Does Twitter matter?

The past week has been a maelstrom of anxiety for many in the Twitterverse, after the gradual-then-sudden purchase of Twitter by billionaire Elon Musk. 

Of course, we all know that if there’s anything this world needs more of, it’s collective anxiety.

Many people fled the platform. Racists filled Twitter with their disgusting, hateful garbage. And Musk himself shared a debunked tweet about the attack on Paul Pelosi, husband of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

When the guy at the top acts the way the bottom-feeding trolls do, it’s no wonder why decent folk want to ditch the platform.

The question is, where would they go? Mastodon? (Sure; I have an account there, if you’re interested). Vero? Facebook? LinkedIn? Each has its own weird mix of utility and garbage.

Hang on.

That’s not the question.

The question is, what is it all for?

The promise of all social media is that it was supposed to foster connections between people all over the world. What we’ve learned in the past decade — especially the past six years — is that it’s easy to weaponize and not only turn us against one another, but into the worst versions of ourselves. The so-called “darkest corners of the internet” that brought so much consternation in the late 1990s and early 2000s are now basking in the sunlight of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and everywhere else, and we are no better off for it.

So maybe it’s time to just chuck it all and say the hell with social media altogether.

Except …

Some people use these platforms for good. Journalists, historians, scientists, musicians and artists have, in too many examples to count, shared informative, entertaining and resonant content on Twitter. On a personal note, it’s how I discovered several musicians, including the great Patrick Dexter. His timeline is a daily source of joy. But in the post-Musk world, anything good on this platform risks getting drowned out by hateful, fact-free garbage.

The question that each Twitter user has to ask is, is it worth it? Will it be worth it to pay for the privilege of a blue checkmark? To put up with the hordes of abuse from keyboard brownshirts?

There are other ways, even in this increasingly digital and disconnected world, to stem the isolation of modern life. There are other platforms, both real and virtual. So if you think Twitter is too toxic for you to stay, there are other options, and other ways to make your voice heard.

Like a blog, for instance. Hence this post.

Twitter, like every other social platform, only has value insofar as it has utility. Once the noise of troll abuse — as well as the burden of paying for the privilege — outweigh whatever benefits each user gets from it, I suspect it will go in the dustbin of internet history alongside Friendster and Livejournal. Whether Musk makes or loses a fortune from the deal makes no difference to me.

It shouldn’t make a difference to you, either. If Twitter helps you find (or keep) your tribe, then stick with it. If you find a better community and better mental health benefits somewhere else, then ditch the little blue bird.

I’m going to stick around on Twitter, but I may post more frequently on this blog as my need to tweet diminishes.

If you want to give feedback on this little screed, feel free to leave a comment.

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