I know I should have done it ages ago, but I’ve finally decided to leave Twitter and deactivate my account. Yes, I know you can make all the “it’s not an airport you don’t need to announce your departure” gags now – but I’ve written about Twitter pretty consistently over the past 16 years so it would be strange not to comment on the end of that identity.
It’s been a tough decision. I’ve been on that platform for over 16 years, pretty much every day. I formed friendships through it, found interesting connections, discovered new resources, explored different perspectives, and had a lot of fun. I was so enamoured by it that 14 years ago I made a naff Twitter Love Song video.
It was genuinely exciting to find others on there in the early days, and then to see how it changed public discourse and the impact it had on entertainment and news, as well as academic practice. But we can’t have nice things, because too many people are asshats and so it become distorted by misinformation, and right wing trolls, who used it effectively to manipulate the public narrative and to distort perceptions of those easily swayed. Even then though you could still argue it was worth persevering with. Personally, I found it a great source of comfort when I lived on my own – you didn’t have to be alone, there was always a conversation to be had. Professionally I wrote a lot about it on here, and was often asked to use my network to promote job adverts or new courses. Twitter was the network I had in mind most often when I thought through issues of digital scholarship. It reshaped a lot of our practice. I was once introduced as the OU academic with the most Twitter followers. I don’t know if that was actually true, but there has definitely been some ego involved in my decision to stay as long as I have.
So why quit now? I think the final, final, really final straw came with Musk’s defence of Russell Brand. To be on a communications platform owned by someone who is pro-rapist? That is too much. But you could argue, why was this the breaking point? Not the anti-semitism, or the far right accounts, or the pro-Putin stance? And I don’t have a good answer to that. I’m not a moral philosopher. It just feels that the accumulation of cognitive dissonance required to stay there has become too great. Also you could say, why suddenly have ethics here when you happily shop at Amazon, use Google, have Facebook and Threads accounts? Those companies are hardly shining beacons of virtue. And yes, you’d be right. All I can say is for this individual, the direction of Twitter and the values of a communications platform and the behaviours it encourages feel untenable now. Even if my corner of it remains relatively sane and polite it feels grubby to be there now.
I’ve seen others become quite moralistic about this, pontificating that if you’re still on Twitter then you’re essentially an evil person. I don’t align with such views – the reasons people are on there and stay there are complex. This is just where this individual is now.
In one respect (and probably one only) Musk is successful at Twitter: It isn’t Twitter any more – it is now X. If I wasn’t already on there, I wouldn’t join that platform any more than I would sign up for Truth Social. So I’m not really leaving Twitter – it has ceased to operate. I’m genuinely sad about its demise, but 16 years was a good run for a tech platform. Still, we’ll always have the Fail Whale.
Here are the other (morally dubious) platforms I’m on if you want to follow me there:
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