Leaving The Nest

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2022-04-26 11:00:00-04:00 No comments

The big news in the last day or so has been, as you can guess, the Muskman buying Twitter (or at least attempting to; the shareholders and the gummint still have to weigh in) and the near-universal reaction of disgust at this move. Me included. The last thing we need is everyone's friendly neighborhood troll billionaire owning the place and making it over in his image.

To that end, I already have one foot out the door. I set up a Mastodon profile, along with some other friends, and I'm going to look into having my post syndicated there as well, soon as I can figure out how the process works. But I was never attached to Twitter very strongly in the first place. If anything, for me, this is just Facebook and LJ all over again. I've been around these here webs long enough to know anything you don't actually own, you cannot count on keeping.

When Facebook and Twitter popped up, they were (among other things) lightweight, more connected alternatives to blogging. I could see the appeal: blogging requires a lot of overhead and upkeep, and not everyone wants the management burden — not even those who use a hosted WP solution or the like. FB and Twitter were zero-setup and zero-maintenance. They were also zero-ownership: you couldn't count on anything you put into their systems to ever be taken back out again, at least not in anything like a convenient way. So I made them "copy-only": I wasn't going to post anything to them I didn't already have somewhere else, and I wasn't going to operate under the assumption they would always be around. Only my blog had that privilege. I built it myself and it's not going anywhere.

Most of the folks I've met on Twitter, I've actually known from other venues. Twitter was just the most conveniently public way to connect with them. When Twitter's not an option anymore, we'll find something else. Ideally, I'd like that "something else" to be based on a common protocol — again, hence Mastodon — rather than just whatever becomes the dominant proprietary de facto standard. If the net effect of the Musking of Twitter is that enough people decamp to give the alternatives genuine momentum instead of mere cult status, fine.

If there's one thing I've always despised about social media, it's the fact that you can't even give them money to make them less terrible. I would have been down with a $5/month Twitter subscription that removed all the ads and gave me access to more granular protection tools, but I suspect they wouldn't do it because they felt our attention was worth more to an advertiser than whatever we might be inclined to pay. That's my nightmare: a future of services where your actual money is no good, where your behavior and your attention spans are the only accepted currency, and where the whole thing can be bought out at a moment's notice and somehow made even worse. (Addendum: Yes, there's Twitter Blue, but it gives rather little for the money, all things considered.)

I'm old enough to remember a web that was mostly a collection of folks who recognized each other as being a little weird and fun, and wanted to keep it that way. Pockets of such resistance still exist here and there. We have more reason than ever to support each other now.

Tags: social media technology