin seems like it is a better venue for that so. My personal account I follow authors and comedians and musicians, and I dunno. We are keeping our work account for now, but we’ll see. Personally I have huge ethical issues. Professionally, the lack of moderation is super scary, especially when twitter is a platform where tweets can bankrupt companies or get folks fired. That’s why advertisers have pulled out – their account managers were all fired, the tools they used to post have been borked, and there is a good change that a nazi tweet will be under their ad for b2b software solutions or whatever, so why bother.

    I really hope this is the beginning of the end of the cult of elon. I don’t deny he is a smart man, but his moves with twtter have been so dumb. I could have been a better CEO of Twitter, and I’d be a terrible CEO of Twitter.

    My guess is he is going to bankrupt it so he can wash his hands of it and maybe it will be rebuilt better. Or maybe we are in for social media 3.0 where we are all on our separate weird little niche platforms that further amplify our echo chambers. Or maybe we’ll realize that it’s stopped being fun and maybe spending less time on our phones is a good thing. Nah.

  7. Appreciate your TwitterMigration thread, Chuck. As always.

    Keeping my Twitter account, though no longer active. (Not that it was terrifically active before — I’m not algorithm candy, certainly.) Have added some people I’ve followed on Tw to my mothballed Instagram account, just because.

    Not really interested in Hive or Post; seems like walking back into the whole algorithmic rat race of which I am entirely bored. Figuring new fake games for involvement (became really sick of the Tw “Fake question to prompt response” and its ilk). Tw was truly no fun anymore.

    In contrast, finding Mastodon an absolute treat. Entirely transparent in design. My instance/server isn’t rife with baddies. Just had to tear myself away from an extended many-person discussion on dystopian novels, Emily St. John Mandel, etc., with a side of fast-reads vs. slow-reads and … well, you get the idea.
    Good fit for me. Everyone must find their own best-fit.

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