Another Twitter demise post, sorry. I can’t even say I’m enjoying the spectacle of Musk making a public arse of himself like it’s a performance art piece. Every day on that site is now filled with posts from him, and about him, even if you try to avoid it. I don’t want to think about Musk. I don’t want to know what other people think about Musk. Like a cryptocurrency convention in Vegas, it’s just not a place I want to spend any time in. This will be the cause of decline far more than any usability or moral stance – there are a lot of spaces to hang out online, why keep returning to a Poundland Mordor once the initial spectacle has worn off?
I enjoyed reading Kin Lane’s post on setting up his own Mastodon server, in which faced with his first post, asks himself “What would I say? I had no followers. Nobody would be listening even if I did say something”. I’ve felt similar with Mastodon, I haven’t quite found the groove for inconsequential chat there yet. But I’d been falling away from Twitter long before the Musk rapture drive.
Of course, I don’t equate my own relationship with social media as being necessarily symptomatic of anything wider, plenty of people still engage heavily on that platform. But what it has all been a reminder of is the impermanence of these tools. We used to be accustomed to tools and platforms coming, and then dying. I remember feeling upset by the demise of my favourite URL shortening tool. Then after the web 2.0 shakedown there were a few big hitting tools left and we grew complacent.
This re-emphasises the need to own your own domain I guess. There are other tools you can use to amplify that, and engage around it, but the core of your identity remains under your control. Maha Bali asked the pertinent question whether we actually own a domain rather than renting it. But even so, one owns the data and can easily transport it to another provider (while you can download your twitter archive you can’t recreate it).
So, the upshot of the Twitter debacle is a timely reminder that platforms die, so we should be ready to move elsewhere. As Kin notes, you aren’t talking to yourself for long, because you have some network value, so people soon follow you on a new platform if they’re relocating too. Beyond this ability not to align your identity or business model to one platform too closely is a prompt to build something that is indisputably yours. For me, it’s this blog, for others it may be podcasts, videos, etc. While all of these benefit from being boosted on specific platforms they can migrate to new providers and remain somewhat independent of the whims of any particular man-child.