As most of you know, I deactivated my Twitter account earlier this month. It had been a long time coming, for a whole host of reasons, but Twitter’s decision to be the only social network that gives Alex Jones a platform to spew hate, hurt innocent people, and incite violence was the final straw for me. But I haven’t regretted leaving for even one second. Having that endless stream of hate and anger and negativity in my pocket wasn’t good for me (and I don’t think it’s good for anyone, to be honest).
I was on Twitter from just about the very beginning. I think I’m in the first couple thousand accounts. I remember when it was a smallish group of people who wanted to have fun, make jokes, share information and tips on stuff that was interesting, and oh so many pictures of our pets. It was awesome.
It started to get toxic slowly at first, then all at once, starting with the misogynist dipshits who were behing the gate-which-shall-not-be-named. That was clearly a turning point for Twitter, and it never really recovered from it. I watched, in real time, as the site I loved turned into a right wing talk radio shouting match that made YouTube comments and CSPAN call-ins seem scholarly. We tried for a couple of years to fight back, to encourage Twitter to take a stand against bad actors (HA HA LIKE ME BECAUSE I AM A BAD ACTOR RIGHT YOU GOT ME HA HA HA). Twitter doesn’t care about how its users are affected by themselves, though. Twitter cares about growth and staying on the good side of President Shitler’s tantrums.
I mean, honestly, the most lucid and concise indictment I can give Twitter is: it’s the service that Donald Trump uses to communicate with and incite his cultists.
Anyway, enough about how terrible Twitter is. We all know how terrible it is. That’s never going to change, by the way.I know some very good people who are working on making Twitter better, but I honestly don’t think they can overcome the institutional inertia that has allowed it to get to the point its at now. It may get incrementally better, but the fundamental problem of random, mostly-anonymous people being terrible isn’t going to change, because that’s not a Twitter problem. That’s a humanity — and specifically a social media — problem.
I thought that if I left Twitter, I could find a new social network that would give it some competition (Twitter’s monopoly on the social space is a big reason it can ignore people who are abused and harassed, while punishing people for reporting their attackers), so I fired up this account I made at Mastodon a long time ago.
I thought I’d find something different. I thought I’d find a smaller community that was more like Twitter was way back in 2008 or 2009. Cat pictures! Jokes! Links to interesting things that we found in the backwaters of the internet! Interaction with friends we just haven’t met, yet! What I found was … not that.