I’ve been on Twitter a long time. I was there when you updated it via SMS, when Tantek started @-ing people, when Chris Messina started pushing the # tag. When the only way to really find new users was #followfriday. I was at FOWA Miami when Blaine Cook was demo-ing it live and the site crashed – the audience watching him get it back up again live on stage while people cheered for the Fail Whale. I went to tweet-ups and Twestivals.
I was there when Stephen Fry and Ashton Kutcher ruined it the first time.
There never seems to have been a time where the platform wasn’t in crisis – it has stumbled from dysfunctional era to dysfunctional era with ever more incompetent leadership and eccentric (at best) decision making.
On a number of occasions some terrible decision has led me to temporarily flee to different platforms but it never sticks. Twitter has always had a unique gravitational pull for me because for all its flaws (and god knows they are endless) it is where I found my people.
Twitter is like community archaeology for me – my timeline is made up of people from my Jisc days, current and former Bristolians, open data and open source people, comic book people, data journalists and just plain old journalists whose opinions I’ve come to trust, people who heard me give a talk and of course a lot of digital government and civic tech people. Even in digital gov though it is a mix of old-timers, newcomers, folk far from the UK (I have made great Twitter friends in Canada and NZ in particular who I ended up getting to meet in person.) Twitter is my network and my network is me. It is the mix of all those people, opinions and perspectives that makes it addictive – the crazy firehose of noise that should not work is what has always been compelling to me.
I’ve always worked hard to keep my timeline a safe space – my timeline is always Latest tweets only, I mute and block liberally and have done since that was possible – individuals and keywords. I don’t follow brands or ‘celebs’ or politicians…but I know this is easier for me. I’m a middle-aged, white bloke who while would certainly be considered on the ‘woke’ side by many rarely strays into those shark infested waters and when I do I don’t fit the profile of someone who gets targeted.
This time does feel different than the previous mass migrations. The Muskrat seems intent on setting light to the entire place – which was already an unsafe, vandalised mess after years of neglect and poor decisions – like New York in the 1970s. Twitter lasted longer than anybody expected but it is hardly unheard of for tech giants to wither and die (or explode and vanish) and honestly that currently feels like the most likely conclusion to this ownership era.
For what it is worth though I won’t be moving to Mastodon like so many. I’ve tried before and it doesn’t work for me. I understand some of the appeal but I’m not really interested in returning to the world of message board admins drunk with power (which is what it seems like server admins could become) any more than I want that from ego driven billionaires. Also – and this is the real kicker – too much of my experience on Mastodon has been all the sanctimony, none of the sarcasm. It makes me grind my teeth. I need more balance in my social media diet.
So I’m going down with the ship on Twitter – either it burns down around me or I wake up one day and it is a ghost town – but I’ll be there until the bitter end.