As I write this, journalists are being banned from Twitter for reasons both petty and arbitrary and almost too annoying to even explain. The short of it is that there's an account that tracks and posts the movements of Elon Musk's private jet using publicly-available data. After vowing that he was such a free-speech absolutist back in November that he'd never ban the jet account (which at one point he tried to buy from the literal college kid who runs it), he banned it last night, then un-banned it, then banned it again and is now playing whack-a-mole with journalists and others that are sharing links to the account on other platforms. The long of it is much more convoluted and told in more detail elsewhere.
This is, of course, the latest in a near-constant string of shitty news coming out of Twitter since Musk took over. Some of it has been funny, like the day he opened up bluechecks for anyone with $8 to burn without listening to the people who warned him it would lead to a flood of impersonations, but most of it has just been awful: from firing around three-quarters of the people that work there—in ways also petty and arbitrary—to opening the floodgates for the fascists that had been banned from the platform in recent years, to the predictable racist, homophobic, transphobic, and antisemitic attacks that followed. Twitter is no longer a good place to be.
Which sucks because, for me, despite all the reasons it was intolerable at times, Twitter was where I spent a great deal of my time. It's where I made friends, met colleagues, cracked jokes, built lasting collaborations, and yes, got a little bit famous for a bit. When I'm being honest with myself, I'd say the last decade of my life is probably largely defined by Twitter (oh god), and so the month or two that has passed since Musk took over has felt, to me, a bit like grief.
Look, I get it: Come on man, it's Twitter. But also, you probably understand a little too. Our lives are so intertwined with the technology we use to live them that to lose a space inside our glowing rectangles feels like true loss. Because it is.
I've been weaning myself off Twitter since the first wave of layoffs, and each new hit of news reinforces that it's probably the right move. But it's not an easy one. Every part has been hard. I found my muscle-memory to launch Twitter was so ingrained that I swapped the icon on my phone with Mastodon just to retrain my brain. Hell, I built this entire website from scratch just to establish my presence in a space that I could actually own and control (yes, I could have done that part easier, but I'll always choose the hard way). Mostly, I miss my friends.
I'm still on Twitter occasionally, but my interactions are perfunctory now. Links to new episodes of my podcast, or to the other places people can find me on the internet. When I'm there it feels louder and meaner than I remember, but I think probably it's the same. I want better for Twitter than the awful existence that Musk has charted. But mostly, I want better for us.
Figuring out places to be, ways to keep connections alive, find new methods of sharing experiences with others has been my driving factor of the last month or so, and I think for many of us will define a lot of our 2023. My hope is that we won't simply replace one monolithic platform with another. That we'll take this disruption in routine as an opportunity to further disrupt a status quo that has needed disruption for some time. That we'll try new things, build new things, find new ways to connect that don't simply replicate the patterns of the past but instead move toward a future that feels better for everyone.
Published December 15, 2022.
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