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Why I liked Twitter

I’ve been on Twitter for a long time. A very long time. In fact, I was introduced to it as a way for a bunch of friends to let one another know what bar they were about to go to. It seems to have strayed from that vision a bit.

I have not yet decided to leave it, although I’m starting to check in at Mastodon. Here’s what I use it for, in no particular order, and not without embarrassment:

  • Quick check on breaking news. It’s by no means comprehensive, and what trends is by no means always important. But I find some of it worth a click even as a distraction.
  • Quick commentary on issues of the day by people I follow because they’re good at that.
  • Issues worth knowing about raised by strangers who know about them.
  • Keeping up with fields I’m interested in by following people who I don’t know, as well as some I do.
  • Engaging with people I otherwise wouldn’t have kept up with.
  • There are people I know just barely in real life who I feel quite close to after many years on Twitter together. 
  • Engaging with a low bar of social inhibition/anxiety with people I don’t know, sometimes leading to friendships. 
  • An outlet for my stray thoughts and, well, jokes.
  • A medium by which I can publicize stuff I write.
  • A number I can cite to publishers as if people automatically read the stuff of mine I’m publicizing on Twitter.
  • The Twitter I’m on is often very funny.

Switching social platforms is hard.

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2 Responses to “Why I liked Twitter”

  1. I’m not ready yet either, David, and I’m closing out a post on why this could be the best moment yet for social media, citing you from our 2011 chat. More soon!

  2. Years ago, I made the determination that the risk/reward of Twit’ing was not favorable for me. I don’t say this as a universal claim, as everyone’s circumstances are different (e.g. celebrities). But as I put it, no, no, not another rat race on a hamster wheel. I say this not to criticize, but to give my perspective as someone with no dog in the fight about the Future Of Twitter: The freak-out of the chattering class about Elon Musk buying Twitter is weird. It’s not just a tedious Handmaid’s Tale or WWII Germany fantasy about the invading barbarians, err, MAGA hordes. It’s got a very strange element where all good thinking tribe members are expected to voice disgust regarding, and avoid participating in, enemy sites. And suddenly a major site where they’ve been able to ban some tribal enemies, is about to qualify as an enemy site. They can’t in good conscience just go about their lives as they did beforehand. Their ideology says if they stay, they’re traitors to the cause, collaborators with evil, dealing with the morally impure (which is a social death sentence).

    My naive impulse would be to say something encouraging, if you have been so lucky as to have found a peaceful oasis within the landscape of “hell is other people” (I never took seriously the world building of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” until Twitter). But I realize such encouragement would be missing the point of what’s going on here. Instead, let me just make a prediction: Almost nobody will actually leave Twitter. All the wailing and fainting-couch dramatics are just empty talk. Because the attention-seekers need Twitter far more than Twitter needs them. Moreover, if they stay, they get new hits of outrage with every single rumor or bit of trollery, and they’ll never give that up. Forgive me if I’m stating the obvious, that may be an example of why Twitter isn’t for me.

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