I’m writing to you because of Twitter. On multiple levels, actually.
First and most obvious: Elon Musk just bought the chaotic, broken social media platform in the name of “Free Speech,” a hollow phrase used by people like the world’s wealthiest man to ensure they remain able to shove their opinions into the public discourse, no matter how absurd or vile. The unprecedented power consolidation, if allowed, will almost certainly result in a net negative.
But on top of all that, I’m writing to you about Twitter in a more abstract sense. Twitter made my writing career (such as it is) possible: I got my contributing position here at Input in large part thanks to connections formed on the app. Countless freelance pitches were accepted through DMs with editors and others. The timeline I’ve cultivated over more than a decade of heavy, regular usage keeps me informed of daily news cycles, cultural moments, and job opportunities. I even made some actual human connections on there, too.
In short: the home I’ve built here is heated and lit by Twitter’s continually raging dumpster fire. That’s why no matter what I swear publicly or to myself, I’m almost certainly not leaving the app once Musk gets his hands on it. And neither are you.
The masculine urge to declare you’re leaving Twitter — There has been quite the gnashing of teeth and dramatic wailing about vows to abscond from Twitter if Elon actually pulled off his hostile takeover. Many people will probably make good on those promises, and to them I say: Godspeed, you disciplined soul, you.
I’d love to do the same. Truly, I would. But Twitter, for all its innumerable faults, generates just enough positive effects — be them breadcrumbs of social interactions, meaningful connections, information, career help — to keep the vast majority of us returning day in and day out. Social platforms such as Twitter are now so ingrained into the structures of our interactions that getting rid of the app wholesale would leave many unnerved, confused, and lost. It’s as absurd and sad a fact as it is true.
Is it possible to use the site less? Absolutely. Can I do that? Probably, although it will take some time. I know I’m not alone in this, but the mass exodus we all are hoping for to spite the Technoking isn’t coming. Twitter will continue being a roiling cesspool filled with hapless users, no matter its owner. Elon is banking on this, even though he doesn’t appear to care that the platform is a continual cash-suck that makes virtually zero fiscal profits.
My Chemical Imbalance — Then there’s the sad fact that I am, quite simply, addicted to the platform. Most other regular users are, too. If you’re reading this article, I’m inclined to believe you fall within this group as well. There are a number of valid reasons for this (see: above career achievements), but there is also the very real fact that I am operating exactly as Twitter’s algorithms have intended. I get the same neural jolts from my social media interactions that a gambler does when they hit their next card in Blackjack, or pull a slot machine’s lever. To discount that fact is to lie to ourselves about just how effectively social media has fused to our psyches.
Promises you can’t keep — On December 18, 2018, I publicly let everyone on Facebook know that I would soon be deleting my account. The decision came after multiple data leak scandals, and it was an easy decision for me — I didn’t use the site all that much (comparatively speaking), and I could easily do without it. Four years later, and my profile is still on Facebook. I’ve since taken every step I know how to privatize my account and its data, and my last actual post was around a year-and-a-half ago, but it remains technically live.
Perhaps my Twitter account will follow suit in time. Maybe I’ll wean myself off and/or find myself in a stable enough career position that I don’t need to constantly hustle by any means necessary to earn a livable wage by the time Musk reinstates Alex Jones’ Twitter account. But I’ve never been much of a gambler. Neither should you be, either.