By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

I’m back on Twitter, and no, I’m not especially happy about it

Illustration (cc) 2009 by Pete Simon

Recently I wanted to add a news feed to What Works, the website that Ellen Clegg and I host about the future of local news. There are a fair number of items that come to our attention, and we wanted a way to alert our readers without necessarily writing a full blog post.

Because we had deleted our Twitter account last fall in response to Elon Musk’s sociopathic debut as the platform’s new owner, I looked into setting up a Mastodon news feed. I began by signing up for a Mastodon account for What Works. That was simple enough. Then I tried to figure out how to embed it at our website. I’m not going to get into the technical details except to say that it would have required either more money than we wanted to spend or more hassle than I wanted to put up with. We revived our Twitter account — we’re at @whatworks_nu — and added a news feed to the right-hand column of whatworks.news.

How long will it last? I don’t know. Musk has been arbitrarily cutting off access to Twitter’s API, which means that the feed could stop working at any moment. For now, though, it’s by far the best alternative we have. Which brings me to the state of Twitter and its various alternatives and would-be alternatives.

Twitter is of no importance to most ordinary people, and they should feel fortunate. I’d been a heavy user since the early days, though, and I wasn’t sure what to do when Musk took over. But in late November, following some particularly vile behavior by the Boy King, I decided I’d had enough. I stopped using Twitter and went all-in at Mastodon, writing about it a few weeks later.

And I stuck with it for three months. I don’t believe I posted any tweets in December, January and February except to remind people that they could find me here or on Mastodon at @dankennedy_nu@journa.host, or to rip into Musk. I was so anxious to get rid of my blue check mark that I found out how to do it myself without waiting for Musk to get around to it. In March, though, I started drifting back, and there I remain — mostly on Mastodon, but on Twitter as well.

If you don’t care, believe me, I get it. You’re under no obligation to read this post. But if you’re dealing with the same dilemma as me, here are the various reasons that I came back: Only a tiny handful of the people and accounts I follow on Twitter moved to Mastodon. Black Twitter has most decidedly not moved to Mastodon. Likewise with conservative voices that I value. Some of Mastodon’s biggest boosters have continued tweeting like crazy. Most media and political people are still exclusively on Twitter, especially at the state level. The local news outlets and journalism organizations I follow as part of my work are not on Mastodon. Big Media won’t move, either. Finally, despite everything, Twitter is not nearly as broken as some observers will have you believe. It still works, even though it goes down more than it did before Musk laid off most of his workforce and stopped paying the bills.

Everything is always subject to change, and I wish I hadn’t sounded as definitive as I did when I wrote that I was leaving. If you want to call me a hypocrite, go right ahead. I still like Mastodon, I still expect that at some point it will become more feasible (or necessary) to leave Twitter for good, and I continue to be interested in other alternatives — especially Bluesky, with which Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey is involved.

For now, though, I’m back on Twitter — chagrined, not as active as I was before, but with a greater understanding that most people are not obsessed enough with social media to go to the bother of packing up and moving to a new, unfamiliar platform.


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1 Comment

  1. I”d be curious to know the conservatives you follow on Twitter.

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