on twitter.. or maybe off twitter depending how it goes
Today I want to blog, but the only thing I've been working on is ranking a bunch of Self Defense Family EPs and that's a much bigger project than I'm trying to finish today. So instead I'll talk about twitter.
I've been on twitter since three months after I turned 13 years old. It's the site I feel most comfortable on. I spent a lot of time on Tumblr as a teenager and I've always had an Instagram account, but Twitter is the site I've used consistently the longest. I've pretty much always used it the same way. It's a place to dump the thoughts I have throughout the day and it's a place I've made friends since I was in college. In the last few years, it's also been a place to post about my writing and zines and podcast. I have about 4,000 followers. I keep up with writers I like. I keep up with bands I like.
When I moved, Twitter was a lifeline to reach out to new people. It's a part of how I've made all my friends since 2020. It's a place I've curated to be exactly what I want and because I use it in a really particular way, I've never really had negative feelings toward it. Here and there the social internet opens you up to people being horrible. One time a woman started a bunch of burner accounts because I made fun of Phish. My message requests have some pretty brutal messages from dudes.
But I'm a cis, white woman existing in a social space between music writer and public music fan where the stakes just aren't that high.
As a user, I believe strongly in curating your internet experience. I've written about it before! It's an article about an internet zine I made early in the pandemic about how to have a healthier relationship with Twitter in particular, treating the internet as a real place with real impact, and also Frankie Cosmos. It was written at a time where I felt like the internet was my enemy, but really I just lost sight of how to use it in a positive way.
I think what I love about Twitter, and I'm not the first person to say this, is the hyper-casual nature of it. Short, text based messages don't take the level of time or thought that an image or a video do. Of course, that's also why it can get out of control the way it does. Short messages don't open up a lot of space for nuance, but I don't think that's avoidable. I wrote like two thousand words about liking Yankee Hotel Foxtrot aside from a couple of songs and people still said, "this is the greatest album of all time I can't believe you didn't like it!" It doesn't matter what you do, someone will take your post in bad faith if that's what they've decided to do. You cannot avoid that no matter what.
In Patrick Kindlon's last newsletter he mentioned that newsletters (and, as an extension, I'll include blogs) cannot fill the same void Twitter does. He points out that people subscribe to your newsletter because they're invested in you already. There is no stumbling upon a newsletter without Twitter. That's just how it is. If something is going to replace Twitter, it has to act as an aggregate in that way. You must be able to stumble upon new things. That's the problem with Discord and Reddit and, from what I can tell, Mastodon. If you have to either be invited to an insular circle or be limited to a specific topic, well, it's not the same. It won't work for people who are trying to promote stuff and it won't allow me to follow writers I like in a meaningful way.
Tumblr can allow for some easy discovery through reblogs, but it's not predominantly a text site or, more importantly, used as a site to link out to other placed. I think it could be used like Twitter if enough people tried, but right now the culture of Tumblr is the main barrier. A takeaway you could have from this little piece of writing is that I think Tumblr is the best current alternative as far as actual functionality goes.
That said, I don't know what a New But Better Twitter looks like because I think Better Twitter is just Twitter with a better moderation policy. All social media sites should have a better, more evenly enforced moderation policy. Of course, I'd like to see more blogs and I'd like to see more curated spaces, but that's never something I've seen as an alternative to Twitter or platform social internet. I don't see TikTok as an alternative to Instagram or Twitter or YouTube. I use all of those sites in vastly different ways for vastly different reasons. None of them come close to what Twitter does. Twitter didn't stop you from having a blog and a blog won't fill the hole Twitter would leave.
If I had to outline a good Twitter alternative this is what I'll say:
- Must be able to show you topics you aren't actively seeking out. (World news, celebrity deaths, film criticism from a writer you don't already know, funny little video about Drake, the funniest joke you've ever seen about a basketball player you've never heard of, etc.)
- Limited character count text based posts. No walls of text.
- Ability to promote (see #1) and use professionally (Verification is good)
- Easy to link out to other sites
- Works smoothly
- Well outlined and evenly enforced moderation policy
- A team dedicated to accessibility
But this alternative will remain difficult to monetize which is the nature of the kind of place Twitter is. You're there to talk about the stuff you like and care about as a whole person. If it goes down, I guess I'll end up on wherever the highest number of my friends are, but it sure as hell won't be somewhere that I have to go to different sections of a website to discuss certain topics.