Twitter Didn't Deserve This--and Neither Did We

I’m slowly finding my way around how I want to be perceived on places like Micro.blog and a private Discord chat I participate in with other writers. It’s not easy. I feel like I have to change who I am depending on where I post.

I didn’t have that feeling with Twitter. I could be as serious as I needed to be, or shit post with the best of ‘em. I could tweet a plea for help, or a dad joke, or a link to a ‘90s music video without worrying about what people would think of me.

They could unfollow or not. That was it.

And that’s what made Twitter special. It was big. So big, it was easy to feel like a drop in the ocean. I didn’t make the biggest ripple, but a few people felt my presence.

Twitter’s sheer size gave me and other content creators a nearly endless audience, while also allowing us to find our communities within it. If I wanted to, I could focus my tweets on “writer Twitter,” before moving on to “film Twitter” or “tech Twitter.”

While Discords and Mastodon instances offer possible new outlets for people to talk about their passions, they also make it hard to be anything other than what you do. I joined a Mastodon instance for people who fancy themselves philosophers, academics, and writers and there are some really fascinating discussions going on in there.

No way would I post a picture of a baby hippo with the caption “The perfect fren shape” and expect anyone to take me seriously. Nor would I feel comfortable tweeting links to my books and asking people to support me monetarily.

That kind of thing is expected on Twitter because it’s a free-for-all come-and-go-as-you-please void. Mastodon instances and Discords are like dinner parties. There are rules, written and unwritten, about what you can/should say and how much feces you’re allowed to smear on the walls (hint: none feces).

And that’s really why no Twitter alternatives have stuck with me–and why I don’t think they’ll stick long-term with anyone else. Twitter is far from perfect, but what it does do is unify people all over the world under one roof and then allow them to filter out the noise as they see fit.

It’s a news platform, a town square, a networking tool, and Craigslist all-in-one. Elon wanted to build an everything app that would combine chat, payments, news, ride sharing, and more, just like WeChat has done in China and what he failed to realize was that he already had it.

Twitter could have been that app, or at least come close to it, but instead, Musk squandered it. He came in like the T-Rex at the end of Jurassic Park and started flinging his tail around, destroying everything in his path.

Elon Musk is not a smart man. He is successful despite his incompetence because he’s at least smart enough to hire smarter people to actually run his other companies. But not Twitter. No, he had to fuck that one up all by himself and now we’re worse off because of it.

Twitter was a cesspool and a haven for Nazis and Republicans to spew hate to anyone who would listen. It needed work, but as a tool, it was in a league all its own. I don’t think there will be anything like it ever again. Facebook will die as the Metaverse takes all of Zuckerberg’s money and attention (and inevitably fizzles out). Mastodon is too federated to survive, especially as certain servers grow too popular and expensive to maintain. And all the other random networks popping up aren’t mainstream enough to break through.

And as much as I love micro.blog, not everyone is going to pay $5 a month for their own little corner of the Internet. Plus, there are things I believe the service would need to do to make the switch easier for people, which may not be in its best interest. Sadly, micro.blog is too niche to be the new Twitter (though I feel more comfortable to be myself here than I do on Mastodon or Discord).

So that’s it. Elon Musk broke Twitter and made the internet a lot worse. Now where do we go?