When Elon Musk finalized his purchase of Twitter, I began to think about whether it would be worth staying on Twitter. I’m not alone, and there are many users wondering the same thing. Not all of it is Musk related, but often that’s a catalyst.
And even in the best case scenario, where truly harmful stuff stays off the site, Musk’s stated plan for Twitter is to make it the “the most respected advertising platform in the world” which sound really boring, to be honest. And not something I’m especially interested in.
Do I need to be here?
I’ve been thinking about how I use social media these days. Not how social media is supposed to be used, not how others use it, not how Musk and Zuck want me to use it, but how I actually use it.
Generally speaking, I use social media as a platform to get tiny bursts of approval. I like some self expression and I also like getting some positive feedback on things that I write or share. That’s just about it. It sounds hollow and self-centred. It is self-centred.
So is that how I want to use it? Or is that how Musk and Zuck want me to use it? Do they want me here just engaged enough to stay to get some small pleasure from a like or a retweet? I think they do. And why should I give in to that?
Do I need to be here? Do I even need to be anywhere?
How it got that way
I used to use social media more actively. I used Facebook and Twitter to engage, argue, and browse. I used Facebook in the mid 2010 to connect with old friends abut but also argue and comment on news articles—a “digital town square”— but I still checked to see if people liked my comments. It is gratifying to see that others agree with you. But it was also often horrifying to see family and friends doing the same thing with sometimes grotesque opinions, racism, and misogyny. Facebook ended up deepening rifts for many of us, because we now saw what people said behind our backs in full view and we did not always like it. I deleted my FB account in 2018 and only brought it back in 2022, but now it’s just keeping in touch with my family. No opinions. Bland but kind of nice. I’ll post photos of a graduation or my garden.
I moved to Twitter in 2012 because it was becoming the place to share science, ideas, and insights into academia. I did learn a lot about important things like open science and anti racism. At first I really engaged with replies and quote tweets, spirited debate with interesting people. But my usage has stalled. Twitter’s algorithms are dominated by core topics and driven mostly by outrage. Even though I eventually blocked or muted some of the accounts and words, it’s still heavily dominated by narcissistic mega personalities (including Trump & Kanye, who are no longer even on the platform).
Over the past years, I’ve engaged less and less even as my actual tweeting remained the same. I rarely argue or debate. I tweet about covid anxiety, workloads, lockdowns, and some local politics, but mostly it’s little things that make me happy.
- I run a lot and sometimes post pictures from a run.
- I post photos of something I made for dinner.
- A lot of cat content.
Most of my usage now is sending out dispatches of things I like, find, enjoy, get irritated by, am worried about, or think are funny. Thoughts into the void, but still craving that small boost from a like. It’s one sided. I share and get a like. That’s neither good nor bad, but it’s hardly reason to be on twitter vs anywhere else.
I think this is as good a time as any to rethink and perhaps write more longer form and share on this WordPress site. I enjoy self expression. I might still use Facebook or Twitter to share the blog, but I don’t need to be on those sites much beyond that. It’s certainly a slower social media.
I think “slow social” is what I need anyway.