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Does anyone think Twitter gets *better* from here?
Micah Sifry poses the question in his latest post: “Is it finally time to quit Twitter?” He evaluates the pros and cons and finds them approximately balanced.
It seems much more lopsided to me. I’ve run down the list of reasons why it would still be worth staying active on the site, and came up empty.
So that’s it for me. I’m going dormant.
X isn’t the old Twitter anymore. Bluesky, Threads, and Mastodon don’t yet fill the old Twitter niche either. But at this point, staying on Twitter because there’s no replacement is a bit like saying “I still drive my old gas guzzler because I can’t afford a new car,” when the old gas guzzler is missing a tire and the steering wheel. …Dude, accept it. You just don’t have a car anymore.
I noticed this in the lead-up to the American Political Science Association (APSA) annual meeting. Two years ago, when news broke that John Eastman was scheduled to speak on a Claremont Institute-sponsored APSA panel, I used Twitter to organize an open letter opposing his participation. Over 300 APSA members signed the letter. The APSA council responded by moving all Claremont panels from in-person to virtual. Claremont resigned in a huff. They haven’t returned since.
This year, there were major questions about holding the APSA meeting in downtown LA, where most of the hotel workers are on strike. A few political scientists tried their best to organize resistance on Twitter. But too much of the discipline has decamped for Bluesky and Mastodon and Threads. It’s a lot harder to organize collective action when everyone isn’t in the same place anymore.
I also noticed it on Tuesday night, while I was at the Death Cab/Postal Service concert. I, of course, wanted to share a bunch of little jokes (“I see some 20-somethings at this show. Absolutely not. This concert is not for you. This concert is for people who want to remember a time wheen they could drink multiple beers, sleep on a futon, wake up and go to work in the morning without everything hurting so damn much.”). That’s one of Twitter’s old-school use cases.
I wrote the jokes on Bluesky instead. Those jokes don’t belong on the White Nationalist platform. It’s just entirely the wrong vibe. (…And besides, basically everyone I want to tell those jokes to has moved to Bluesky anyway.)
And, of course, I’ve been noticing it since January, when Elon debuted the “views” metric. I have over 41,000 followers on the site — most of them courtesy of that one time Bret Stephens got mad at me. It isn’t easy for a writer to walk away from that audience. But the number has been hollowed out, and it has only gotten worse in recent months, as Musk has throttled news sites and Substack links. Most of my posts on the site are only glancingly viewed by a couple thousand people. It isn’t nothing, but it also isn’t nearly as essential as it seems on first glance.
And that trend has only gotten worse in recent months. Elon has successfully made it so that only the paid-brigade gets any real reach. X/Twitter has become a bit like a free-to-play game where all of the engaging features require a monthly subscription. (And the subscription happens to be to Der Stürmer.)
It’s also stopped being funny watching the website collapse. The first few months of infinite rake-stepping were undeniably good content: Watch the world’s richest man light $44 billion and his carefully constructed public persona on fire! Watch the entirety of Silicon Valley confidently declare his every move to be a graceful pirouette, just to see him slip on yet another banana peel!
But it seems this is a situation where comedy plus time equals tragedy. There’s nothing funny about Musk re-platforming the QAnon influencer who watermarked and shared child porn. There’s nothing lighthearted about Musk declaring that The Jews are behind all of Twitter/X’s financial troubles! We get it: Elon Musk has too much money, takes too much Ketamine, and gets far too little therapy. That punchline has gone stale.
Most importantly though, it’s only going to get worse from here. There’s no moment coming where he turns a corner, hires competent managers, and stops ruining things. Musk’s antics this weekend weren’t the low point. They were just the latest point.
Musk’s X is just zombie Twitter. Time to stop feeding it our brains.
I’m not deleting my account outright. What I’ve done instead is put the account on hiatus — I’ve set it to private, posted a final message, and changed my profile to read “Dormant account. Find me on bluesky/Substack/Mastodon. Elon Musk spent $44 billion to ruin Twitter. His midlife crisis shouldn't be our problem.”
There are three reasons why.
The first is that I don’t want my username poached — Back in 2012, I created a website for TheMoveOn Effect. I did absolutely nothing with it, and finally stopped paying for hosting services a couple years later. A spammer immediately scooped up the URL, duplicated the text, and started posting updates with links to fake medical remedies. I had to send a cease & desist letter. And that was for a no-traffic website.
The second is that, as I understand it, you now need a Twitter/X account to view tweets. And while I don’t plan to post any more content to the site, I will still want to be able to follow links if someone is talking about the latest techbro tirade. I’ll screenshot it and discuss here or on Bluesky or Mastodon.
And the third is that, selfishly, the site’s hollow numbers still hold a bit of remnant value. I’m going to be marketing a book proposal soon. I would much rather tell potential publishers “I have ~42,000 Twitter followers… though I don’t expect the site to be operational when the book is published” than tell them “I used to have a Twitter account but I deleted it on principle.”
Likewise, keeping a dormant profile means I can continue to use third-party tools to reconstruct the list of people I used to follow on Twitter as they migrate to Bluesky and Mastodon. And if, down the line, MySpace Tom swoops in and returns Twitter to its former glory, I can reactivate my account without starting from scratch.
So that’s it for me. I’m not leaving because of some grand principled stance. (If I was, I would have left a good long while ago.) I’m leaving because, when I evaluate the pros and cons of staying active on Twitter, I can’t come up with any pros any longer.
You can’t reach an audience on X. You can’t organize on X. You can’t follow breaking news on X. The people who made Twitter fun have all given up. There’s nothing worth sticking around for anymore.
Hopefully we build something better. I still like Bluesky, and hope it works out. If Mastodon works out instead, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. I still think Twitter declares bankruptcy once the big fines are announced. I still think Threads is going to be a bunch of empty storefronts. I doubt it will last three months longer than Twitter.
Even if you aren’t ready to leave Twitter yet, my hunch is you eventually will. It might be because Elon crosses some final line for you, or it might just be because the site stops having anything compelling on it.
It’s a real shame. Twitter was fun. It was pretty resilient too. It wasn’t easy to wreck.
But, at least for me, it’s over. I’m done. There’s just nothing worth sticking around for anymore.