I met a local design hero last night. Thanks to mutual friends, we’d connected on Twitter years ago, and I’d kept up with their work ever since: through their blog, then their newsletter, and then their downright wonderful book. We’d even emailed once or twice over the years! We’d just never, like, y’know, actually met.
As I walked down to the coffeeshop, I was feeling pretty nervous. (The usual jumble of anxieties; see “design hero,” above.) But oh my goodness, what a wildly delightful conversation. We talked about art, writing, getting older, friends’ books we’re excited about, and how the city we live in has changed. How we’ve changed. And as we talked, my new/old friend and I, sitting on that sidewalk patio, Harvard Square just passed us by. All while enjoying some of the finest weather we’ve had all summer. It was, frankly, just the nicest.
At some point, we talked about Twitter, which we’ve both stopped using. We talked about how we both miss it — what it used to be, and what it gave to us — but then they paused for a minute, smiling a little. They nodded at the table, at the space between us, then at the folks passing by us, and said, “Maybe this is better.”
Maybe it’s because blogging is often a much quieter affair than posting on social media, but I love these little blips and boops of connection. They hit harder than comments and likes and reblogs. They feel more personal. They remind me to reach out and email people (or write them a card!) when their work strikes a chord.Lucy Bellwood, “One Quick, One Slow”
“Maybe this is better.”
I’ve been thinking a bit about that quite a bit today, as I added four social media links to my website’s footer. Well, three links. Sort of.
Look, I haven’t used Twitter since last November. And putting aside why I’ve stepped away1, it still feels deeply weird. I was one of the platform’s earliest users2, creating an account a month or two after Twitter became publicly available. By the time I closed up my accounts last November, I’d been logging onto the site for fifteen years. Fifteen years. I spent nearly a third of my life on that site, watching more significant world events unfold than I can count.
Closer to home, though, Twitter’s where I went to share professional achievements: new blog posts, new work, new books, new things to share. When I wrote an article, then a book, then another book? Twitter’s where I went to talk about it. In a very real, sharp sense, my career grew up alongside the service. There’s a mercenary angle here, of course: when I walked away from Twitter, I knew I was going to have something big I’d be promoting this year. I still don’t fully know what that looks like without Twitter. I’m learning — or trying to — but it still feels hard and scary.
But even more than that, Twitter was where I went for, well, everything else. Personal matters. I went through a scary, life-changing health event; I lost loved ones, and grieved; I made dear friends on Twitter. I posted a photo right after I got married. Heck, She wrote some of the funniest things I’d ever read — on Twitter, or anywhere else — and I still miss reading her writing.
I could keep going.
Eventually, maybe sooner than later, I’ll be mostly on my website. Connections lost, but I’ve often believed that real friendships transcend social networks into phone calls, texts, and spending time with each other in person.Naz Hamid, “Dissocial Media”
Eric talks about losing Twitter as though it’s a form of grief, and that feels right to me. Because it’s not really Twitter that I miss: it’s the activists and artists and writers I followed; the voices who weren’t like mine, the people who walked different paths than I did, each of whom taught me so much. I miss the many, many friends I made on that website. That place we all gathered was, bluntly, taken from us. From me.
So, yeah. It does feel like a kind of mourning. And it absolutely feels a bit wrong to just…not be on Twitter any more.
The secret heart of every panopticon is not the all-seeing-eye, but the confessional. Like a god, the machine already knows what we’ve done. We confess to reclaim our own voices, or sometimes in search of grace — though in the machine, grace is only available to some people, until we make it available to none. The gears of commercial networks are surveillance systems built on structures that elicit a continuous stream of confessions made public. Confessions in public become testimony; testimony summons congregations. We raise our voices in defiance or affirmation, knowing there will be consequences we don’t understand. The databanks grow.Erin Kissane, “Tomorrow & tomorrow & tomorrow”
That brings me back to the four links — well, three. Sort of. I’ve been posting more in several places, so I thought I should update my footer to match. I like Mastodon quite a bit, and I’ve been using it since last November; more recently, I’ve occasionally been checking out Bluesky. Neither is perfect, of course, but they’re where I spend my time. And I guess LinkedIn is where the hustle machine goes brr, or whatever.
The fourth link is one that’s been struck out, for a website I don’t visit any more. I should just delete it, probably. But maybe I’m hoping that at some point, things will revert to something safer, something I can support again, and I’ll be able to use the site where all my friends used to be.
That’s putting too much on a modest
del tag, I realize. But is there any chance a little markup can be, like, an act of hope? I honestly don’t know.
More likely, it’s just an act of mourning, of healing. The door I have to close, before another one can open.
Maybe this is better.
Maybe for another offering, winning isn’t about constant scale or growth, but about smaller, more sustainable longer term communities. Maybe winning isn’t always about who becomes the richest and the biggest. Nothing lasts forever anyway, not the big ones and not the smaller ones. So why not allow for different kinds of winning?Leah Reich, “The Great Social Media Wars of 2023”
One thing I’ll say, though, about 2023 and beyond, as I head into my 50s: I mostly want to make art, not arguments.Sara Hendren, “Art, not argument”
If we, for a moment, put aside: the new ownership’s decision to ineptly and cruelly fire half of his workforce, while telling the remaining employees they’ll need to become “extremely hardcore”; the new ownership’s determined campaign to turn the platform into a far-right cesspool in which transphobia, spam, harrassment, and misinformation can flourish; the new ownership’s haphazard product decisions, and the rollouts of same that seem to break the entire platform; the new ownership’s blatant antipathy toward anything resembling moderation, trust and safety, or even basic community care? Things honestly seem fine over there. ↩
My user ID number was apparently #12354, which played merry hell with my more alignment-obsessed tendencies. ↩