Twitter Panic And The Fragility Of Social Media

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?

Yep, seems like someone unlikely to fuck anything up for ideological reasons.

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.

Clearly, a more trustworthy person to own your data and manage your communication.

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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One comment

  1. I will send some dough your way the instant I have some to spare. The Repro Times idea is intriguing, what format would such a publication take? Certainly, there is scope for mailouts and whatnot to augment the computerised stuff. (Prefer ‘stuff’ to (retch) ‘content’). Of course, it costs money. It’s a groove, however, to get things through the post – be it a two-sided xerox A4 or a 48 pager with glossy covers. Remember those zany mail art days? Mark Pawson’s site is still great, or was when last I checked. Publications like The Paperback Fanatic seem to do alright??? As an aside, who remembers the glory of papershops, with shelves stuffed thick with giddying, colourful delights? Instagram is a nice shop window – most people with a bit of sense will understand to check the website without need for a link.

    Learn the secrets of power! The ad says. And in so doing, become completely insufferable, and shunned by all.

    Though the internet is itself a treasure-trove on a par ith King Tut’s tomb, I personally have found social media to be an isolating experience, even prior to the hysterical prohibitions of recent years. Understandable to anyone who has fared so badly as t encounter me. During my tenure on the Facebook platform, I was haunted by the nagging suspicion that no one read my words, and that the words I read were generated automatically by so many automatons. The notion formed, at first as an amusement, later assuming solidity as a disturbing gargoyle, that F***b**k operated as a kind of social cleansing mechanism, filtering and streaming all persons, and spewing out some. A kind of tour of several circles of the underworld – with sticky traps catering to every conceivable prejudice for the unwary to fall into. Perhaps to make known unknown known? To make the formless mass of humanity and human potential visible, and predictable. To tell us we can go anywhere, then put us on a one-way street.

    Finally, I managed to substitute my gradually acquired addiction to social media with other less debilitating habits. Through a process of mental conditioning I was able to ween myself away, and make my escape. From the outside looking in, I understood I was at a disadvantage. One plays it their way or inhabits a free but lonesome town, haunted houses and drifting loners. But here I felt quite at home – frustrated somewhat, for I had dreams big and deep, but one counts one’s blessings. Another joke as haunting as last night’s curry – F-book’s logo is a Christian cross with a hook at the top! But who are the prisoners – those domiciled in social media’s white palaces (always opt for dark mode), or the people time forgot, scampering like rodents through the interstices of the monoliths. (Sorry about all the purple I’ve been reading HP Lovecraft). Our own apathy and willingness to submit to spurious authorities is a prime devil. The leash becomes a noose. We eagerly inhabit cells of our devising, fed bespoke, flattering, fattening reports of a world that doesnt exist. Everyone has gone. In the belly of a whale? Already being digested?

    You;ll see; why doesn’t the fog at the end of the street ever lift? And why are you so afraid to venture beyond it? And doesn’t it seem as if the fog is, almost imperceptibly, drawing in ever closer with each passing day? You haven’t seen anyone in days – time has become meaningless – days are months, years … it’s just you, and the recordings … and beyond, in a vastness so great it frightens you into paralysis, a rumbling sound, like the grinding of techtonic plates – the sound of laughter, the laughter of something …

    (remember the ‘incel’ flap of yore? Is it still a thing? Those terrifying virgins. This notion furthered my idea that social media is a vast monastery, or nunnery. The biological cell is so named because the breakthrough-observer (Mendel?) felt that the unit was much like a monk in his cell – cloister, as modern politesse would have it. Therefore we can see that the prisoner and the monk have much in common, cheif among them celibacy (supposedly), or at least being denied the company of women. I’ll bet old time monks were most often men on the run or doing penance rather than following a calling. Hence the incel (‘in cell’) is a prisoner of Lust, and a readymade object lesson for the moral narrative soc-med wishes to expound. Insel is also the German for island (I think), which no man is, so they say – except for John Carpenter and Kurt Russell).

    You’s should do Reprobate SHARK! Summer Special for next year! With Jaws, Jaws rip-offs, Shark film guide, Shark books and comics, interview with a kink who gets off on going down in a shark cage, prize word search etc.

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