Hello and welcome to Enough Already, where I discuss trends, tropes, and behavior that we really need a break from. This one’s more topical than most of my blogs, but I think it needs to be said.
As many of you are aware, Twitter (as of the end of October 2022) was bought by billionaire Elon Musk, and in just a few weeks, the situation over there became chaotic. Musk fired nearly half the staff of Twitter during his first week, several others were fired for criticizing him (some fired publicly via tweet), while others resigned. And then this past week (as of Saturday, November 19th, 2022) came the already infamous ‘ultimatum’ issued to remaining Twitter employees to either be ‘hardcore’ and work extra hours, or take three months’ severance pay and leave the company. A great many chose the latter.
(And that’s not even getting into the ‘Twitter Blue’ fiasco, in which what was once a means of telling actual celebrities and businesses from imposters was turned into a means of making money: suddenly, anyone could have a blue check mark if they paid $8 for it, resulting in dozens of impersonations of celebrities and businesses).
With many of those former Twitter employees having been people responsible for content moderation and site maintenance, many people are now wondering just how long Twitter is going to be around. They fear that if things keep going the way they’re going, Twitter might end up dying. An idea that seemed ridiculous and unthinkable a year ago due to Twitter’s huge role in our public discourse now seems a very real possibility.
And while some are sad at the possible end to Twitter, a number of other people are gleeful about it. They never liked Twitter, and only saw it as a toxic cesspool of negativity, trolling, and vitriol (among other unpleasant things), even before Musk came along. And some people just thoughtlessly celebrated because it meant the humiliation of some billionaire who bought a social media platform to make into his vanity project only for it to fall apart because he didn’t understand how it really worked.
As for me, I never really cared for Twitter. I’ve never had a Twitter account, and I still don’t have one. The aforementioned negativity/trolling/vitriol was one turnoff, but I also never really understood the need for a character limit when platforms without such character limits already existed. When Twitter first appeared, I didn’t think Twitter would last very long, and the (at the time) 140 character limit was the reason why.
It’s hard to get good points across when you’re faced with a character limit. Some thoughts and some ideas can’t be boiled down to a one or two sentence sound byte. Even expanding the limit to 280 characters wouldn’t really help much. While some got around it by making whole ‘threads’ numbering their multi-part posts, it’s not the same as having everything in one post where you don’t have to worry about seeing a few sentences taken out of context.
But much to my surprise, Twitter caught on, and became one of the biggest social media platforms ever. Celebrities, corporations, politicians, writers, journalists, and more used it to promote themselves, their businesses, their shows, movies, articles, whatever. What people said in their tweets became the subject of headlines everywhere in the media. TV showrunners and online game content creators answered questions from the audience via Twitter. Tweets were quoted and cited in articles everywhere.
Despite its limitations, Twitter became a HUGE success. It’s become part of our culture, to the point where it’s hard to imagine a world without ‘tweets’. Of course with its success came the downsides — lots of people saying bad things on it, or embarrassing themselves with poorly thought out remarks (and the fact that the character limit encourages people to just throw out a few sentences and post them without thinking doesn’t help), spreading misinformation, and so on. Like all social media, Twitter is a double-edged sword: It has its good and its bad sides.
But even though I’ve never actually had a Twitter account, I fully understand how people have built communities there. They’ve promoted their small businesses, or their websites, or their artwork, on one of the most high-profile platforms there is.
And some of these people are rightly concerned about what the chaos that began in late October of 2022 means for the site. ToughPigs, a Muppet fan site, mentioned how Twitter brought them together with a whole bunch of other Muppet fans they might not otherwise have met, and mourn the possible loss of what they’ve built there. So in a recent post (linked in the previous sentence), they discuss the possible demise of Twitter and mention their other social media presences on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, in order so that they can keep their connections to the greater Muppet fan community.
A lot of communities of fans will be affected should Twitter fall apart. And many small businesses are also concerned as well. While the big corporations will be fine regardless of what happens to Twitter, the smaller businesses who relied heavily on Twitter are now wondering what their options are should Twitter no longer be a viable platform for them.
So while I’ve never been on Twitter, I can still empathize with all these people. I’ve had similar experiences in my online life.
I’ve been a part of many Internet communities, and seen online projects go down before. I’ve seen the end of Prodigy Classic and a few hobby BBS boards. I’ve seen popular web sites go down or change dramatically to where they’re no longer recognizable. I’ve seen the end of the Livejournal and MySpace eras. I’ve seen some MUDs (or incarnations of the same MUD) come and go.
It’s always sad when a site or whatever hosting an Internet community — or several Internet communities — goes down. There’s always the uncertainty, the separation anxiety, and the sadness that something that was a large portion of your life is now coming to an end. If you’re lucky, you get plenty of advance warning that it’s about to happen: Enough to recommend new online hangouts for your friends and everyone else in your favorite communities, and enough time to have other places set up long before the lights are finally turned out at the previous site.
But still, it’s the end of something. So really, while one may have issues with the way Twitter is currently being run (or the way it has been run in the past), one should never lose site of the fact that people still bonded there, formed communities, and used its powers for good. These people are caught in the middle of this chaos, and didn’t ask for any of this. So don’t be so quick to gravedance on Twitter – there are plenty of people negatively affected by this who are not in a celebrating mood.
All that being said, the question is: Is Twitter shutting down? Will Twitter still be around a year after I post this blog?
My guess it that it probably will, though it’ll probably be a shell of its former self. Even if people are put in charge who know what they’re doing, the damage has already been done. Credibility lost in the manner it has this past month can’t be easily regained. Many people are already setting up new accounts on Mastadon, and/or giving Tumblr another try or a first try, or strengthening their Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Youtube presences. Though many will still be on Twitter just to wait and see if it manages to make it through the current storm, they know that it’s best not to keep all their eggs in one basket.
The other question is: If Twitter does go down (or at the very least declines to the point where while it’s still technically around, it’s no longer considered as viable as it was before), what other platforms will rise to take its place? That’s a question I don’t think any of us can really answer at this point. We’ll just have to wait and see.
But in any case, it does feel like the end of an era. And it’s perfectly all right for people to feel a bit sad about it.
I think I’ve said all I have to say about this for now. If you have any thoughts about your relationship with Twitter, feel free to leave your comments. All I ask is that you be civil.