Hear Me Out: We Don’t Need a New Twitter

Twitter removed every boundary that makes human community and conversation tolerable. Please don’t make me go through it twice.

Jude Ellison S. Doyle
5 min readNov 30, 2022

--

A broken iPhone screen.
It’s broken! We’re free! We’re free!!!!! Photo by Anton Maksimov 5642.su on Unsplash

It’s been a month since Elon Musk took over and broke Twitter, and in those four weeks, I’ve signed up for at least that many “Twitter alternatives.” As soon as any one alternative gained traction, Twitter users found a problem with it: Everyone was moving to Mastodon, but its content moderation was too aggressive. Everyone was moving to Hive, but you can’t reserve a unique username. Everyone was moving to Post, but they’re explicitly for “moderates.”

Instagram is for hot people, Facebook is for old people, Tumblr is for fandom; nothing is Twitter but Twitter. Nothing actually replicates the crowded-cafeteria-on-Doomsday feeling of several million people screaming over each other while a 24-hour news channel plays in the background.

I would submit that there is a reason nothing replicates that feeling, which is that the feeling fucking sucks. People are not meant to live that way, and if you spent enough time on Twitter, your life and sanity would almost certainly deteriorate as a result of trying.

This isn’t just about the trolls or the Nazis. Yes, Twitter was a cesspool of harassment and bigotry— Elon Musk’s fascist sympathies and “free speech” posturing are only amplifying the bad element that’s always been there. But, as digital sociologist Katherine Cross has amply demonstrated, everyone behaved like an asshole on Twitter. It was a platform that thrived on a constant churn of anxiety and anger. Its everyone-to-everyone structure meant that fragmented bits of conversation quickly escaped their original context and became ripe for misinterpretation, and its prioritizing of “engagement” meant that pile-ons and arguments were more profitable than any other form of speech.

The promise of the early Internet — at least to a nerdy kid in 1994, which is approximately when I logged on — was that it could connect communities across distance. Those communities, which congregated around Usenet boards and mailing lists, were convened in the name of specific interests or values; you could quickly connect with dozens of other Tori Amos fans, or X-Files

--

--

Jude Ellison S. Doyle

Author of “Trainwreck” (Melville House, ‘16) and “Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers” (Melville House, ‘19). Columns published far and wide across the Internet.