One of the big stories of 2022 was Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, and subsequent hilarious mismanagement of it such that it basically looks like he put $44 billion into a gigantic mountain of cash and set it on fire. A lot of people have taken exception to his changing policies at Twitter seemingly making it a less unfriendly place for hate speech and other objectionable content. But I haven’t really noticed a difference since he took over. After all, long before Musk’s acquisition Twitter was already an endless cage match of outrage-driven engagement carefully stoked by algorithms that decide what content to show. There may be a new ringmaster, but it’s still the same circus.
Even so, however, I hadn’t fully given up on Twitter. There were still some interesting people sharing ideas there, and I didn’t want to miss out on them. Now, though, I’ve decided to curtail my involvement with Twitter more or less completely. It’s not really because of Elon Musk. I think he’s wildly overrated at best (although it seems the rest of the world is catching on to that) and I don’t care for his changes, but the person at the top isn’t necessarily a deal breaker for me. I mean, it’s not like I’ve fully left Facebook even though it’s controlled by Mark Zuckerberg, who’s basically the best evidence that conspiracy theorists have that the world is controlled by reptoids.
No, my issue is a different, more profane matter. Simply put, on balance, Twitter is an enormous waste of time and emotional energy. I never come away from Twitter thinking, “Wow, what a productive activity that was!” And all too often, a visit there involves temptations to engage with people on extremely negative terms. Twitter is a bad habit, not different from smoking cigarettes or eating junk food or drinking too much. And like any bad habit, it’s a wonder target for a new year’s resolution.
I’ve actually done this before. Two years ago I deleted the Facebook app off of my phone. My time on that platform dropped like a stone. Since then I’ve only posted five things to my main profile there, and of those three were just reposting something smart someone else said. Nowadays I only drop by that site infrequently, and when I do I spend very little time. I expect I can do the same for Twitter. Scylla having been slain, it’s time for Charybdis to follow.
That doesn’t mean that I’m no longer interested in social media at all. On the contrary, it’s only anti-social media that I’m avoiding here. So what’s better? I’ve written about Mastodon and the Fediverse in the past, and how I believe it’s a more worthwhile platform in general, especially for academics. And having been active on that platform for several years, I noticed enormous waves of interest, new accounts, and enthusiasm there when it was announced that Musk would buy Twitter, and again when the deal finally went through. It’s gotten to be a really great platform, and I hope to see you there!