Home Opinion OPINION: My first Post post about Twitter

OPINION: My first Post post about Twitter

I’ve joined Post and am trying to join Mastodon, but glitches have kept me out so far. I’m not leaving Twitter just yet. It’s still the primary information sharing platform and I still want to read what people are saying and sharing. That said, I believe we are about to watch social media evolve to another phase and probably fairly quickly.

For a while, I thought all of the claims that Twitter was imploding were more outrage and hyperventilating produced by the outrage machine itself. Now, I don’t know if Twitter will go away, but it’s clearly going be a very different experience than it’s been in the past. Elon Musk is the dominant voice, just like Trump once was. The site’s functionality is significantly diminished. Suddenly, my feeds are clogged with ads for gimmicky products. This morning, my notifications quit working.

I think Twitter may prove to be a primitive version of an information sharing site. With its 238 million users, the site is not going to go away quickly, but it has also become unwieldy. The wild west days of Twitter’s early years have long been gone. The snark, humor, and arguments that once dominated the site have long since cooled, replaced more by insults, petty disputes, and outrage. It’s still the best source of information if you can filter out the noise, but the experience is diminishing quickly.

Post gives a glimpse of what a new space might be. So far, the outrage hasn’t followed the users they’ve allowed to join. The site is more calm, even if the information is more sparse at this point in its development. I suspect it will have less diverse viewpoints, so it becomes more homogenous and somewhat more reinforcing. I just hope it doesn’t become a social network version of MSNBC. I want diverse viewpoints. Twitter introduced me to a lot of thoughtful conservatives.

Twitter reminds me of dynamic spaces that have emerged through history, only to be destroyed because of their popularity. For instance, San Francisco and the Haight-Asbury neighborhood spawned the counter-culture movement. For a while, it was an anything-goes space, open to social experimentation where Hell’s Angels mixed with Merry Pranksters. Eventually, the scene attracted so many lost souls, it became crime- and poverty-ridden, populated more by drug addicts than innovators. The people who made the scene interesting left to form communities less welcoming, more insular, and less chaotic.

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I suspect that’s what’s happening with Twitter. The people who made it most interesting and who shared the most valuable information no longer want to be on a space dominated by chaos agents like Elon Musk or Donald Trump. They are not interested in having their feeds filled with racist and antisemitic snark posing as free speech. Twitter showed what’s possible and now other people will build on that concept, albeit without the dynamism that made Twitter so exciting when it began.

These new spaces will be more orderly, less loud, and, yes, somewhat less interesting, but they will allow thoughtful people to continue share information and ideas. I suspect instead one space like Twitter, we’ll have numerous ones. Post may or may not survive the evolution, but some will.

Those on the right have tried to imitate Twitter with Parler, Gab, and Trump’s Truth social, but they’ve largely failed, in part, because they mistook free speech as a license to spout bigotry. The people who made Twitter interesting shared thought-provoking content. Those right-wing sites were just offering confirmation bias and feeding the outrage machine.

We’re moving into the next stage of social media. New sites will probably have more rules and controls. The libertine ethos that defined early Twitter is probably gone. I suspect the current trajectory is the natural evolution of a site like that, though Musk certainly sped up the process. I hope we can find a place that continues to support diverse viewpoints without some the negative sides of Twitter. I’m going to try everything until it all shakes out.

Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Mills spent 20 years as a political and public affairs consultant. Republished from PoliticsNC.com.

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