Leaving the nest

I’ve decided to leave Twitter.

Elon Musk has made the site more hostile to queer and trans people, women, and people of color by amplifying the messages of those hostile to diversity and reinstating homophobic, transphobic, antisemetic, misogynistic, and white supremacist accounts. While the content moderation practices of pre-Elon Twitter were far from perfect, they at least represented an effort to do what was right and consistent. Elon is a troll looking to empower and encourage those like him, period full stop. He is actively destroying a thing I love.

As a content creator who has used Twitter, at least in part, to promote my content, I am providing a very small molecule of value to the platform by putting there the stuff some people are using it to find. By participating on that platform, I’m giving people a reason to use it. Any value I create for Twitter is now value I’m creating for Elon Musk directly. I cannot, in good conscience, do that.

I was hoping a clear Twitter alternative would emerge prior to coming to this conclusion which, it has been growing increasingly clear, was reaching the point of inevitability. I’m on Mastodon and Hive but I don’t really think either of these seem like a good solution at present. Hive is a nice little app with (apparently) pretty reasonable rules regarding NSFW content, but it doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of adoption from the Twitterati and, even so, its performance has been suffering and it’s run by two people (literally). Mastodon is giving me strong mid-2000s web forum vibes with each instance being run by one or a handful of moderators. In essence, each Mastodon server is tiny little version of Elon’s Twitter with each being run by someone who sees themselves as a benevolent dictator.

I will be posting new blog links on Mastodon and Hive going forward and even Tumblr (where they’ve always been going). I was considering using Twitter only for links back to posts here but, again, that creates value for Elon Musk, if even just an infinitesimal amount. So I’m going to stop doing that, too. This will be the last link I send there.

I will miss engaging with the community I’ve found on Twitter. A lot. I hope if you’re there and reading this you’ll either engage with me here or on one of those other platforms.

The one about Elon

Reader kbrown2017 left this comment to my previous post about Twitter.

I’m sure you worked hard at promoting your lifestyle, but name calling and unsupported rant undermines your entire argument, you know Einstein was hated, and Tesla way ahead of his time and hated, now the accomplishments of Elon dwarfs anything you or I have done, or most of us free men have been able to accomplish, leaves them open for criticism. If Elon eliminates liberal bias and restricts free expression good for him. Even Trump has had his ups and downs and in spite of the hate being generated towards him he still sticks to his same principles, I guess wishy washy non producers will always be jealous the producers and their accomplishments. Is there a hotel Thumper?

I feel like I could just drop this meme and move along…

…but I won’t.

I’m not sure how my post about Twitter could be called a “rant.” I have seen rants. I have, indeed, ranted. What I posted the other day didn’t even qualify as a screed, imo. And also, the charge of “name calling” wrt to Elon is pretty hilarious considering he quite regularly calls people names on Twitter. This is the same guy who called a diver trying to rescue children trapped in a cave a pedophile.

I will establish my bonafides regarding Elon. I have been a fan of the guy in the past. Back when he seemed more a Steve Jobs-like figure who wasn’t ever going to win a congeniality contest but was nonetheless inspiring teams to do incredible things. Space X, in particular, is probably the most exciting American company of its generation. You have to go back to the founding of Google to find one as interesting and innovative. It’s a small list, for sure. This is compounded by the fact that most normal people don’t even realize how profoundly Space X is going to impact for the better life on this planet in the next handful of years.

I have a more realistic view of Tesla. They’ve clearly done a lot to advance the acceptability of electric vehicles, have made advancements in things like battery technology, and have an impressive charging network, but the reality is their core product sucks. It’s a company that’s had the field quite literally to themselves and they’ve capitalized on it, but the landscape is changing. There are a lot of really good EVs being made by companies who know how to manufacture a quality product. And, of course, Elon is out there destroying his personal brand among consumers on a daily basis which is traded on a 1:1 basis with Tesla’s. Every person he turns off by his wasteful destruction of Twitter or his infantile shitposting on that platform is one less person who will ever buy one of his products.

The Jobs comparison I think is really interesting. I have often thought that Elon is like Steve but without the NeXT life lesson. For those who don’t know, Jobs was chucked out of Apple, the company he cofounded in a garage, because he was such a know-it-all insufferable dick. He went on to found a computer company called NeXT which made an incredible, beautiful, technologically advanced product that was a near total failure. It taught Steve the lesson of hubris and humility. So, when he came back to Apple, he was a significantly more effective and productive leader. He got a second chance to change the world and he did not waste it.

Elon has not had that lesson taught to him yet. I’m not 100% sure it can be taught to him. Tesla could be to Elon what Apple was to Steve when he left in 1985. His destructive and rash impulses could lead to a destruction of Tesla’s market value which, in turn, could lead to the unthinkable concept of a Tesla without Elon. That’s as unthinkable today as an Apple without Jobs was back in the 80s. And, in both cases, it would be entirely their own faults.

I don’t think Twitter will be Elon’s NeXT. He and too many people around him are already blaming literally anyone else for its issues: the woke mob, insufficiently hardcore engineers, meddling libtard senators. When Twitter crashes and burns and takes a giant chunk of Elon’s fortunes with it, he will simply be unable to see his role in the debacle. He will see it as something the world did to him rather than the obvious truth of it being the other way around.

It is perplexing to me that no matter how many times Elon does or says something totally wrong, foolish, mean, or simply stupid how vociferously his weird fanboys defend him. Even in the few days since I wrote that last post, Twitter has continued to crumble, as a service and a company, but clearly the issue is those of us who criticize him being blinded by our jealousy of his genius and success to see the brilliance of his ways.

I am not jealous of his success. I saw him speak at SXSW several years ago and he related, almost with pride, how little time he spent with his children because of how much he worked. I simply would never choose to make that trade. Even if it could make me 1,000 times richer than I am today, I would not. If anything, I pity him. His life is so clearly devoid of love and empathy and kindness. He is more “successful” because of it, but his priorities are twisted. He’s not a person to look up to. Not in his current form. Neither was Steve in 1984. But he was in 2004. Maybe Elon will be in 2042.

But I doubt it.

Kbrown2017 could have left well enough alone with commenting on Elon. But they had to say this, too.

Even Trump has had his ups and downs and in spite of the hate being generated towards him he still sticks to his same principles, I guess wishy washy non producers will always be jealous the producers and their accomplishments.

Donald Trump is a grifter and a conman who’s cheated and lied and defrauded his way to a fortune that’s smaller than the one he inherited had he simply stuck it into S&P 500 index funds when his dad died. He’s a multiple-time loser and a traitor to his country and oath who tried to overthrow the government of the United States. A violent coup attempt that led to the deaths of five Americans. He energizes and inspires racists and Christian nationalists to action, openly and enthusiastically. His only principles are to himself. To his own aggrandizement. To his motherfucking ego. There is no “accomplishment” there. He is not the creator of anything worthy of preservation. He is a monster who would burn the world if he thought it’d make him a buck or keep his sorry orange ass out of jail for a month longer.

I am happy to have a debate about the relative value of Elon Musk to the human race with someone who thinks he’s great. It’s a nuanced and interesting topic. But Donald Trump? No. Indefensible. On any objective level. Anyone who would defend both these men in the same breath is not a person who’s comfortable with commonly accepted concepts of right and wrong.

The one about Twitter

I originally joined Twitter in July 2006, about two weeks after its introduction at that year’s SXSW made quite the sensation. I wasn’t at South By that year but heard about it while listening to Leo Laporte’s post-The Screen Savers podcast. My Twitter user number (which used to be assigned sequentially and were pretty easy to find but now aren’t either of those things) is under 3,000.

Back then, Twitter wasn’t an app. There barely were apps. The iPhone wouldn’t come out for another year, and even then, the only apps it ran were the ones it came with. (Fun fact: the first independent app you could run on an iPhone, even before the App Store, was a third-party Twitter app.) You Tweeted by sending an SMS message to Twitter. My first tweet was sent using a Palm Treo and, of course, had a misspelling (no grammar dommes back then). You saw your friend’s tweets by going to twttr.com because vowels were for squares (see also, Flickr, Tumblr, et. al.). It was all so rudimentary and cool and new. Like most tech in the mid-2000s.

Anyway, yeah, I’m an old school Twitterer.

I made my Thumper Twitter account in February 2009 when I realized there were kinky people there talking about being kinky (and posting dirty pictures of themselves and others because Twitter has always been sex positive). That account’s user number is 20,823,289. Before its recent troubles, there were about 300 million active Twitter user accounts (and way, way more than that inactive). So even my kinky Twitter account, which I still think of as “new,” was ahead of the curve.

I don’t say any of this for some kind of nerd street cred. I say it to establish myself as someone who is motherfucking invested in the platform. I honestly love Twitter. I love it so much that I signed all my accounts up for Twitter Blue as soon as it came out for no other reason than I wanted to support the company and help make sure Twitter never went anywhere. I have subsequently unsubscribed all my accounts from Blue, and not because the price went from $3 to $5 to $8.

My OG muggle account is really about consumption. It has less than 700 followers even after all the years it’s been around, but I’ve invested time to curate lists of people in all my key muggle interest areas: news, politics, tech, Marvel/Star Wars, spaceflight, baseball, etc. I do tweet, but the same half dozen or so people are the only ones who ever like or reply to what I say. They may be the only people who even see it. I dunno. The real point of it is to stay informed. And it’s a totally unique and irreplaceable resource. Even after all this time, nothing like it exists (yet).

My kinky account is totally different. It’s all about community. It’s about affirmation and encouragement and kinship. It’s about learning that your weird little kink isn’t a) weird, or b) little. Slipping into Thumper Twitter is like when Norm walks into Cheers. I feel camaraderie and have friends. Real people whose lives I’m invested in. When Tumblr imploded, I mourned the passing of a horny friend. But Twitter is family. If it goes…I’ll be bereft.

And I sense that it is going. My muggle feed isn’t as filled out as out it used to be. My Thumper account, which usually picks up a handful of followers every day, is decidedly losing them now. Presumably, both these things are related. Presumably, people are leaving the platform. When things like Twitter collapse, it happens little by little and then all at once. We’re in the little by little stage. How far away from all at once?

I will probably be able to eventually recreate something close to my muggle consumption model Twitter experience, but I’m terrified about the Thumper side. The side that is filled with adults being explicit with one another, not just for the sexy funtime value, but also for the aforementioned community. Whatever comes after Twitter needs to also be sex positive and permissive of individual expression of sexuality. And as we’ve seen with Tumblr (and the puritanical, paternalistic app store policies of Apple and Google), platforms that foster that kind of community are vanishing or being extinguished. For whatever reason, the mid-2000 allowed for places like Twitter and Tumblr to be created. The 2020s not so much.

And yeah, I know about Mastodon and FetLife. FetLife is not the same thing at all. Mastodon has promise, but it’s unclear to me that it’s the One That Was Promised. But we’re rapidly approaching a moment in time where Twitter might just stop working due to layoffs and its owner being a colossal dick to its remaining employees. Twitter is old and complicated and creaky and at some point something no one currently working there even knows about is going to break and take the thing down for an hour or a day or a week…or forever. And the supreme irony is the place I’d go to find out where everyone else is going is fucking Twitter.

What’s happening to it right now makes me indescribably sad. It’s all so fucking wasteful and nonsensical and stupid and unfair. A petulant manchild who thinks he knows more than everyone else due to the size of his financial portfolio is destroying it in real time right in front of us because he can and is too proud to admit he needs help or listen to others who know more than he does. He’s going to piss away enough money to make significant dents in things like hunger and housing and public health on a global level in a fit of pique.

Fuck Elon Musk. Fuck the asshole techbro kiss-asses who surround and encourage him. Fuck a society that venerates people like him. But long live Twitter. Somewhere. Somehow.