And for the love of God, don’t blindly take voting advice from Elon Musk.
Take a Walk on the Decentralized Side
Twitter may be much smaller than other social media sites, but it plays an outsize role in public discourse. It’s centralized: You log in and are torpedoed into one endless, messy timeline, where political and media elites chew over the agenda of the day. “While the future may indeed lie in a collection of more specialized, interconnected communities served by Mastodon, Discord, and others,” Chris Riley, senior fellow for internet governance at Tech Policy Press wrote last week, “Twitter will retain one great advantage: Centralized discovery and sharing are still very powerful services, and difficult to replicate in a more distributed system.”
Still, now’s the time to explore other social media services. Mastodon is experiencing a rapid rise in users, as Twitter users flock to it. (Though it’s unclear how many people are still using Twitter, too—my guess is a lot.) The project launched back in 2017 as a nonprofit, open-sourced network of self-hosted servers. It mimics the microblogging timeline of Twitter and allows for likes and amplifications of posts; users can see posts both on their own local, server-specific timeline and on a broader “federated” timeline.
If all that sounds confusing, that’s because it is. In order to sign up, you have to first choose a server, and the sign-up process is slow and buggy. But right now Mastodon has the just-showed-up-to-the-party energy that Twitter lacks. As Justin Pot put it in WIRED’s timely guide, Mastodon is “what Linux would be like if it was a social network … The internet has become corporatized. It’s refreshing to use a service that hasn’t been A/B tested to death.” Also see: BlueSky Social (backed by Jack Dorsey), Cohost, and Counter.
There will be other attempts to build social networks that serve as a digital town square. Mass adoption will require at least some ease of use, plus cultural buy-in. But in the year 2022, maybe an exact replica of Twitter isn’t what we really want, or what society really needs. As Mastodon user Chris Bides put it, “Most people probably shouldn’t want a Twitter replacement. Now is a good time to focus on what we actually like about internet interaction, and go from there.”
Don’t Pay for Twitter Just Yet
I happen to be a subscriber to the original version of Twitter’s premium tier, Blue, which means I’ve been paying $5 a month for access to features like being able to undo or edit tweets. Now, under Musk, Twitter Blue has morphed into an $8-a-month moving target, a service that offers blue-check verification for a fee. The rollout has been chaotic (you’ll notice repeat usage of this word).
On Saturday, Twitter was updated in Apple’s App Store with a note saying that users who sign up can receive the blue check “just like the celebrities, companies and politicians you already follow.” Now the launch of Twitter Blue has reportedly been delayed until November 9, after the US midterm elections.