Grieving Twitter

2022-12-12 22:36:46 UTC

Some have analogized Twitter to a sinking ship, while others have expressed anger that folks are leaving when Twitter has been so important—even life-saving—to so many.

Thing is… Twitter (the company, and very likely the website) is a sinking ship. That much is indisputable at this point. It’s dying*.

When you’re on a sinking ship, you either sprout gills or swim for it (metaphorically). The ship is going down and you will be underwater unless you leave.

(You can decide for yourself what “underwater” means in the context of Twitter. In fact, I encourage you to: What is your red line? What conditions—including both destruction of things you got from Twitter and establishment of things you abhor—would cause you to leave?)

So folks have been leaving, mainly to Mastodon and some to Cohost; I’m not surprised by the skew toward Mastodon, since Mastodon is much more Twitter-like, whereas Cohost is more Tumblr-like. There’s also Post.news, which I haven’t looked deeply at since they’ve been openly disinterested in making their website accessible.

All of this means that Twitter (the community) is dead.

Not dying. Already dead.

A community is made of its people first, and the tools available to them second. The community that was pre-Musk Twitter is sundered; split between new websites with different tools, and the old website that is in its death throes. Many of the people have gone, and their tools have changed.

Both Mastodon and Cohost have Content Warnings, a tool created to meet the needs of people with PTSD and anxiety. Both have longer content limits (Cohost has no limit at all), to enable more expressivity. Both have better visibility control, to reduce context collapse. Both have no discovery algorithm, so you entirely control what you see—you see what folks you follow have published or boosted, and nothing else. Both have search for tags only, not full text, to thwart name-search brigades.

The change in people and the change in tools will create new communities, in all these places.

Twitter is already not the same place it was just a couple of months ago. It will never be that place again. (In some sense this is always true; you never cross the same river twice.) That threshold has been crossed; the Twitter we lost, is lost.

It’s not on Mastodon, either. Mastodon is technologically similar, but not the same, as I already listed off. The set of people is different, partly because of the people who joined it years ago and haven’t been part of Twitter for some time, and partly because not everybody’s come over yet (and some won’t, or have left). Some folks have been making different following decisions there than on Twitter, so the social graph is different.

Each is now a new community.

Mastodon is not the new Twitter; it is the closest extant thing to the old Twitter, but still different. On Twitter, what’s left of the old community remains (though, as I write this, further events have caused another wave of people to say “fuck this, I’m out”) and those who remain will ride the ship into the deep, until “sprout gills” becomes truly the only alternative to leaving.

Cohost is an entirely different thing, since even before its launch. It’s a good thing; I like it there. It is not trying to be Twitter, and in some ways it is trying not to be Twitter, and on both fronts it is succeeding.

And while I call each site a community, communities are rather smaller than that. Each community is many communities, with blurry edges. Maybe the Fediverse or Cohost or some other alternative wasn’t right for you the first time, or even the second, but maybe the right mix of people is there now, ready for you to find them. And some of us are on both, to varying degrees.

Mourn the communities we have lost, and choose what communities you’ll be part of.

* I would be remiss if I neglected to mention that Twitter is not simply dying as if by consumption; it is being murdered by a dipshit billionaire with more ego than sense. Twitter’s death was foul play. None of this had to happen; a billionaire did it to us.

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