Thoughts on Twitter and Future Social Media
A reflection on too many years on Twitter.
I honestly don’t even remember when I signed up for Twitter. At some point in my high school years I created an account, didn’t understand the point, and simply forgot about it. Back then I was far more concerned about keeping my blog, this website, up to date with random musings and incoherent brain dumps.
Blogging was my way of reaching out to the world, and reading other people’s blogs made me feel that there was a whole community of real people on the internet, even if I never reached out directly to them. The blogosphere, so to speak, was filled with creative people sharing ideas. I spent hours configuring Wordpress themes, plugins for my website, often breaking things beyond repair. Every so often I’d receive an earnest email from someone I’d never met thanking me for something I’d written in my inbox, and I would respond to every single one of those emails.
Blogging was time consuming, but it was extremely rewarding and honestly a lot of fun. But as I started focusing on my career and getting busier with day to day errands, Twitter replaced my blogging habits. Twitter was just easier, faster, and facilitated connections seamlessly. Twitter is how I got involved with Student Voice, how I got my internship at the Department of Education, how I met many of my closest friends, and how I made the decision to move to Taiwan.
In the early 2010s, social media was fun and exciting. People made accounts often without any preconceptions of what the norms were or who was looking, allowing them to be creative and genuine with what they shared. Being free of advertisements also made social media feel more like having a conversation with a close-knit group of friends in my living room rather than trying to dodge all of the overwhelming capitalist consumerism at the mall.
Instagram is no longer where I’ll post a photo of the In-n-out burger I had for lunch, knowing that an algorithm designed to maximize commercialization and controversy means that no one will ever see the post and no one will care. Facebook has gone through so many feature changes and redesigns that I don’t even know what the point is anymore.
For a while, Twitter was the only social media I used regularly that maintained support for the organic communities that made it popular in the first place: the ability to share quick ideas and meet interesting people online. But even before the recent hostile takeover in leadership, my experience on the platform changed for the worse. Senseless arguments over political issues, people and bots shilling for crypto and NFTs, and big name personalities bullying and harassing individuals started taking up more of my feed, eroding the very reason I valued Twitter in the first place.
Is social media a reflection of what everyday people around the world are experiencing? Or are the extremes on social media perpetuating a feedback loop of driving the kind genuine people off their platforms, causing the platform to become far more extreme than the world around it? What have we learned about social media from the boom and bust of the past couple decades?
So then what is the future of social media? If becoming more connected is not more better, how can we create and sustain a social media that is minimalist and effective enough to provide the amount of local and global connection that is most effective? Thinking back to blogging, the blogosphere got a lot of these elements right: things people share should require some level of effort and accountability, and as a supplement to relationships and communities that exist apart from a digital space.
But what does this mean tangibly for my personal approach to social media? For me, I want to challenge myself to use social media more intentionally rather than aimlessly. There are certain communities on specific platforms that are worth my time, and I want to continue to be a part of those. I want to seek out individuals that are offering original content and valuable ideas. For instance, I’ve found YouTube to have a wealth of solid content creators sharing very unique, original ideas.
And while I don’t expect blogging to ever return to the level of the late 2000s, I hope to write more about random ideas and things I’m learning about, even if nobody reads it.