drawing of a tombstone with the Twitter bird on it

This post has nothing to do with their business practices. Even in the time BE,1 the company rarely made a profit and it was hard for anyone but a financial analyst to see how it might be worth tens of billions of dollars.

In the time since the new owner took over, the best description I’ve seen of the current situation (posted on Twitter, of course) is that of a dumpster fire, rolling out-of-control downhill, headed towards a bus full of nuns at the edge of a cliff. I need a graphic of that.

Instead what I want to talk about is the platform itself from a longtime active user’s point of view (since June 2007). In that time, I’ve found Twitter to be both enjoyable and useful, and will miss it when it’s gone. Or when I abandon the bird.

For me, there have always been five important aspects to getting the greatest value from Twitter, things which also apply to other social media platforms.

1. It’s all about who you follow.

I can’t emphasize this enough. If you’re going to follow celebrities (aka “influencers”), politicians, and corporations, don’t be surprised when your stream is overloaded with self-promotions and lots of crap from strangers who are disgruntled about something.

For the most part, I only follow people with whom I have had some kind of direction connection – or creators whose non-tweet work I enjoy. That simple rule alone makes for a much nicer stream.

2. Less is More.

I don’t understand people who who follow thousands or even tens of thousands of accounts. Their stream must flow at a completely unintelligible rate.

I try to keep the number of feeds I follow under three hundred (right now it’s over 400 and in need of pruning) so that I can reasonably follow what’s going on when I open the app. I’ve learned not to feel bad for unfollowing someone when their tweets stop working for me. Selfish, I know.

3. Getting value from Twitter takes work.

As with any social relationship (even a virtual one), the more good stuff you add to it, the more good stuff you’re going to get from it. That may sound a little naive, but it’s true. If you tweet out thoughtful, interesting ideas, you will find others to follow who do the same.

4. Twitter is not a conversation.

While there are some conversational aspects to the way it’s used, it’s very difficult to have a meaningful discussion by bouncing 280 characters back and forth among multiple people. I know people who try, but it just doesn’t work for me. Texting, by the way, is only slightly better.

5. Finally, Twitter is not real life.

Although the service has been adopted for some serious purposes – messaging around disasters and social protest organizing, for example – it is still no substitute for more substantial interactions. On the other hand, some of my interactions on Twitter have lead to some pretty nice connections out here in real life, so there’s another benefit I’ve received from tweeting.

Anyway, that’s my defense, such as it is.

Now I know there are too many people spreading all kinds of crap (and worse) on the platform, something that’s was getting worse before all the turmoil around ownership. But, because I’ve adopted the above approach, I don’t see much of it. I suppose that’s hiding from the problem.

Because of the chaos being inflicted by the rich baby now in charge, lots of people I know are playing with alternatives to Twitter, either because they actively want to leave or are afraid the service will implode on its own. Or both. Many have been trying out Mastodon, which I registered for back in 2018 and forgot the account was there.

Should I make a full switch to Mastodon? Stick with Twitter and ride it out to the end? Invest my time in another social media platform (which sure isn’t Facebook)? Or give up on the virtual approach to social networking all together?

Maybe the age of social media really is ending. Stay tuned.

Pundits have been writing about demise of Twitter since long before the new owner took over. The graphic above is from a 2020 article on Medium (a social publishing platform) asking “Is Twitter Dead?

1. BE = Before the new owner. You know who that is without my having to type the name.