November 18th 2022 at 5:20 PM, reports come out from Alex Heath of the Verge that a large amount of the remaining Twitter staff aren’t accepting Elon Musk’s offer to work on Twitter 2.0.
November 18th 2022 at 6:52 PM, Zoë Schiffer of Platformer reports that employees have been restricted access from Twitter headquarters. Allegedly because Elon is afraid the few remaining employees will sabotage the platform.
These two events are being accepted as the beginning of the death of Twitter, less than two weeks after Elon Musk’s purchase of the platform was finalized. A large number of Twitter users chose to give their goodbyes and link to their accounts on other social media platforms such as Tumblr or Mastodon. As this happened Twitter trending itself became nothing but various phrases about the death of Twitter.
I myself joined in on this as I either said farewell to my mutuals on Twitter or followed them on Tumblr. The night was equal parts melancholy and funny as although saying goodbye to the platform was sad we all had good fun making fun of the billionaire who spent an outrageous amount of money buying the platform only to immediately tank it.
And with the melancholy atmosphere came introspection. Many of us took the time to look back on our experiences using Twitter and ask the question “Was Twitter good?” “Will I miss this place?”.
As we’re talking about a platform with hundreds of millions of accounts it would be impossible to answer that question with a binary yes or no. So if you would indulge me for a short while I would like to talk about what I will and won’t miss when the bird app is destroyed.
What I won’t miss
In this section I would like to very briefly go over three things that would consistently make using the platform an unpleasant experience. These are all widespread problems that I’m sure we all have dealt with or heard horror stories about when using the app.
Let’s address the elephant in the room first: the nazis. Twitter was a platform where you could say you loved Hitler and have a swastika in your username and no one would do a thing to you. Nazis and similar groups would only be banned if they outright went up to another user and started saying slurs. While it would be disingenuous to say Twitter was a pro-nazi platform the fact that people like this were allowed on it at all and could linger so long as they didn’t break the few rules that did exist does not speak well for Twitter’s stance on them.
Now let’s talk about a problem that is significantly less severe than nazis but still attributed to the platform being a very toxic place to be; widespread individualism. A few days ago (at the time of writing) a thread went viral about how a woman received dozens of quote retweets calling her an idiot and a horrible person for cooking a meal for other people to eat.
This situation was no outlier on the platform. Twitter’s main user base has always been composed of people who insist that they don’t care about what others think and then spend their time making sure that other people are like them. Anyone who had differing views or cared about other people were ostracized, selfless acts have always been considered ‘cringe’ on the platform. The average Twitter user probably hasn’t heard the name Ayn Rand but they would undoubtedly agree with her philosophies if they did.
One final issue I would like to discuss is the performative outrage that Twitter supported from all of its users. I have another example I would like to give right here:
A person in their 20s felt the need to go on Twitter and get mad about a two decade old Christmas film that no network was airing and they aren’t being forced to watch. Why? Because this is what Twitter wanted to be for. The platform lived and died on user engagement and everyone knows that anger got the most engagement on the platform.
Everyday people would get angry over the smallest things or remember something from their childhood and act like it was haunting them in order to get likes. Twitter directly supported this with its Topics feature which made sure to promote the most controversial posts.
Eventually this created an atmosphere where nothing was “okay”. If a piece of media wasn’t the best thing ever it became your moral duty to say it was awful. If you liked a PS2 game with mixed reviews then you were considered to be actively making the platform worse by not hating it.
And I think that really sums up the Twitter experience for me personally. Not being allowed to enjoy myself or like things considered mediocre. If I ever dared too then Twitter would make sure to recommend me tweets via the topics feature to remind me that people hated it and I was an ‘other’ and told that “You can like it, you just need to do it ironically”
This aspect alone makes me glad that Twitter is dying off. I have longed for the day I wouldn’t need to deal with this atmosphere and that day may have finally arrived. However I don’t want this article to be an entirely negative experience, so let’s now go over the positive aspects of Twitter.
What I will miss
Just as I went over three things I won’t miss about Twitter I’ll now go over three aspects of this app that were overall positive over the years.
I’ll once again address the elephant in the room, culture, and I don’t mean internet culture. One of the best aspects of Twitter was how many people of different countries and even different languages were able to interact and see each other’s posts. Everyone followed at least a few Japanese artists or a few French fans of obscure anime. This is an aspect of Twitter that I’m going to miss a lot as Tumblr is a very anglocentric platform and Mastodon outright keeps French users on a different server from other people!
EDIT: Mastodon doesn’t restrict servers by language, rather communities self sort themselves so the administrative service is in a language users understand
As tech companies desperately try to develop their alternatives to Twitter in an attempt to fill the void I feel the one that will succeed the most will be the one that appeals to the most languages. If you could make an app as international as Twitter then you will succeed in replacing it.
Another aspect of Twitter I’ll miss is the news, both the real and fake. It was easy to immediately figure out what was happening in various industries within seconds on Twitter, and if news was prank that people were falling for then it was equally as easy to reveal the truth to people. (even if they didn’t always listen.)
As an aspiring writer myself, news on Twitter would constantly give me inspiration for what to write or what to correct from other people. A very fond memory I have of the platform is from when someone created a steam page for a fake Kaguya-sama Visual Novel and a trusted news Twitter made a tweet thinking it was real. A few Twitter users were able to quickly find out it was fake and I was able to write an article exposing the truth. Events like this happened often and while it could be seen as a negative that we trusted random people on Twitter to give us news, it was certainly a fun time.
Finally, I would like to return to the melancholy atmosphere from the beginning of this article. The big reason that a lot of us will miss this platform when it goes down: the friends we made along the way.
Twitter was a hellscape, there is no reasonable person who would deny that. If you wanted this platform to be remotely close to usable you needed to block a few thousands accounts and mute a long list of terms. However once you took those necessary steps a lot of us were able to make friends.
Without Twitter there would be many figures in the Sakura Wars and Yakuza fan bases that I would never have been able to make a connection with. I myself have only made a few friends via Twitter but there are people out there who made entire friend circles via this app and this shutdown will hurt them the most.
Everyone is migrating to different platforms and many will never see each other again. There are also people who believe nothing will happen and are refusing to make accounts on other sites. I hope these people at least remember their friends’ usernames if the end comes and they’re forced to migrate.
Farewell Twitter, you were an okay app at the best of times and something I would be forced to delete and reinstall in anger at the worst of times. I hope all of you who found The Story Arc via Twitter will find our articles linked in other places. And for all of you refusing to make accounts on other sites or prepare for the end, I just hope you remember the phrase about putting all of your eggs in a single basket.