The Bird Site Is Fucked


It is, I think, the sensation of a phantom limb: it itches, the limb that doesn’t exist anymore, and so I want to scratch it even though nothing will ever satisfy or resolve that sensation. It’s like how I sometimes want to call one of my parents even though moments later I am reminded, “That’s right, they’re both dead.” This is Twitter for me at this point. It’s a severed limb, a dead place, a broken tooth, and yet the old urge to poke at it remains present. So I go over there, even though I’m mostly gone from it, and I rubberneck — and oh boy, there’s always something to rubberneck. Twitter right now is a live camera feed watching a highway in an ice storm — you tune in and watch car crash after car crash, the constant shriek of metal, the spinning out of vehicles, carfires burning effulgent in the whiteout blizzard, and when you get a clear moment, when you squint, you realize every last one of those burning cars is a fucking Tesla.

I don’t need to regale the entire stretch of the Musky Reign so far, but the short and sweet is, a billionaire narcissist with skin thinner than shaved prosciutto stretched precariously over a honeydew melon is, nearly every hour of every day, cocainedly shoving more and more of Twitter into the shit-tubes. He’s re-platforming Nazis. He’s de-platforming journalists. He’s replying to every Arkham Asylum villain as if they’re serious pundits and thinkers. He’s winking at Q-Anon. And that’s just in the last few fucking days.

It isn’t going great.

It’s also hella glitchy. And bots are having a field day. I’ve gotten promoted tweets from accounts that are clearly faking real businesses — I saw on from a Dr. Marty’s Pet Food that had 1 follower, and was pretending to sell the dog food but leading you to a janky, insecure link that was absolutely not the website of that company, nor was it from the Twitter account of that company. Not that blue-checks even matter anymore, because you can buy one for a back alley handjob. Plus, Twitter is forcing me to see Tesla tweets and Musk tweets — I don’t get them as promoted tweets. I get them just in my feed, as if I follow those accounts, which I most certainly do not. Hell, I blocked Musk — and mysteriously, he’s unblocked, now. What fun.

Twitter is no longer working as intended. Maybe it’s working as intended for him, though even there, I’m dubious. (His tantrum last night in Twitter Spaces — before he swiftly deleted all of Twitter Spaces — is telling.)

Like Tesla stock, and arguably like the cars themselves, he’s crashing and burning the whole thing. Maybe on purpose. I dunno. Probably to some degree on purpose, though I don’t know that he knows he’s crashing it and letting it burn. Part of me thinks he’s simply following his egomaniacal urges and trying to apply autocratic control over any space online that has ever been mean to him. A user suggested he buy Substack to control the “narrative layer” of the Internet, and he said he was open to the idea, because really, that’s what he wants. He wants to control the flow of information, and will make lots of lofty proclamations about free speech and both sides and wank-wank-wank, but really he just wants to make sure you’re not being mean to him or telling people where his plane has flown recently. It is deeply pathetic. We should expect his $99 NFT collection in short order.

And all of this would be fun to watch if he weren’t also using it to shield himself in a ring of Neo-Nazis and insurrectionists and *-gater types. He’s invited every Wormtongue in the digital kingdom to whisper in his ear, and he’s listening. And he’s using it to elevate antisemitism, transphobia, crusades against his enemies, and so on. Which means the longer we stay there, the more we are also helping to elevate it, because at the end of the day, Twitter is a platform that relies on advertising. And advertising will be propped up by numbers, and those numbers are not just about users, but about user engagement. So, if we’re over there engaging wildly and wantonly, over time that’s going to give cover to advertisers to come back. And it’ll be difficult to say to, f’rex, Apple, “Hey, are you sure you want your advertising next to all this bigotry?” while also tweeting from the very stage that is centering that bigotry. All our tweets are advertising, in a sense, and so one wonders if it’s really fair to ask advertisers to stop using the site if we cannot commit to the same.

As noted before, I understand the impulse to think you can somehow claim Twitter is “ours” and rah-rah-rah, we will defend our communities and fight Musk on the digital beaches, but they’re his digital beaches, your tweets are his tweets, he has the whole thing. It’s a private company and he mostly likes that you’re mad because it creates engagement. And engagement makes money.

I don’t begrudge folks for not leaving. As noted, I’m still technically there, and I don’t intend to delete. We have communities there, and for artists and authors and such, it’s a place we’ve long used to try to peddle the weird things we’ve made, and losing that is a very serious loss. So, there’s no harm or foul in continuing to be there, but I do think we are at the point you need to vigorously be planning your escape vector and eyeing that Eject Button. I’ll continue to RT anti-Muskian stuff because, fuck that fucking guy. I’ll continue to try to use the site as a loose and shallow vector for promotion and signal boosting other good books and such. But beyond that I’m not going to use it to provide quote-unquote CONTENT. I’m not looking for virality or deep thoughts and I’m not gonna post photos or anything anymore. My usage there continues to dwindle and I hope you see you all elsewhere in the grand cyber-veldt.

(Failing all else, maybe I’ll just buy a phone line and start a BBS. Start that sweet, sweet SysOp life once more, baby. Woo! Retro! Lo-fi internet!)

Hive Social is back up, apparently resolving some janky security issues. I do not vouch for it or its security, but I’ll use it because, I dunno, I have to try something and for all its jank, I still like it. (Note, it’s app only, no desktop. Requires a new update to use.)

I’m at Post, too, @chuckwendig there. (Desktop only, no app.)

Of course, Instagram, @chuck_wendig.

Mastodon, sure, I’m there riding the elephant, @chuckwendig at mastodon dot social, link here.

Exodus and exile continues.

See you on the spiderwebs, frandos.


26 responses to “The Bird Site Is Fucked”

  1. Chuck, you nailed it. I’m treating it much the same way, in fact, my Twitter bio reads “broadcast only” because I refuse to create engagement in a space that’s such a festering pile of week-old medical waste. I’m on those other platforms and hope that one of them jumps out as the clear leader soon (high hopes for Hive. Fingers crossed).

  2. I deactivated my bird site account, which basically emptied my account out, then reactivated and locked it. I go there a couple of times a week to see what’s up, then leave within minutes when I realise it’s worse than ever. Get out of there, man. Cut the cord.

  3. “We should expect his $99 NFT collection in short order.” Yes, that’s what I’ve been thinking. This whole thing is like a time-lapse film. But the disruption seems to be the point. Otherwise, why pay 44-billion just to turn the bird-site into an alt-right space? — they’ve already got those!

  4. Speaking of old BBS systems, The Well still exists, well.com believe it or not. I’ve been hanging out there for nearly 30 years now.

    We watched this whole internet thing get built from scratch. When I first got onto NSFNet as it was just turning into the corporatized internet we know today, you just got dumped at Unix prompt. There literally was no graphical web at the time, just plain old ASCii.

    We built it all and we can do it again, if we want to. We can make it whatever we want it to be. Read Ben Tarnoff, https://www.wired.com/story/ben-tarnoff-socialist-internet/ He’s smart about this stuff.

  5. I’ve come to the same conclusion and I’m doing the same thing: Trolling the owner of Twitter until he bans me. I’ve enjoyed Mastodon, but the biggest change for me has been updating my RSS feed (YouTube works in RSS? I had no idea!).

    Maybe I’ll go see what LiveJournal is up to.

  6. I was a forum moderator in another life, and I’m going to give Musk the benefit of the doubt . . . to a very limited extent. It’s easy to claim free speech absolutism, it’s quite another thing to follow through. Moderation leads you to the gray areas of free speech more often than not, and sometimes the only good option is the east bad one. I think Musk is just learning that, but he’s treated this whole affair like a political campaign, complete with slogans and promises. It doesn’t help that he has a big ol’ thumb on the scales. I dunno – I can see a future where Twitter puts out the dumpster fire and turns into something better, but it requires Musk to acknowledge the problem and take the challenge seriously.

    Nevermind, I just realized I was reciting fiction.

    • BTW, I used to be a marketing exec specialising in new markets and products. The electric car market is going exactly to pattern, especially when the new market is a subset of an existing one (cars and road transport). The early market is full of entrepreneurs, daring people with original minds, and the profits increase exponentially. Then they go to doubling, as the market increases. The big names in that market watch, and then secure a foothold, a small claim. Watch how they slowly grow and push out the early pioneers. As the market matures, grows more slowly percentage-wise, but offers bigger returns to enterprises that can use economies of scale and a better interface between it and the outer world (Ford owns garages and outlets for instance) the pioneer finds it harder to compete. They either sell out to the established names, or they become lesser names, and pick away at the edges.
      A few pioneers make it, but that happens a lot less frequently these days, and it’s usually in the brand new markets, like home computing in the 90s.
      It’s going to happen here, too. I’m hanging on in Twitter, because it, or the remnants of it, will eventually be sold.

  7. I deleted my years old bird account that had a decent following because I refuse to be even a single number that he can use for self promotion. I moved over to counter social. It’s a good spot. App is pretty easy to learn and it has desktop. I miss seeing my author types tho

  8. Spot on and terribly sad. I wish there was a true alternative that worked well. Time will tell. My other wish, and it could be misguided, is that someone could buy it away from him and make it like Wikipedia or some other non-profit co-op type thing. It is a hugely valuable public resource. Tim Cook maybe with Apple pocket change?

  9. If you acknowledge that your time spent engaged in any way with the site is giving the site a veneer of legitimacy, then you are willing to accede that the hatred and bigotry isn’t enough to get you to stop engaging. Until a majority of people stop engaging the site will have that veneer, and the hatred and bigotry will become even more embedded in our culture. Your analogy of watching a video feed of car crashes is apt-you are happily warm and safe, nothing you can do will affect the people in the cars, so you can watch in fascinated horror and eat your Doritos. Maybe it’s time to put on your coat and boots and go help the people on the roads.

    • My time on the site has dropped like, 90%. I’m barely present. Enough to RT some Eat Shit, Elon Musk tweets and some promo and to check some vital sources that as yet are not replicated elsewhere (like, say, some local weather people who have more granular and up-to-date weather data than weather dot gov). The metaphor of watching a car crash and then helping people in the crash is absurd. I also can’t delete my account, as were I to do that, someone else is just going to scoop up @ChuckWendig. So I leave the account there, use it for promo and signal boost, and that’s it. I’m offering no new “content,” nothing particularly enticing, and such minimal engagement that it’s not contributing to the larger body of clicks-and-eyeballs.

  10. I deleted my 8 yo account the day he fired most of the staff in direct violation of most states and many countries labour laws.

  11. Musky Reign- love it. He’s an attention whore, pure and simple. I think he’s going to wear out his welcome and interest in him may be fading by the end of 2023- my hope anyway.

  12. “a billionaire narcissist with skin thinner than shaved prosciutto stretched precariously over a honeydew melon”

    Mmmm… prosciutto and melon.

    Twitter supposedly pissed off Musk at some point. Musk bought Twitter to burn it down, and doesn’t care about the cost, as the bill is (as usual) footed with other people’s money. He’ll soon get bored with it and move on to something else. Whatever the outcome, it’ll be applauded as a masterful gambit by Musk’s fan base of nutswinging poors and parental-basement-dwelling cryptopeddlers.

    Occam’s razor doesn’t always cut it, but most times a cigar is just a cigar.

  13. I deactivated my account on account of his dumb ass tweets always blowing up my feed. I couldn’t bear to see his face. I’m proud of myself for getting out before he had a tweet that managed to both push covid misinformation AND transphobia.

    To me, though, this was like waking up in a my own urine to realize maaaaybe a substance that had been doing me harm all along was finally not worth it anymore.

    There will be other spaces soon. Fuck that guy.

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