I went to a small liberal arts college that was around 70% women — it was one fraternity and, if I recall, four or five sororities. It was a nice school, emphasis on nice. Parties were never huge. It was pleasant, if not always entirely exciting.
Then, one day, I was invited to a party at a Big University. This one, at PITT. So, I went to this party, and my first image of that party was that, outside on the sidewalk, there was a couch. And that couch was on fire. Not a raging fire, I think just the arm? But it was on fire.
The party would escalate from there. There was a dog fight on the front porch (not the kind you bet on, but the kind where two people brought dogs and they got into a fight). A meth dealer wandered in at one point. (He was, if I recall, quite friendly.) There was a lot of drinking and throwing up. Hallucinogens were at play. It was a blast. It was also the kind of party where you think, pretty constantly, “This could get fucked up kinda fast.” Like, it was already on an edge, teetering like a car on a rock at the lip of a cliff. One person gets in or out of the car and the whole thing is going over.
Related: yesterday I joined the Newest Social Media Network, Bluesky.
(No, I don’t have an invite code for you. I’ve no idea how to get one.)
Bluesky — which should really be BlueSky, because otherwise it reads like “blooski” — is almost exactly Twitter. Which makes sense, because it was ushered into existence by Jack Dorsey who, y’know, ran Twitter. It looks like Twitter. It acts like Twitter. It vibes like Twitter. More specifically, it vibes like Twitter from the early days of 2008. It has a wild, feral-cat aura about it. It’s shitposter central, right now: memelords rule the wasteland, and honestly, it’s a lot of fun. It has an energy that the other social media replacements haven’t really manifested yet.
And yet, it’s a lot like that party. Or put differently, it’s like a Philly sports game. We’re all having fun and the team is winning and woooooo. But the energy in the air is weird, and at any point people might start flipping cars or throwing batteries at Santa Claus. The hunger for people to dunk on is tightening everyone’s jaws. (Heidi Moore posted a good thread about the vibe here. As one user said: “too many predators in the ecosystem. where are the deer.” And yes, ironically, that thread is on Twitter. Sue me.) It doesn’t take much to turn shitposts into something else, something worse.
Pretty fast you can see that the biggest downside to the place is that there is…
No way to block people.
I just want to say that again:
You cannot block other users.
You can mute them.
But they can see you.
You cannot block other users.
This, to me, is a bedrock basic-ass social media necessity. There is no safety in a place where you cannot block other users. You can be harassed, stalked, threatened, and so forth, because there is no block and, far as I can tell, minimal moderation. I understand there are reasons for this, I guess, in terms of how the coding happened (the service will be diffuse and decentralized, more like Mastodon)? And it’s reportedly coming, the ability to block other users. But for me, blocking as a functionality should be a day one priority. It’s like designing a sports car without any windshield. Without it, you’re eating bugs and dust.
Also, the current name for posts over there is “skeets.”
As in, I skeeted on the blooski? Eeennh. Hmm. Okay. Skeets is funny. It’s hilarious. And no serious platform will ever survive calling them that. I may be wrong (and part of me very much hopes I am wrong) but I just don’t see a celebrity saying seriously about how you can find them skeeting on the blooski. A newscaster, “The shooting suspect skeeted violent images on his blooski…”
Then again, stranger things have happened.
So for me part of the question is always, how valuable is this for writers? As yet, not very — there’s not much Writer Community happening there, nor do I see a lot of promotion. Or news or serious talk of any kind. It’s honestly mostly shitposters. (A fascinating choice to have opened the platform up to that before, say, more serious journalists or celebrities. Probably smart? Also weird?) But I also figure it could become something. If they open the gates wide on this there’s very little stopping it from becoming The New Twitter, in the sense that it is mostly The Old Twitter, just without Elon Musk. (This is not an endorsement of Jack, to be clear, only that he, unlike Musk, is not likely sitting there at his computer with his pants unbuttoned, fondling himself as he talks to someone named Cat Turd on His Big Boy Platform.) It feels like, once they start… you know, making Bluesky a safer place, it could go big.
Then again, it will just as likely belly flop into pig shit, as most of the other platforms have. I mean, on the one hand, we’re all just looking for Next Twitter. On the other hand, Twitter wasn’t that fucking great before, so to replace it with… itself? Well, that’s also not ideal. (And there’s a thread about Bluesky’s terms of service being pretty problematic for content creators, but I also find that panic about terms of service is often quite easy, and further, the creators have said they’re going to work on it. Even still, keep your eyes open and remain generally wary. No social media platform is your friend.)
How are those other platforms doing, by the way? A quick rundown from me, from my POV, anyway —
Twitter is a front row seat to the apocalypse. It is the Champagne of Doomscrollers. But the fun is nearly dead. Musk fucked it all up, and it wasn’t even that great before. Engagement is also extra-fucked. Tweets are erratic in if they’re even seen at all. It’s not awesome. It is the walking dead.
Facebook is, well, who fucking cares. It is only a walled garden for me.
Tumblr, I dunno, I don’t yet use it much, but I know Chuck Tingle was just saying he still digs it over there, and for writers, seems like there’s meaningful value.
Post is boring. Are people even on Post still? Did I dream Post? Was it real?
Hive is — well, I dunno. I haven’t checked, which probably tells you how Hive is doing. I really liked it before the wheels came off. Not sure it can come back. I wouldn’t hate if it did. I liked it, in theory. It had just enough to feel like it was different from Twitter while still vibing like Twitter.
Mastodon — honestly, I still like it. It’s like an oaty bran cereal. I think I want something more exciting but inevitably I return to it. No algorithm, and despite that, still good engagement, lots of chatter and conversation.
Spoutible is real quiet. Maybe just down to the communities I follow bailed on it. But they did. And now it’s quiet. Most of my timeline comprises retweets, er, reskeets, er, respouts from like, one or two people.
Instagram is part of Facebook and so it is by its nature, awful, but I can’t lie, I still like it, and use it, and have a generally good time there.
TikTok is probably great, readers love it, writers seem to like it, I remain off it lest I destroy it with my cringe. I have thought about migrating Heirloom Apple Reviews there, but not sure the juice would be worth the squeeze.
And finally, why am I even talking about this at all? Why does it matter? It may not. But social media for a long time has been one of the ways writers and artists connect in part with their audience and doubly so with their communities. And publishers have shoved a lot of our collective eggs into those baskets, so when Twitter really shits the bed, we need to find alternatives. We were kicked out of the plane without a parachute, and we either need to figure out how to build one while falling, or somehow dive into another fucking plane.
Otherwise, we’re gonna pancake into viscera when we hit the ground.
So. Those are my thoughts. Very personal, YMMV, you likely have very different views of this stuff, and that’s entirely fine.