Twitter’s current problems – and the possibility that it might all end very badly – just goes to show that we shouldn’t become dependent on any single form of communication.
The current Twitter exodus – real or performative posturing – has the rest of us wondering just what might happen if this movement takes hold and people actually do leave en masse. Thanks to the ‘curious’ decisions of that varmint Muskie (one for the Deputy Dawg fans, there), it seems as though the future of Twitter is a tad uncertain – it might collapse under its own weight as advertisers pull out (which frankly seems premature, given that the site has yet to significantly change) or become a Gab-style extremist hellhole or – here’s a fascinating, if highly unlikely possibility – become less toxic; the exodus of the likes of Kathy Griffin can only be good for any platform. Muskie’s removal of/charging for Blue Ticks seems to have pissed off the (self) important figures who gloried in their ‘better than you’ status that the Old Twitter seemed to hand out on a somewhat ad hoc basis and I quite like that. Equally though, selling such privileges to anyone who can afford them is a road to corruption and abuse. What’s more, there’s a suspicion that this might just be the start of the money-grubbing. We’ve all become used to social media being free, which is rather weird when you think about it because why should it be? But if Twitter starts rolling out more payment options that will put anyone who won’t/can’t subscribe to and so ends up with most users on a second or third-class version of the site where all but the most basic use is restricted, I can see the site quickly losing most of its users. Let’s not even go into what new levels of moral censorship might be imposed on the only social media platform that currently has a relaxed attitude to sexual content. I can’t imagine that a savvy businessman would allow such damaging changes to happen. But then, Muskie’s behaviour so far – seemingly a bad combination of making decisions while stoned, ignoring basic employment law and bitterly lashing out at critics – is not that of a savvy businessman, so who knows?
If we do all leave Twitter, then what? Different people have different needs from social media sites and many already find Twitter a pointless experience. For us, it has proven to be the best way of getting the word out about our daily posts – the number of views The Reprobate receives via Twitter far outweighs those from other sites. For a while, we would sign up to every new social media site that came along, just in case one of them proved to be the Next Big Thing – ello, Mastodon, whatever the Google one was called, even – God help us – Gab. Some proved to be needlessly complicated, aimed at tech bros and people who wanted ever more narrow communication groups, some rapidly went off the deep end into hate-driven extremism and all tended to be a bit like those gigs you go to where only a handful of people have shown up and everyone is standing in corners not talking to anyone else. In some cases, it felt like a gig where even the band hadn’t bothered showing up. Twitter, like Facebook, seemed to become populated very quickly; these other sites remained ghost towns until we finally lost interest. What’s more, given that few allowed any level of cross-posting and so required you to visit each one in turn, adding slightly different versions of the same post (depending on their individual rules and restrictions), it became time-consuming and pointless.
Even Instagram, where we have built some level of an audience, increasingly felt like hard work with little actual interaction – especially as we watched other people being suspended for minor infractions of the Taliban-level moral rules over nudity (or even being someone loosely connected to the sex industry who follows the ‘no-nudity’ rules but is nevertheless deemed Unclean by the moral arbiters of Meta) and found ourselves similarly hamstrung in terms of links. The fact that Instagram won’t even allow you to include direct links on posts makes it user-unfriendly if you are trying to direct people to a website and for a site like The Reprobate that is very much focused on words – too many words, some people tell us – the image and brief video-based format of that site makes it unattractive.
We long ago abandoned Facebook – a couple of suspensions for ‘unsuitable’ content and the generally toxic atmosphere that was developing around that site made leaving easy to do and we have never looked back. Not until now, at least. Of course, the fact that Facebook and Instagram are also owned by a very problematic billionaire doesn’t seem to put off the people publicly announcing their break with Twitter – funny, that.
We post links on LinkedIn because it doesn’t take that long, but of course, the narcissistic braggadocios of that site have little interest in Reprobate articles. Pinterest is surprisingly effective but, of course, is even less open to discussion than Instagram and no, we are not interested in TikTok, thank you. There is space for a new social network or two to emerge, and maybe they will in the face of Twitter’s new ownership. But how those networks avoid the problems of the other pretenders to the throne while carving their own unique feel is difficult to see.
But let’s assume the worst – that Twitter either dies or becomes (more of) a toxic hellhole, that other sites fail to step up to take its place. That this might be the beginning of the end of the social media experiment. Hey, it could happen. No business is too big to fail, as we’ve seen many times. We’ve long preached against the idea of putting all your eggs in one basket, be it dumping physical media in favour of streaming services that will drop or edit content regularly and might vanish at any moment, having all your work on equally fragile Cloud services or otherwise expecting that your life can be lived on virtual services that can lock you out or disappear overnight. We’re as guilty of it as anyone else – we’re very aware that the site you are reading now depends entirely on WordPress staying in business. Perhaps the Twitter takeover is a warning for us all. We’re going to make an effort to diversify our portfolio, so to speak. We’ve kicked our Instagram back to life and might try to work out a way of doing Facebook that doesn’t require us to be on there as individuals. We’ll start posting links to Patreon and more stuff on YouTube and other video sites. We’ve pondered Discord and if anyone thinks that it seems a good idea and wants to join in, then let us know.
Similarly, we very much encourage you to sign up for Reprobate updates via email – you can find the sign-up link to your right and it means that you’ll get notification of everything we post. We might have another go at that Newsletter idea, which rather fizzled out the first time around. And as mad as it seems, we’re considering a revival of our short-lived Reprobate Times project, featuring the previous month’s posts – or a selection of them – in physical, printed form. In short, nothing is off the table, though we might hang on until we have worked out our long-in-the-coming reboot/rebrand.
However – if you like what we do, please share those links, retweet or press the Like button – everything that grows our profile helps us move forward and escape the tyrannical favouritism that dogs all social media sites. You might even consider supporting us financially via Patreon or Buy Me a Coffee – it’s dirt cheap but if enough people do it, we can not only grow the site but also avoid having to compromise what we do to placate potential advertisers. We don’t want to have to charge admission because that won’t work for anyone – but if you can afford £1 a month or more, consider it money well spent in keeping you in lengthy examinations of disposable culture.
Regardless of where it goes, the current Twitter madness is a painful reminder of how dependent we have all become on social media – for the promotion and selling of work, the forming and development of friendships and for general communication. How many of you, I wonder, even have email addresses for many of your online friends? If nothing else, this is a sobering warning that we should never trust our lives to private companies. Let’s all do our best to break that monopoly on communication, no matter what happens with Twitter.
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