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Is there anything left to save?

“I don’t hate you boyI just want to save youWhile there’s still something left to save”

I mean, fuck it, if we’re winding it back to the blogging days why not toss in a few sad bastard lyrics like it’s an MSN status, amiright?

By the way, as a total aside, Rise Against’s “Ghost Note Symphonies” project is hands down the best “here are some of our songs but acoustic” album ever made and yes I’m looking at you, Nirvana’s Unplugged album. These aren’t just acoustic covers they’re complete rearrangements that really underscores just how brilliant Tim McIlrath is.

Ok, I had a point here somewhere, right?

Rumours of its death may not be greatly exaggerated, this time

If you’re not chronically online like some of us you might not know Twitter is on death watch. The (very) short version is that the site, which was already well on its way to being a cesspool of hate and misinformation under the stewardship of people who ostensibly cared about it not becoming that, was sold to the emerald-spoon trollboy Elon Musk who seems intent on lighting it on fire and riding it off a cliff.

I’ve been on Twitter for 15 years. 15 years. That’s longer than I’ve ever lived at one address in my entire life. It’s longer than I’ve lived in any one area code, bar one. And in that decade and a half I’ve seen a few death watches but this one feels… real. Or at least realer.

The bots and trolls moved in en masse over COVID and even well-meaning gatekeepers were losing the fight. Apartheid Clyde‘s laissez-faire approach to fascism’s ascendancy really feels like it’s just hastening the inevitable.

And so a lot of folks are looking around and wondering what’s next.

Better off dead

The front runner seems to be Mastadon, which has been around for a few years and created a bit of a buzz when it launched thanks to its CEO’s radical “Nazis are bad, actually” stance. It’s twitter-esque, or at least enough so that people see it as a logical successor.

Others are rethinking their whole digital presence (hi, welcome to the blog I’ve been ignoring!). I’ve seen a lot more substacks popping up lately and a few more podcasts too, and not just because Twitter is doing its thing. Facebook’s awkward relationship with news media and its forced pivot to video that wasn’t, the fact that TikTok might be spying for the Chinese government… it seems like more and more people are figuring out that while social networks may bring eyeballs, the loss of control is a big challenge.

It’s to the point that a lot of people are looking at Twitter circling the drain as the kick in the ass they need to free themselves of its doomscrolling clutches once and for all. If you’re at a dinner table with one Nazi it’s a Nazi dinner table and all that. Complacency is complicity etc. etc.

Hell, I’ve certainly been thinking it. See? (Yes, embedding a tweet in a post about twitter dying is both ironic and risky, assuming I’m right. Embrace the cognitive dissonance)

And yet.

And. yet.

I just want to save you while there’s still something left to save

A lot of us found our voice on Twitter. Our audience is there. Twitter is, for many of us, our platform. In my 15 years there I’ve somehow amassed more than 6,000 followers. And yea, my Twitter experience has probably become worse as that number became larger and my own tweets spread beyond my relatively comfortable circle more and more often, but 6,000 people is a lot of people.

Case in point, if you’re reading this it’s almost definitely because you found it via Twitter.

Indeed, just last week, as the Ontario government decided the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was too big of a nuisance to be bothered with, I took to Twitter to express my outrage and give folks tips on how to support the education workers in their protests. Two different people reached out privately to thank me for explaining how to arrive at a picket line and show your support because they wanted to and didn’t know how. For those two people, my stupid tweets made the difference between walking in solidarity and walking away out of fear, discomfort or confusion.

I’m nobody, in the grand scheme of things. But I was able to reach those people and give them information they needed because of Twitter. And I’m a person of relative privilege! I have a good job and a couple of university degrees and I speak unaccented English. My mental health is good and I’m a cishet white dude in a world that was largely built for us. Twitter might be my platform but platforms tend to be made available to people like me, somewhere along the way.

For folks who don’t check as many of the privilege boxes, the relative democracy of Twitter (though relative is doing a lot of work there, I realize) has given them a voice they might not otherwise have had.

The great and brilliant Melissa Geschwind made this point far more eloquently than I can (I literally saw the thread while working on a draft of this post earlier today and silently cursed her for saying what I wanted to say before I remembered this is the internet and I can just use her brilliance to bolster my lesser brain’s efforts). Click through to read the whole thread, it’s worth it.

Frankly, I’m starting to realize there’s a lot of privilege in walking away from Twitter. Sure, some folks will find their audience somewhere else, or better yet, will have their audience follow them. But for others, the learning curve might be too steep, the runway too long and the effort too daunting to start again in a new and different place.

Should I stay or should I go?

And so we land at The Question. To leave or not to leave. Granted, the question may be moot, if all those fired engineers decide not to return and save Elon from himself. But if the site does survive, somehow, do we turn it over to the fascists and hate bots or do we fight to keep what we’ve built?

As is often the case, the mood on Twitter seems to gravitate to the extremes. The hangers on are either schmoozing on the deck after the iceberg’s been hit or they’re digging in to take back what is theirs.

But I think a lot of us are probably landing right about where I am – with one giant shrug and a whole lot of bet-hedging. Twitter in 2022 is, undoubtedly, the Bad Place. But what hope do we really have that the next place is going to be any better? Surely Twitter’s rot is a symptom of a larger problem, right? Or does its role as an enabler of evil supercede the good it has done and still sometimes does?

Sorry if you’ve read 1,300 words in hopes of finding an answer at the end, pals. I honestly don’t fucking know.

Published inThe state of things
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