This post started as a Twitter thread but, as I was writing, it seemed more appropriate as a rant here on the blog, both because of the subject matter and the increasing length. Feel free to bail out now.
I started my relationship with Twitter in June 2007. The company had only opened to the public about a year earlier and the site was getting a lot of buzz at the NECC conference in Atlanta that year.1 This was, of course, in the pre-smartphone era so we were all using laptops to experiment with this new concept. No walking and tweeting.
Ten years later, I was very active on Twitter. Although I signed up for just about every social media platform that came along, this was the only channel that I spent any time and effort on using. I had a nice list of friends and colleagues who regularly posted ideas and information.
But it was also around 2017 that Twitter started heading downhill. It became harder to create and maintain a community without getting an infestation of trolls and bots. The overall mood was shifting to something less fun and more angry. It only got worse during the pandemic.
And then came the change in ownership five months ago. Seems like forever ago.
As I posted just last month, I held out a little optimism for continuing to use Twitter despite the stupid moves from the new management. As long as I had some control over my window into the stream and was able to shut out much of the rancor, it continued to have value.
However, that pretty much ended last week when the chief twit decided to shut down the APIs2 that enabled the third-party apps I use to access Twitter. Those programs, first Twitterrific and now TweetBot, allow me to avoid all the “promoted” (aka ads) and “you might like” (suggestions from the algorithm) tweets. My stream was almost entirely from the people I chose to see.
Now, if I want to continue with Twitter, I’m forced to use their website and apps, and doing so I relinquish all control of my experience. I would be forced into the toxic experience that is fast becoming the norm on the platform. I’d rather not.
Going forward, I won’t be deleting my account. Unless something drastic happens (on the positive side), I will be interacting with Twitter in the way I do with Facebook and several other social media accounts. Check in once or twice a month to see what friends and family have posted but not adding any posts of my own to the stream. The experience will be strictly view-only.
As also mentioned in a previous post, I have been experimenting with Mastodon as a replacement for Twitter but so far, I can’t say it’s a good fit. Not because of the tools, but because I haven’t yet found a community that works for me. Still unsure that enough people can get their head around the idea of “federated” social networking, as opposed to centralized, and make it work for them.
Maybe it will come. After all, it took years build a stream I enjoyed following on Twitter. Or maybe it won’t happen at all. Maybe the whole concept of “social media” does need to die and we dial back to more networking and less broadcasting.
Anyway, while we all watch how the Twitter mess, and all the other chaos around social media, unfolds, I’ll still be here blogging away. If you think about it, the blog was Twitter’s great grandfather. Same for most of those other platforms. And RSS still lives and remains a viable (although somewhat confusing to most people) networking tool.
Thanks for reading all the way to the end of this post. Think of it like an extremely verbose tweet and feel free to add a reply in the comment section. I don’t have any trolls or bots hanging around (that I know of) but you’re welcome to be the first.
In the first few years of its existence, Twitter grew in popularity much faster than its capacity. Getting the Twitter fail whale instead of your tweet stream was not uncommon.
1. The name wasn’t changed to ISTE until 2009.
2. For the non-techies, APIs are coding links and tools that allow outsiders to use features of a platform or operating system in their application. Basically, they are why developers are able to make all those non-Apple, non-Android apps you use on your phone.