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Notes on Twitter

When all is said and done, Twitter will have been a net negative for humanity regardless of leadership.

Because it combined flat social interactions with costless message amplification, it led to too many pile-ups of tens of thousands-to-one, too much reality distortion that pushed people into doomscrolling, too deep of an insight into often anonymous but always scarred psyches which we would subconsciously mirror.

Most people remember the precise moment when they realized how dangerous these dynamics are. My own came on the night of January 3, 2021, after the public flagellation of one John Roderick, known henceforth as “Bean Dad". Note that this is a link to an article in Forbes, of all places, which I found the most in line with my own thinking. This is how social media radicalizes you. I wasn’t exactly Robert Oppenheimer reciting from the Bhagavad Gita, but a sense of Twitter being a psycho-nuclear weapon formed, and why would I want to spend too much time around it?

And now a billionaire wants to mold Twitter into the human hive-mind, or the everything app, or a bank. To overuse an analogy: this is very much like Edward Teller — a real-life mad scientist and an overall horrible human being — proposing to use his brainchild, the hydrogen bomb, to terraform Alaska, extract oil from tar sands, and control hurricanes. There’s so much power there, don’t you just want to use it?

No. Just stop.

So it is with giddiness and delight that I follow the flourishing of, and, and even the overcomplicated for its own good Mastodon, and most of all what Dave Winer is doing with FeedLand, because there is an alternative timeline out there where Google never shut down the Reader and RSS is the dominant language of social networks and whatever foibles of that other world may be — the 2012–2020 Romney administration, the complete and utter dominance of webOS, mere existence of the DC cinematic universe — at least we’d have known it got on-line social interactions right.

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