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.