Here’s why I stopped long-form blogging all those years ago: I didn’t see the point of it.
Because, you see, No Audience. No Pushback. By 2013 the blogosphere was already in decline. Too many of us out there, no way to share ideas with Others without having to turn oneself into a Brand, to attract them. Not everybody can do that. Not everybody wants to do that.
So, the choice then became: (1) Continue to type out into the silent darkness, (2) pick a relevant Big Blog and hang out in the comments section, or (3) Social Media?
I can talk to myself all day offline, so (1) is out (and yet… here I am). I’ve tried Option (2) several times over the past couple of decades, but the end-result is inevitable (the monkey-primate dynamics that befall any mid-sized semi-permanent group eventually become too much to bear and I give up– life is way too short to waste any of it fighting with clout-chasers on somebody else’s blog). And, so: Option 3. In this case, Twitter. My account was created back in 2009, but 2012-2013 was when I decided it was probably going to be my only online outlet for at least awhile. (“Awhile” has now been about… ten years).
2009-2015 Twitter was the most meritocratic of that crop of SM sites. Your account was “equal” to that of your favorite celebrities/writers/experts. Anyone could tweet at anyone (as long as they weren’t blocked). Any clever rando might find themselves briefly elevated to celebrity status, purely on wit and merit (some even founded professional careers). You might even occasionally get a Like or good-faith Reply from one of your “Betters” from time to time. Conversely, somebody you’d never met was free to come out of nowhere and argue with you, regardless of how astute you thought your 140-character insight may have been. Yes, eight times out of ten it will be abusive drek– but sometimes, something useful. Something you didn’t know. An angle you hadn’t thought of… or sometimes, even, (perish the thought!) an actual correction of fact.
It was also a place where nothing stayed secret for very long. That racist joke from 2006? Someone will find it, then screencap and retweet it at your expense. Are you a journalist who just wrote an article the opposite of what you said 6 years ago? Fear not: You. Will. Be. Corrected.
Symmetric Engagement. A source of both experts and clever non-experts. Big enough to form cliques, of course, but too big for most of the monkey-primate dynamics of a comment section. An almost Kalmanesque level of corrective filtering. Exactly what I needed. I’m still convinced that 2012 Twitter helped Obama secure his second term, BTW. A lot of, shall we say, “Fake News” was snuffed out there before it could leak out to any mainstream outlets.
But then came the Meme Wars, and 2016. I’m sure I’ll get around to documenting my memories of 2015-17 at some point. But outside of actual 4chan/8chan/Discord, Twitter was the main Front of that War. Most of the journalist/pundit/writer class were on Twitter by then, and their attention was easy for Bad Actors to capture… or amplify. Whichever they desired. There were many shadowy billionaires (and governments) throwing money around, and many would-be Pundits happy to say anything required to get that cash.
Now, of course, Twitter belongs to King Elmo. But honestly, for folks like me out in the Peanut Gallery, Twitter has changed very little since he took it over. In fact, it’s been more of a return to type: He’s undone a lot of the algos/filters added post-2017, so it almost feels retro to me. The Pundit/Expert class has just started their mass exodus to the invite-only Bluesky (signing away all their IP rights in the process– clever boy, Jack! Nobody’s figured out how to herd those cattle into the squeeze-chutes quite like you have… twice!), so Twitter’s already declining info-value has nowhere to go but down. The advertisers are leaving. And the Sole Proprietor is perhaps half a decade away from locking himself in a bunker with jars of stored urine, a shotgun, and a well-worn Teddy Bear named “Adolf”.
Some Bold Intuitive Predictions:
- Twitter doesn’t die as quickly as people think it will. As long as Elmo can afford the rent & electric bill, it stays on… Differently. But it will never be the same, especially once the Pundit/Expert class have evacuated.
- Bluesky never becomes Twitter II. Because there is never going to be a Twitter II. I half-expect Jack to keep it “Invite-Only” to keep the canaille like me out, and then charge the users for the Clout thus generated. Clever boy, Jack! That said, we already have a media system where the Pundit/Expert class gets to spout Ex Cathedra, unbothered and unchallenged. It’s called “Television”.
- Mastodon gets over-federated into multiple loosely-connected fiefdoms. Because all over-federated systems with weak top-down command structure and strong local admin become over-federated, as the local admin continues to assert itself. (cf DeSantis and Abbot, for macro examples). It’ll be a good place to post IRC channel links.
- Spoutable seems DOA. I have my suspicions why, but won’t type them here.
- To repeat myself: There will be no Twitter II. Sure, something else will arise to scratch that particular social itch/niche, but it won’t be “new Twitter” anymore than reddit is “new USENET”. It will be different. (And probably attached to some larger Service).
But, alas, my random thoughts need to go somewhere, and so here is where they will go.
Meanwhile, riding Twitter’s decline will have its fun moments. Current Mood:
Be seeing you…