If the future wreckage from Twitter skywrites a tale of overconfidence through the air, many have chosen – or made the choice for them – to turn their gaze to the horizon instead, hoping to see a beacon of hope shining through the bomb cyclone : Tweeting The Next! But they are misled. There’s no Next Twitter, and really, really, that’s OK.
But to avoid seeming dismissive at first of the people who depend on Twitter for their livelihoods (freelancers, comedians, sex workers, etc.), I’m not saying there won’t be a negative effect on anyone from a valued platform disappearing . Their loss is real, as is that of every other group who eventually found Twitter to be a suitable tool for their use. I hope these people find something that works for them.
But for the recklessness of a certain wealthy individual, we might have seen Twitter trudge on for another five to ten years, following its peer Facebook’s lazy decline into irrelevance—occasionally arrested by a transfusion of youthful blood via the acquisition of an innovative competitor . But with Twitter using up its remaining life force, that future is lost.
With Meta betting on the wrong horse to the detriment of its core products, TikTok rising but starting to lose its luster and Snap and others also running their wheels to stay one step ahead of the private equity wolves for another quarter, it seems It’s an opportune time to evaluate the current crop of social media royalty aspirants.
Seemsyes – but isn’t it.
Illusion of choice
First of all, while it’s premature to judge these platforms strictly on the merits they hold today, it’s not too hard to see that the so-called alternatives are generally worthless. Some fall short because they’re not like Twitter, some because they’re too much like Twitter, some because of a lack of direction, some because of suspicious direction. But they all fall short, which is only to be expected if they have more or less chosen the moment of their debut. Such platforms are all about timing, and who could have predicted what happens next? Relevance has been forced upon them. I’m afraid that if they prove flawed in the moment of crisis, they’ll be discarded before they gain real traction.
But more importantly, think about the powers at play and, as Carlin pointed out, the illusion of choice offered. Twitter is going down, so here are the handful of pre-prepared options for you to choose from: What if Twitter, but someone is making money off it! Or some other oddity. What matters is not the product, it’s about continuing to make the product with as little disruption to the status quo as possible.
It’s a bit like someone dazedly walking out of the wreckage of their former home and immediately being offered predatory, binding terms for a new home. This is a market opportunity. Is it any wonder that wealthy interests squabble like fishmongers over the fractured attention economy? (With the utmost respect to fishmongers. The practice is common on the wharf.)
Twitter has permeated, if not dominated, the social media world for a decade, and the choices made on the platform have helped define and calcify how we think about information sharing. But all things pass and the moment of Twitter has come and gone. Good, I say (although I might as well, since I’ve been a hater for 14 years. But I rejoice for loftier reasons than gloating).
We are at a time when the nature of social media platforms, the basic features they provide, how they work behind the scenes, how they should be run, funded, moderated – all these things are up in the air. This is an opportunity to shake off the conventions and assumptions we’ve been told for years that are fundamental.
Into the void
But to do that requires rejecting the illusory choice of rushing to The Next Twitter. Twitter was more than a product: it was a moment in time, an unrefined manifestation of digital possibilities that, like such a raw element, was destroyed as often as it was created. It was necessary and interesting, but these messy delights have messy ends. To recreate it now, with only superficial lessons learned, would be like rebuilding a fallen castle on the same shifting sands. Watch it sink!
So don’t fall for it. Like author Robin Sloan pointed outis this a unique opportunity that we haven’t seen in years: an opportunity for people to actually do something new onesto get started defining the The next era of how people connect with each other, rather than simply expanding the previous, familiar.
I don’t wish the failure or destruction of these Twitter-adjacent platforms competing for position. But I also don’t want the eggs hatched in Twitter’s cursed nest to be the ones that overstep the boundaries of our online interactions. Like a rebound relationship, this one will be twisted and influenced by the previous one.
Why don’t we all try something different? And I don’t mean a new app. What did you think about no app for a while.
Now, this isn’t a bait and switch for me to beat the “let’s all connect IRL” drum. At a time when new ideas and methods are potentially invaluable, you cannot think for yourself and create meaningfully and wonder if you are doing so within the confines of the previous ideal regime. It’s not about touching grass or having personal conversations (although both are great), just putting a little distance between yourself and the pen you’ve supposedly been roaming freely in for the past decade.
I hope people take at least a few weeks to break free from these old, patched-up ideas and just do other things. Read articles, check in on forums, watch a documentary, go skiing, play a game with your friends – do anything but participate in Twitter’s defined style of recording and broadcasting information. How can you choose what comes next if you don’t leave behind what came before?
The perspective you develop in this way can only clarify and improve your thinking about the questions to which social media claimed to already know the answers. You may find that they never had them to begin with and the questions persist – perhaps more interesting than any answer.