A little while back I wrote about how Twitter really has no idea what they’re doing. Elon Musk is still trying to buy the company, and it’s unclear whether he’ll succeed or fail, but at this point even if he succeeds it seems like he will fail. Twitter has basically given up on trying to innovate or solve any of its problems; content moderation has given up the ghost and there’s no indication anyone will even attempt to improve it, regardless of Musk’s purchase. In any case, the company is a money pit and if we’re lucky, it’ll ruin Musk.
But Musk isn’t the cause of the site’s many problems. No. He is an effect of the site’s many problems. He’s an emergent phenomenon, the first billionaire shitposter, a product of all of our billions of shitposts. Musk is rewarded for his behavior because we’re all rewarded for this behavior. Despite this, and not because of this, Twitter remains the best of only like two practical options to receive a variety of news on a variety of topics. Twitter is a dumpster, but the only other real site where this is possible, Facebook, is a dumpster sitting out back a fish market. Twitter remains the best English-language syndication engine to reach people who still believe the Earth is round.
Time away from Twitter let me watch from a distance how people behave. The community is bizarre. Twitter is the only place where people practice Death of the Author by trying to bury the author alive. On Twitter, you have to be everything to everyone at all times, and if you’re not, they’ll just make you into whatever they want you to be anyways. Watching the reactions to my signoff piece from a distance was bizarre. One person believed my reference to “Howl” was a callback to Hackers, not a reference to one of the greatest poems of the 20th century, written by a Jewish man who was expelled from Columbia for speech protesting anti-Semitism and for homosexual sex. The same person also assumed that the word count of the article was a reference to Ghost in the Shell, an anime series I have never seen. Another user invoked my name in an argument with someone I don’t know and have never met, accusing me of spreading anti-voting rhetoric in “activist spaces.” I don’t belong to any activist spaces and I don’t vote because Virginia sells voting records of absentee voters, including residential addresses, and this poses a major security risk for me. On Twitter, you’re just a character in everyone’s story, and they’ll write whatever backstory for you they want.
I restored Twitter for a couple simple reasons. One, I’m trying to embrace the Indieweb principle of POSSE: Publish on your Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere. Thus, my social media feeds will be a syndication engine. I’m over the era of giving companies my content and my data. Second, as I’ve said before, I’m working on selling a book (or maybe two!), and some other media projects, so a social media account with a large following is necessary.
Also, there are basic security reasons to keep the account active. A deactivated account can’t use two-factor authentication. Also, people have been creating alternative accounts in my name, a creepy and weird behavior. Having my account active prevents these fake accounts from defaming me.
Shifting towards using Twitter as a syndication engine is a small step towards distributing more social networks. I’m shifting to API-delivered content through my website, and will post soon about how it’s easy to use free or nearly-free infrastructure to build an entirely event-driven distributed model for sharing and receiving content. As I am working on this, I’m realizing how poorly we’ve structured the internet. RSS is awful; even if Google Reader was magically brought back today, it doesn’t map to how we’re using and relating with content today. Tagging sucks. Sharing sucks. There’s so much more we can do. We need an internet designed by writers and artists, not technologists and venture capitalists. We’re not there yet. But until we are, the least I can do is stop giving Twitter my content.