Friday the 13th just passed 😳 and what a great day it was to finally leave Twitter. It’s been a fun ride, I found my programming community on it, I’ve learned a lot, but those days are over 😞
I’m a software developer. I don’t know what Twitter’s future is, it might be a bright one, but the problem for me is that Twitter is no longer the place where I can go to learn about programming. Or to find my peers. Twitter is no longer the place you go to talk of your passions, fruitful discussions being few and far between. Twitter is no longer fun, but rather it’s where you go to get your daily fix of unhinged political drama, and then worry that the world is going to shit.
I had about 6000 followers. Not much, but enough to keep me hooked. However, from my experience, I can tell you that engagement for posts has been going down, for anything but politics. I noticed it not just on my posts, but on the posts of those I followed as well. Having followers feels like an investment, which is one of the ways social networks keep people hooked, but it’s a meaningless number, a proxy for actual reach. We want to learn, to make connections, to promote our work, to be entertained, but these social networks have a real cost, and we have to keep asking ourselves if they help us in achieving our goals.
These days, Twitter may be more alive than ever, but many of the people I care about are no longer active on Twitter. As far as I’m concerned, the elves have left Middle Earth, taking their magic with them, and I doubt that the magic can come back.
The issue with centralized social networks is that their business model is ads-driven, which means they have to steal your attention. The more you engage with their service, the more ads you consume. This creates a perverse incentive, as the timeline of these social networks was optimized for stealing your attention. And it turns out that outrage generates a lot of attention, and engagement.
When you log into Twitter, you get bombarded with political opinions that are counterproductive. Even if you judiciously block, even if you switch to the “latest tweets” timeline, it doesn’t matter, as your connections also get fed outrage, and start sharing. Whenever I see another flame war on Twitter, it’s always another US tantrum, and I have to wait for a couple of days for it to cool off. And US tantrums are digestible because at least I’m not living in the US, whereas Facebook was giving me local news of gruesome local tragedies, many times as “promoted” posts.
People want more content moderation on these platform, this being seemingly in contradiction with freedom of speech. But we are missing the forest from the trees, I think. The problem with these centralized “public squares” is that their algorithms are now adversarial, shoving speech we don’t want in our faces for profit.
I’m actually one of those obnoxious free-speech absolutists, and being a European liberal that believes in capitalism, I consider myself to be aligned more with right-wing values. What you’re witnessing with Musk’s supporters aren’t values rooted in classic liberalism. They aren’t concerned with free speech, given the cheering of journalists or left-wing accounts being banned. This is just tribalism. And I’ve got better things to do than participate in a platform whose new leadership has a mission of “owning the libs”.
Don’t get me wrong, Twitter’s leadership is free to spread election or vaccine misinformation, or to promote hatred against LGBT+, but the beauty of freedom and capitalism is that this works both ways … we are free to stop using their service, and vote with our wallet and/or attention.
And I can’t in good faith continue to contribute to this platform.
I’m not here to tell you what to do, but in case you feel as I do and need some motivation, I recommend either one of these books:
- Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World;
- Ten arguments for deleting your social media accounts right now;
Goodbye, Twitter, and thanks for all the fish 👋