A slightly different post today, with some personal reflections on removing Twitter from my phone.
I am tired by Twitter now. I am starting to tire of it as well. Amongst the many things we might be giving our time and attention, this is small beer, I realise. I am slightly melancholy about it though.
Twitter has been a source of entertainment, news, information, connection, relationships and ideas for so many years. A part of my daily routine for as long as I care to remember, too. It is a source of few of these things now. It is my go-to source for news still, but little more than that these days.
Some years ago, in my halcyon tweeting days (now a good number of years ago), I was trying to explain to someone why I was so dedicated to the product. My best answer was a quote from Graham Linehan, at that time a heroic figure to me and one of the accounts whose tweets I most valued. He said he followed people he found “interesting and useful” and further, that he could connect with them directly with no, what we now call, friction.
That sense of a boundless source of interesting and useful conversation was a genuinely revolutionary experience for so many, and changed our information and online social worlds. There are plenty of people on Twitter who are great examples of both attributes. My problem is the quality of conversation is now so low that finding the interesting and useful bits involves wading through so much toxic sludge.
The sad tale of Linehans fall from grace exemplifies what Twitter has become. His experience seemed to radicalise him, feeding what became an obsessive campaign. That such a gifted writer became a relentlessly toxic keyboard warrior is the cautionary tale I am listening to closely. His history is the point of an iceberg of self aggrandisement, narcissism and performance that tires me so much now.
I can hear, in my minds ear, the counter argument that Twitter is great if you know how to use it properly. How to mute. How to prune your contacts. How to create lists. How to curate your feed. I am not sure I have the energy for continuing with all that. Plus, if it were a good product, I don’t think it should make me work that hard to realise a basic utility value.
I jettisoned Facebook some years ago and do not miss it at all. I am not quite ready to do that with Twitter yet. It still has that newswire value that does not seem to be available elsewhere. It is the best place to turn when new is breaking. I have deleted it from my phone, however. My thumb is trained to look for it without me. That was a conclusive lesson for me. An addicted thumb is not a healthy development. I look forward to retraining it to do something more productive.
Perhaps the greatest value of Twitter is the insight it can provide into communities I understand poorly and am not a part of. I am not ready to walk away from that quite yet. Black Twitter, Gay Twitter, Trans Twitter etc. are available to observe and learn from. As are Nazi Twitter and Transphobia Twitter. It will always be a messy place.
From a professional point of view, I find Twitter a less effective palace to learn now. Beyond being informed, the quality of debate has deteriorated. It is probably the worst place to make mistakes. The least safe of all spaces, in fact. A great place to lecture is not automatically a great place to learn.
Where else to go though? Do I need anywhere else to go? I am attracted to Mastodon because it is smaller and federated. Also, to returning to Discord because it is not open. Not open or not so open look to be strong trends for the future of social media. Performative yelling and the advertising economics that encourage it are harder to sustain in more private spaces. I suspect our brains are better suited to it as well (with no expertise to substantiate the claim). TikTok is remarkable and more enjoyable as I proceed but it is not a social feed and or a conversational experience.
I made a pact with myself not to mention Elon. That was too hard, other than to say that performative leadership is one of the most toxic infections Twitter has given a home to. The fact that yet another egomaniacal white guy is striding around in this manner is another good reason for melancholy.
So, back to LinkedIn, where everything is groovy.