I miss Twitter. I remember starting to use it around the whole open coffee scene. The rise of bar camps! Anyone remember? 2008 is when I made my first account.
The coolest thing was following someone on Twitter and seeing them at events and just picking up a conversation even though you just met.
Like, you knew what people were up to. How was the trip? How’s your cat? I mean I think it was a little awkward but that made it funny too. You were “familiar strangers” as described by Stanley Milgrim in the 1970s. This was before social media, so he meant the strangers you saw in public, or in the bus. Social media gave you access to more familiar strangers.
At the time, because my most of my open source tech community was on Twitter, it created opportunities to keep in touch with people I might only see once a year in person.
I think I can honestly say Twitter had a big impact on my life. It’s parting gift to me is an amazing job I have that I got. Through DMs. After bitching about doing paperwork as a contractor.
LinkedIn could never.
Here’s a little snapshot of how we used Twitter to build a little community in Sligo. It was nice. That is the Twitter I miss.
Sorry I didn’t realise the gallery looks like ass on mobile. I wrote this on my phone.
Weak ties over time make strong connections
The often cited “paradox of weak ties” is that it turns out, at least for more digital fields, the research shows you are more likely to get job prospects or job mobility through weak ties. Social media keeps friends in your field of view. You can stay aware of their work. I found myself often wanting to make connections between people. Social media made it easy.
What I don’t see reflected in what research I could find so far is that these weak ties transform over time. Though I have maybe seen some people once in my life, I feel we’ve bonded somewhat. I’ve visited people I met on Twitter! I’ve had Twitter friends visit me! I’ve had long deep conversations on Twitter. I’ve learned so much.
I can’t say the same for LinkedIn or IG which I don’t use that much. And nothing before it was the same. IRC was too focused on topics. Friendster or Orkut, or lol Google circles? None match the level of chaotic connections. I suppose IG or Facebook was that for some people. It never was for me.
Twitter replaced the blogosphere. It completely sucked conversations out of comments in blogs. And blogs sort of died. (Not just the fault of Twitter, possibly because of the death of Google Reader?)
When Twitter started to die
For a while I did a lot of social media for work. Writing content for Twitter. I hated working on Twitter as a “brand.” I did not do it for long. And I really sucked at it. The pressure of responding was HUGE w a 20k+ acct. All eyes are on you. And you have to be fast, accurate, and compelling.
Absolutely awful. All those brands you bitchily @ mention? They have people behind them. And often it didn’t seem like people realised that. Never do what you love for work.
I also hated manning Twitter accounts for events. It felt like I couldn’t BE at the event while also replying to tweets, and getting out updates. I don’t envy anyone working with Twitter.
I think Twitter had this compelling immediacy that was double edged. On the one hand you have this kind of awe that people are there RIGHT NOW. It’s not like LinkedIn where you are likely to see a post from a week ago. Twitter was better in that regard. Twitter answered: “What’s happening?”
The other side is that it could be addictive. There’s a weird fomo if you miss something there. If you didn’t look for a few days you would have to be like a detective to figure out the main characters. That seemed to happen more and more and I felt more and more out of the loop and not interested in finding out.
Twitter began to eat itself
I apparently noted on an abandoned account in 2015 that there’s been a huge rise in bots on Twitter. The algorithm took over.
It became impossible to tell what was a send-up and what was real. Virality was no longer just something that happened spontaneously. It was manufactured.
This seemed to fit right in with the rise of the far right, and their tendency to shred reality and use absurdity and debasement, parody completely died. I often felt like I couldn’t tell if something was a joke or not.
That’s another way it stopped being fun.
There was always drama in Twitter. People were more candid. People sub tweeted like crazy. But overtime the drama became overwhelming. You’d worry about interacting or getting pulled into it. I basically avoided all drama. And stopped talking to strangers. Many friends I interacted with have long gone. We keep in touch via WhatsApp or text, or various Slacks, and *shudder* LinkedIn.
Twitter stopped being fun or safe. I started getting gross DMs. And noticed more bots following m. Block. Block. Block.
I stopped posting so much when I saw friends get trolled or abused. I worried for my trans friends a lot. It made me cool off, I went into locked mode a lot, I stopped posting, I deleted old tweets, blocked like crazy. And it wasn’t as much fun.
Over time I posted less or took months off completely forgetting about it. I lurked and liked more than I replied.
But I still miss the old Twitter.
Nothing will replace it.
RIP it’s long long gone.