Why I’m Still Loath to Leave the Twitterverse

I suppose I might have seen this delightful image of humans’ best friends learning a life-enhancing skill for the people they’ll soon assist somewhere else, but I saw it on Twitter.

And it was enriched by the exuberant comment from actress, singer, dancer Bebe Neuwirth.

I didn’t know Bebe Neuwirth was on Twitter, and I never would have thought to look for her. But Andrew Weissmann follows her, and I do follow him. Weissmann is a law professor, media commentator, and former Mueller investigation prosecutor. I appreciate his timely, often brilliant insights about goings on with justice in the US–especially with regard to the abundance of litigation moving inexorably toward the former guy.

Weissmann also seems to be an animal lover with a puckish sense of humor. He retweeted Bebe Neuwirth’s above tweet with his own comment about the doggie audience: “I think they were seeing Cats…”

Both Neuwirth and Weissmann are still on Twitter, as are a number of other public figures whose views I value.

Some time ago, I wrote about the Twitter community. In fact, there are many communities within Twitter that remain active. A man in the UK whose baby has cystic fibrosis posted photos of the tiny bandaged infant when he was seriously ill after his birth. Like many others, I was immediately drawn in by the father’s brave and wry comments. Four months later, this baby is doing great and has one of those mischievous light-up-the-room smiles.

I know there’s a community of people with cancer who provide practical, emotional, and medical support for one another. There are also medical professionals and researchers with diverse expertise, such as with Covid, who link to scientific papers of interest.

Many people going through health crises of their own or with loved ones seek solace from strangers, and they clearly are uplifted by what they receive. I’ve seen enough of this phenomenon to find it compelling–one of the good aspects of social media that to date hasn’t been tarnished by Elon Musk.

Speaking of Musk, the strongest driver that holds me on Twitter is the determination of like-minded politically oriented people to stay as long as possible. It seems worth the effort not to cede this vast international entity to the haters, who have either been emboldened by Musk’s takeover or have joined recently to revel in it. (Though Musk gleefully invited Trump back, the former guy has yet to make an appearance; some say he doesn’t want to dilute his already failing Truth Social platform by offering his precious insights on Twitter for free.)

Although I openly express my political views, I’m aware that my modest presence probably protects me from becoming a target. When I find a tweet repugnant, I simply block that person.

Others have felt and documented the ugliness. Election law champion Marc Elias, whose firm was instrumental in defeating Trump in all those phony court cases following his 2020 loss–and who just won Georgia voters the right to vote this past Saturday–shared a tweet recently in which someone questioned why he still has kneecaps.

Elias, who’s Jewish, received another tweet with a photo showing a dreadful stereotypical image of a wild-looking Jewish man, followed by some nonsense about “a synagogue of Satan.”

Neither tweet apparently violated the Muskian redrawn “moderation policies.”

There’s an understandable tendency on Twitter to grouse about Musk, but I’m more inclined toward the sentiments of Simon Rosenberg, the Democratic strategist who–with his colleague Tom Bonior–kept me optimistic with their thinking and early data prior to the election. They were two of the very few observers who got things essentially right.

Rosenberg has said:

We need to stop talking about Elon. Truly. Watch, learn, understand, yes–but our time together should be far more about our good works than jumping up and down about their depravity. It’s what he wants. Don’t give it to him.”

Rosenberg is updating his presentation “With Democrats Things Get Better,” which I excerpted here previously.

I am grateful that Twitter affords me the opportunity to see what Ukrainian President Zelensky has to say each day, and now, thanks to Rosenberg, I’m also receiving insights about China’s turmoil from James Crabtree, the Singapore-based Executive Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies-Asia.

Closer to home, I watch for tweets from Victor Shu, the Gen Z spokesperson, who’s giving updates about the Georgia Senatorial race. After so much excitement about the high turnout of young voters the first day, I was concerned when Gabe Sterling, the conservative Republican chief operating officer in the Georgia Secretary of State office, for some reason felt the need to point out that the youth cohort was the third highest to turn out in Fulton County, following voters aged 50-54 and 55-60. (He’s been tweeting about turnout generally, but I was puzzled why he included this very specific demographic information so early in the process. Nothing like it has appeared since.)

Victor Shu provided some perspective: there’s been a campaign encouraging families to go to the polls together, and it’s reasonable to assume that the parents of Gen Z are in the 50- to 60-year range.

Many public figures are hedging their bets about Twitter’s future: remaining on the site while joining other burgeoning social platforms. They’re aware of the potential chaos ahead, but hoping somehow it can be avoided.

As I was pondering how to conclude this post, I read an eloquent, even touching opinion piece in The New York Times by Chris Hayes, host of “The Chris Hayes Show” on MSNBC. The Times headline read “Why I Want Twitter to Live.”

Twitter, Hayes wrote,

“came closest [among social media] to executing on the core vision of what the global town square could look like.”

He points to the ideals of the early Internet visionaries for “a place where people across every line of difference and place could find one another to build community, to talk and debate and to pursue common interests.”

The problem, as many have stressed, was the creation of this “commercial juggernaut.”

In the hands of clever engineers and ambitious entrepreneurs, the ability to capture our attention was maximized, commodified and monetized to give us…a world of infinite scrolling and constant notifications, a slot machine in our pocket…

“Whatever happens to Twitter, watching Mr. Musk’s reign over it should force us to rebuild the dream of the internet’s founders of a digital commons. Because we’ve had it before, we know we can make a place to connect and learn and argue that no one person owns. We can create a collective digital life that doesn’t depend on mining every nanosecond of our attention for profit.”

Hayes had noted earlier that Musk appeared at Twitter on his first day carrying a kitchen sink. According to Hayes, that was probably a gibe at a supposedly liberal user who’d post about something “appalling but also banal,” and then say “Let that sink in.”

Hayes concluded:

“The world’s most successful capitalist, by at least one measure, has made the most definitive case for rejecting private ownership of the public sphere that we’ve seen in a very long time.

“Let that sink in.”

In this context, the phrase seems neither appalling nor banal. I find it not only witty, but also revelatory–and true. I hope–somehow–Twitter survives Elon Musk and his crass, weird, abominable, unbusinesslike ownership.

And then we just need some creative folks who are dedicated enough to the global public square to do some CPR on the Bird and breathe new life into it.

Your thoughts?

Annie

38 thoughts on “Why I’m Still Loath to Leave the Twitterverse

  1. In my view, it would be a horrible tragedy if Twitter survived. It has been a venue for threats and harassment for a very long time, as well as blatantly biased censorship, and it’s obvious now that Musk is not going to improve that. Nevertheless, you’re right to point out its good aspects.

    But if and when Musk’s incompetence finally destroys Twitter, that doesn’t mean that that good will disappear from the internet. Waves of users are already departing for other platforms which have similar functionality (Mastodon seems to be the most popular, but there are others). After Twitter is gone, I expect it will be replaced by a half-dozen or so platforms similar in size to each other, but each with a somewhat different focus and user base. So there will still be channels for all the positives you see, but not that dangerous monopoly of one huge “commercial juggernaut”.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. There was never, in my mind, a chance that Musk would actually adhere to his claims as a free speech devotee. I’ve written about his attempts to use his money to silence others. He’s sided with authoritarian governments against citizen protests. He’s a despicable and hypocritical individual.

      Thank you for the link. I’m aware of various efforts. Though Mastodon seems popular, it is apparently difficult for non-technie individuals to navigate. In addition, David Rothkopf said he joined and then quit because there were three individuals impersonating him, and the folks in charge didn’t respond to his concerns. He and many other journalists are being drawn to Post, which has a waiting list of more than 100,000. CounterSocial to date, from what I’ve heard, has very few women members; not sure why. Christopher Bouzy, the amateur election prognosticator with a very good record whom I’ve cited, is by profession a platform security designer. He and his group are trying to begin a beta test of his Bot Sentinel platform as a Twitter substitute. I’m sure there will be plenty of others.

      The Twitter that I and others envision–which may very well not be feasible–replaces the commercial juggernaut with a sort of public utility. As the writer of the article you linked to observes, one of the best things about Twitter is that it cuts across particular areas of interest and user bases. If Twitter dies or I decide to leave (Musk’s use of a photo with a German WW II soldier and another image of Pepe the Frog are weighing heavily on me), I don’t think I’d be interested in any of the others. The breadth and the access to good people are the aspects that appeal to me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi, Bill. First, apologies: this response was one of two I retrieved from my spam folder yesterday (no idea why the Spam police found it offensive). Second, though there are plenty of reasons to criticize Twitter, people aren’t confined to the characters in a single tweet: threads can go on and on. A fine essay by David Rothkopf about Biden that I posted recently originated on Twitter as a thread–a series of tweets strung together.
        And third, thanks so much for reblogging my piece about the child tax credit. That’s a smart and compassionate governmental move that I hope will eventually become permanent.

        Like

  2. Totally foreign to me. Four month into my seventh decade I have no phone, no watch, and no desire. My dad put me to work at five and I have never done a job that wasn’t tied to a specific property. A phone is useful for it’s ability to tell me where to go and is almost always initiated by what someone else needs. I struggle to understand how one can”do” work over a phone and the idea of “phone sex” boggles my mind. I imagine that twitter withdrawal will mimic the lack of cocaine when the money stream dries up.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I thought I responded earlier, Richard, but looks like it didn’t go through. I agree with you about Twitter withdrawal, though I suspect you’re talking about EM and not us, the mere users. It can be addictive, as a NYT columnist wrote about his own dilemma and resolution. Not moi, of course…I think…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Unlike heroin it apparently is not addictive when you can’t afford it. Never tried it myself, Len Bias was a very, very good kid.
        He was one person I could reach out to 24/7 and he would respond, that is hard to find. I miss him since a single heart attack killed him cutting the grass.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting post Annie with some good points. Underscores the lines remembered from an early 1970s UK play whose full details I still cannot trace:
    1st Main Character: There are two sides to every argument.
    2nd Main Character: Three, if the truth be known.
    My account on Twitter never did much; it was set up because all writers ‘should’ have a Twitter to spread news of their work. This was dutifully done by me, and then I forgot to use it, and no one noticed it anyway, so I closed it….There’s a lesson or observation, or something there…..
    Anyway I see that Mr Musk has got his panties in a bunch because Apple is possibly not using his Twitter anymore….Well, being but a ragged old-fashioned UK socialist the nuances of how Capitalism works may have passed me buy, but isn’t that just how things are supposed to work in the Commercial Sector; risk taking and other companies opting out?
    Have I missed something there?

    Liked by 5 people

      1. I think it’s easy to cover up one’s numerous inadequacies when one is the richest man in the world. Unfortunately, his increasing willingness to publicize his racism and antisemitism is quite scary to me.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Neil. I’m not really seeking advice, simply wondering how other Twitterers on WP feel about all this. I think my decision would be easier if I didn’t feel the need to be part of the disloyal opposition to the richest man in the world, now apparently flirting with the hate-mongers. He won’t notice my absence, of course. I’m just reluctant to be bamboozled.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A beautifully written piece. It is a dilema with Twitter – really. I am stuck what to do … Twitter is useful to drive traffic to the blog and other social media. Very useful. But… ahhh the changes in Twitter… I just dont know what to do. I am gonna wait and watch – and pray ! If it gets bad then I will have to rethink. I almost left twitter when i saw the sink photo… i will wait and see..

    it is a pain!

    Liked by 4 people

  5. I never joined, never tweeted.. perhaps recalling my Mother saying, .. “and I don’t want to hear a peep out of you!” But I digress, it is a difficult call. It’s still a young transition and I read many great tweets from inspirational people, so my cautiously optimistic heart hopes they hang in there so that good will out! Great post Annie!

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Three things.
    May I recommend simply blocking Musk? I understand there is a different choice, the mute, which may allow revisiting the decision more easily, but either way he doesn’t seem to post much worth reading.
    I’m working on a list of tweeters and the alternate platforms they are announcing. This post has several for me to add to the list, so thanks for that.
    And… nearly totally off topic, I clicked through to Bebe’s twitter and look what I Found! Or what she found. I do wonder who made the first move in this particular confrontation. Kinda makes me rethink my pets and affirms my caution on dark nights out here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, mdavis. Apart from the phony poll he used to claim the box populi are drooling for trump’s return, I’ve received no tweets from the haters’ honcho. If I do, I will, of course, block him. I’m very interested in your compilation. My problem is the people I’m interested in will be departing for different new “homes.” I like the one-stop option I have now, alas. I’ve decided that I’ll stay as long as Zelensky does (see my post today). Do you have a Twitter adios trigger?
      PS: I think I should follow Bebe in the interim. Interesting stuff!

      Like

      1. “My problem is the people I’m interested in will be departing for different new “homes.””
        That’s kind of the point.
        First step in adding names is to go look up people on twitter.
        Next I enter ; twitter handle -/ name -/ other site they list -/ other other sites they list (and so on)
        Post looks like a site you need an account on to view posts. Mastodon seems confusing to use, but it does seem to allow non-Mastodons to view posts. And a lot of twitter users have websites they have a presence on.
        I’m pretty slow at this, and I don’t even have a full time job. I’m only up to 36 entries so far, and some don’t list alternate sites.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hi, mdavis. I certainly appreciate your efforts and the time you’re expending. My personal concern is that although I value having direct access to a number of public figures, taking a quick look at Twitter is time I’m willing to expend. Knowing the disparate places they’ll be is fine, but checking all those different sites will, I think at this point, be too time-consuming for me.

        Like

  7. Excellent post Annie. I’ve been on the fence about Twitter since Musk took over. I’m an earlier adopter of the platform, sort of. My account goes backs to 2008 but I didn’t use it much for years. Each time I gave it a try, I’d get put off by all the snarkiness that clogs its airways.

    About 18 months ago, however, I started putting a small effort into grooming my feed. After a year, about half the content I was getting came from other francophiles, francophones, and French news sources that were of interest to me. Then Elon started spouting off and revealing his true nature which, as you’ve documented, hasn’t been the kind of personality I’d like to stand behind.

    I’ve stripped my tweets from my blog for the time being but I haven’t abandoned my feed. Early in this debacle, I read an article in the Atlantic about why people should stay on Twitter. I compare the reasoning to those that rationalized staying behind in Tehran when the Ayatollah took over. When all the intellectuals and artists leave, they help create the wasteland that they’re afraid of.

    I’m also on the fence about staying on Twitter because part of me believes that social media is the place where all good ideas die a quick death. Nothing there seems to last and you can spend a lot of time consuming and producing material that is forgotten the next day. Regardless of who ends up running the platform, I wonder if we’d all be better off without it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I certainly understand your concerns, Carol. I find I’m spending very little time on Twitter these days, as the algorithms feed me mostly people searching for followers they can no longer connect with. But I still check out the insights from a handful of people who remain and whose views I value.

      I watched a discussion yesterday that I’m pondering now; it described as part of the participants’ shared message the importance of our use of such platforms in protecting our fragile democracy.

      Like

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