Culture

Without You, Twitter, What Will We Become?

Who are we without the social media site?

Seems like I’m checking Twitter less for what’s happening with friends and news and more so to see if Twitter even still exists. 

The ostensible dissolution of Twitter is sort of sad: where will everyone in one place see my hilarious, high-minded joke about dookie? 

I think it’s time that it goes the way of the dodo, though. It’s too fast. It leaves you with no way to respond unless it’s quickly, lest you be last man on the totem pole. 

Early in tweeting, I got unacceptably upset at people who would live tweet a TV show. (I even mocked the idea by “live tweeting” old episodes of The Andy Griffith Show I’d pull up on Netflix, as if they were airing right there and then and not to be missed.) This was before the mute button and blocking; unfollowing seemed awfully harsh. I could put my phone down, and I did. But what if I was waiting to start the show while my wife finished up with a project? Maybe I needed only four minutes to kill before hitting play? That’s no time to invest in a book or any article. Scrolling Facebook works, but there’s only so much of that before you switch over to Twitter and are spoiled on whatever big fight scene opens the penultimate episode of your favorite, universally beloved series. 

That pain in the ass is gone now, and the whole experience of Twitter may soon follow. And that’s okay. 

I felt mostly lucky. I’d see people on Twitter complaining about the cesspool that it is (irony), but my timeline was usually folks who were telling me what trade in sports was near competition, what new movie was wrapping production, or what fart joke was fresh on their mind our out their butts. I didn’t have a problem with Twitter, really. And I haven’t had much of a problem with social media as a whole: if I consistently see something I don’t like (or someone), I block or mute or close the app or whatever. Most of the time. 

But I think that decentralizing that quick news, quip, notification, sports site could be a good thing. 

Look, I remember when I would use Twitter to say, “I’m going to Egan’s! Anyone want to meet up?” It was basically a large group text. Damn, that was nice. (I can’t believe I’d first heard of it because a politician was using it on the Senate floor!) But now we have large group texts. Even still, somehow Twitter included folks you may have forgotten or didn’t have their number. We just wanted to party. 

Now what, though? There’s no audience. That may be its biggest issue. When’s the last time you thought about who, exactly, specifically, purposefully, will read your tweet once you hit send? 

With Mastodon and Post.News, both of which I’ve been using for the site for about two weeks now, there are more opportunity for focus with them. Mastodon is wide-ranging as far as audience goes, but what works well is that hashtags matter a lot more. (Another earlier gripe of mine about social media is that so many friends thought hashtags were the punchline to a joke.) On Mastodon, people seem to find you via those hashtags, and the bonus of it is that it mostly works as a Twitter alternative so that you can, eventually, maybe, have that experience if you want. All of which narrows down the wide range as much you want or need. When I want to send out something about movies, sure, the people who follow me see it, but I have an awareness that there are generally movie-interested people who may also have ideas. I can always make it private, so that’s cool, too. 

Mastodon’s lingo is bullshit, by the way. Ignore it if you sign up. Who cares what an “instance” is (it’s a server that’ll host your “tweets,” if you will). If it gets popular enough, the language will be shaped by the users anyway. And don’t be afraid of signing up: it’s easy; picking a server is mostly arbitrary. Some servers have more rigid guidelines on why they exist or what users can type, but there is way more similarities than there are differences. From the looks of the majority, they have those guidelines so as not to turn into Twitter 2.0 in that way.

As for Post, it’s too early to say. It may shape into something different, but for now it looks like it’s going to be the place where I’ll follow a lot of journalists and – dare I say – more serious-minded people who have a tendency to send out longer, more organized, thoughts on a specific topic. It’s like following your preferred writers from AL.com, the New York Times, and your local paper who may link you to their pieces or simply put the entire writing in Post (it does not have a word count and includes a space for a title). 

What will this cause people online do on these different and all-too-new social spots? Hopefully, take a breath before responding. One of the downsides to Twitter (and Facebook and Instagram) is that it demands both speed and anger. The algorithm (that fucking algorithm) boosts that shit. And you know what? You don’t want to admit it and neither do I, but our brains, which we think we control oh so well, eat that shit up. Pissed off!? I’m sharing that with Donovan! Angry!? Well, I gotta RT it so everyone else can get pissed off, too! It’s what makes Twitter become a catch-all name for many people gripe about: “Yeah, Twitter’s pissed about that, huh?”

And it makes us think — very incorrectly — of the loud minority being the world. Twitter is not real life. It’s barely a sample. Most sane people stay quiet.

Mastodon and Post and the other entries to try to take Twitter’s place won’t fix all of those problems completely. It may be only a matter of days before that shit starts happening there, too. But they offer a promise of trying to reign it in before it gets out of hand. And as for now, everyone seems to be on their best behavior in both arenas. 

Neither are perfect replicas of the tweeting site we’ve come to hate and love and hate all over again. I think that’s a good thing. I earnestly hope, even as I’m still on there tweeting my doo-doo jokes, that Twitter dies and does so soon.

See? There I am wanting the hurry once again. 

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