Death Cab for Twitter

By Morf Morford, Tacoma Daily Index

Just a few short months ago, Twitter was one of the top tier social media sites. It’s amazing what a little Musk can do.

A year or two ago, I attempted to migrate most of my social media use from Facebook to Twitter. And then Elon Musk took over and what had been a vital, dynamic site turned into, well, I don’t know what it turned into because, for whatever reason, my access to my own account has been limited. I can rarely open my account and, when I do, it is filled with irrelevant and unwanted ads and posts.

Facebook may have been flooded with unwanted and annoying ads, and intruded on what used to be called privacy, but at least it worked. Twitter, somehow, in record time, and for no reason whatsoever, has made itself unusable if not cumbersome to the point of self-obstruction.

In short, Twitter has become, like MySpace before it, a cyber-ghetto – a “space” for some, and, perhaps for more of us, a space deliberately not-for-us. In summary perhaps, Twitter has become the first major social media site that not only seems determined to die, but perhaps from the point of view of many of us, deserves to die.

What is/was Twitter?

Several years ago Facebook went public on the stock market and, much to the surprise of many, the initial stock price stalled. The problem was very simple. Potential investors asked one basic question; what IS Facebook? What does it do that no one else can do? Will it even exist five years from now? Should it?

Those same questions are being asked currently of Twitter. Besides the ultimate platform for “doom-scrolling” what IS Twitter? What does Twitter do that no one else can do?

The answer, of course, is that, like Facebook and MySpace before it, there is nothing Twitter does that no one else couldn’t do – and they could probably – especially now – do it much better.

Enter the Twitter Killers

Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook/Meta/Instagram released Threads – their answer to Twitter. Threads might be the most public and best funded competitor, but it’s not the only one.

How is Threads different?

The short answer is, not much. Threads mimics Twitter in many ways. Users can post mostly text-based messages to a scrolling feed with all the usual following options. Users can also post photos or video to the app. And Threads achieved 10 million sign-ups within seven hours of its launch.

There are a couple other less public alternatives to Twitter – most notably Mastodon and Bluesky. Mastodon is still a bit clunky and Bluesky is invitation only.

Any social media platform needs to convince a critical mass of users that it’s not just trustworthy, but relevant. And, at least as important, that we, users by the millions, actually NEED it.

The appeal of Twitter was that it was a place where world leaders with immense power, snarky writers, A-list celebrities, and the rest of us could rant, ruminate or try to make sense of the news/rumors of the day.

Is Social Media a public forum?

These recent social media convolutions have led many of us to ask those same questions of social media in general. What does social media do for us? What has social media done to us?

Unlike most, apparently, I primarily use social media as a town square, a neutral and wide open space where I find ideas and inspiration from a previously inconceivable variety of global and special interest news sources.

I, and perhaps all of us, need reliable news sources more than ever now. What, after all, in this time of fevered hysterics about every category of conspiracy from weather to the deep state, is more important than verified news sources during moments of breaking (if not breath-taking) news and rumors?

Facebook and Twitter have both lost their appeal – and maybe their purpose. They were intended to bring us together – and clearly have not.

Maybe this is my bias, but for me, the promise of social media was to allow us to come together to work on, and maybe even solve, some of the immense threats to everything from civilization, to ever more extreme weather to every day life.

Social media, of any format, has clearly not delivered. Yet.

The social media companies, of course, will keep promising. And what they deliver, may or may not, serve our purposes.

But that’s the point of any functional economy isn’t it? To provide a good or service that meets our needs and purposes.

When social media stops meeting our needs, it might be time for something else.