I’m done with Twitter and tweeted my last tweet in January 2023. Though I mourn the voices I’ve left behind, I celebrate the experience. While quitting Twitter cold-turkey has been rough, the time I used to spend on it has shifted to other activities, like reading, and I’m less anxious about world events–both positive outcomes.
With its global reach and endless ways to slice, fork, and forward conversations, Twitter always reminded me of USENET. It also shared a similar community dynamic of direct, unfiltered conversations with world- and lesser-famous experts in their fields while bad actors and idiots derailed things through malice and ignorance.
Twitter at its best kept me connected to friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, delivered nuanced and broad viewpoints on any topic that caught my eye, alerted me to important breaking news, educated me, and provided virtual communities to discuss the topics I was most interested in. At its worst, it was a catalyst to amplify the horrible behavior and voices of fascists, racists, bigots, misogynists, transphobes, and other dregs of humanity.
The good parts enabled me to curate lists of astronomers, astrophysicists, ichthyologists, writers, geologists, and local journalists, all discussing happenings in their fields along with a corresponding steady stream of amazing pictures. Automated Twitter bots delivered me pictures from the edge of the universe, the outer and inner solar system, the tops of mountains and the bottoms of oceans, and forests and deserts. Other bots sent me earthquake alerts and reports, first responder information, weather forecasts and warnings, gentle reminders to take care of myself, and my favorite bots, the just for fun ones like icon aquariums and meadows, hourly photos of lizards, and esoteric art.
The worst parts had me block hundreds of accounts and keywords in order to filter out hate and emotionally insulate myself from seeing endless, echoing reports of singular, tragic events. There were also people who were just fine with insulting or threatening me for daring to share or hold an opinion that was at variance with theirs.
Using filters and lists curated through the wonderful third-party app I used, Tweetbot, I had hammered Twitter into a community and information conduit that was mostly pleasant to interact with and minimized the negative bits. I was never a prolific tweeter, clocking in at over seventeen thousand tweets over almost fourteen years.
But then a billionaire asshole bought Twitter at the end of 2022. That sale prompted me to delete most of my tweets before the deal closed. I set up an auto-delete bot to purge tweets older than a month and I ramped down my tweeting. My intent was to add a minor speedbump to access my account data on the platform by putting the bulk of it into offline backups.
On January 12, 2023, third-party Twitter apps were disabled, which was the only way I interacted with Twitter. I haven’t tweeted since. That the asshole owner continues to exhibit behavior and espouse and amplify opinions from the worst side of Twitter makes them anathema to me and reinforces my decision. I can’t in good conscience provide my content or passive participation for them to monetize. It’s the “no assholes” rule in action.
I’ve looked at Mastodon as a replacement and I’m not convinced it’s a step forward instead of a step sideways and back so I’m holding off for now. Its architecture is similar to USENET with its distributed servers, each with separate content policies and admins. I was uneasy with the situation back then and it wasn’t until I set up my own server with my own domain and policies that I felt more secure in my participation. Mastodon falls into the same bucket for me and I have no desire to be a server admin again.
I remain hopeful Twitter crashes financially and is sold in a fire sale to better owners who will restore third-party API access with a subscription fee. I’d pay for that. I’m not holding my breath.
Farewell, my Tweeps, farewell.