Reports of Twitter’s demise are #myopic.
So let’s take it as read that Twitter is run by the usual Silicon Valley/FinanceWorld mix of sociopathic predators, poorly socialized nerds promoted well beyond their competence, gated-community cowards unable to imagine the world beyond their little circle, tech wonks with neither aesthetic nor social senses, and well meaning earnest GenX/Millennials suckered by fashionable contemporary pseudo-ideas (e.g. the notion that comfort is redress, or online conversation is conversation).
Let’s take it as read, too, that Twitter has long been a service in search of a business model, and that the answer they’ve hit on — ‘let’s sell ads’ — is both lazy and in the long run incorrect.
All that said:
Today’s announcement of Twitter’s latest move away from strict timeline chronology, toward ‘curated’ and algorithmically foregrounded content, will be bad for culture, bad for human beings, for what I hope are obvious reasons: the social/emotional incompetence of The Algorithm and the engineers who feed and water it, the choking rich-get-richer effect which folks acted surprised by when the words ‘power law’ were a big deal more than a decade ago, the way it props up the insane feeling of ‘FOMO’ which is the core of online pseudosociality, etc. Leaving Twitter in charge of your news feed means that your news feed will look more like everyone else’s — more like the computer’s dumb idea of what human beings like — which is good for Twitter and its financial co-conspirators and bad for everything else.
But two years from now, no one will care about this particular change to Twitter’s model, just like no one really cares today about the ‘Moments’ non-feature, or the fact that advertisements interrupt our Twitter feeds with increasing frequency and unavoidability, or the company’s decision to cull the ranks of third-party app developers and choke out its app ecosystem. Twitter’s interference with our feeds’ chronology isn’t the end of Twitter because Twitter has been worsening in so many ways for years and years…and you still use it, you still spend hours and hours a day staring at this stupid feed.
The #RIPtwitter outcry is blame-shifting and excuse-making by a small but loud group of addicts, most of whom once knew how good life could be without a pile of pseudosocial non-thought accumulating on their screen, but who are now incapable of imagining life without it. Now it’s a big deal to ‘go offline’ for a month. Now it’s a big deal to take a month or a year thinking about a work of art before sharing your ‘take.’ Today you’re gonna spend more time thinking about the next iterative step toward shitty irrelevance by a ‘social’ network than about the fact that the radically activist Roberts court just put an unprecedented stay on Obama’s sweeping clean energy EPA directives, potentially rolling back our nation’s response to the Paris accord by years.
This is the deep problem: Twitter is a service of deeply questionable value, but you’re addicted anyway. The same goes for Facebook. I’m willing to bet real money that nearly everyone who’ll ever read this has spent more time complaining about cosmetic changes to these services than you have wondering how you’d live (well) without them. The problem isn’t the existence of the drug. It’s your decision to stick it in your vein — and the multibillion-dollar business that depends on your addiction for its survival. (It’s like our political parties, in that way.)
Twitter will go on, and its value to users will decline, and eventually some ‘revolutionary’ alternative will pop up, make a lot of money, and repeat Twitter’s choices because Money Says So.
Meanwhile, stop worrying about whether Twitter is well or poorly off, and ask yourself whether you are well or poorly off, and what you can do to improve the situation.