Some Twitter history
I joined Twitter long ago, in 2007, when it was only about 1.5 years old. You may remember reading about it when I blogged about it long ago. (It was on an earlier non-WordPress version of this blog, which was just called “Blather” rather than “The New Blather”.1) So I have seen the Twitter tides ebb and flow. I remember when Leo Laporte had the most Twitter followers, with an astounding 32,000 of them, wow! Ah, simpler days.
Tweets were far more inane then. There were no hashtags, you couldn’t mention someone, “@” and “#” did nothing, no replies or retweets or quote tweets. You couldn’t post pictures, it was text only. You couldn’t even edit tweets to fix typos. (Oh, wait, you still can’t do that.) You also couldn’t “like” a tweet; instead you could “favorite” it with a star icon, which I would still prefer over the heart.2 It was a big deal when random celebrities or political figures would join.
The tweet prompt used to be “What are you doing?” and you’d simply log what you were up to, where you were at the time, or some other short random thought, just so others could keep up with what was going on with you. It was a fun way to peer into the lives of strangers with similar interests. Smartphones were just beginning to hit the market then; they were hardly ubiquitous, and society was not yet inundated with social media platforms.
I primarily used Twitter for micro-journaling. But as Twitter’s atmosphere drifted from inanity to people having conversations and debates, posting “threads”, brands making announcements and celebrities joining in the fun, I tweeted less and less. I’m just not so interested in the conversational side of things. After 14.5 years on the platform, I’ve collected only 264 followers. Not many. And when I do tweet, it’s usually something still pretty inane. I really don’t have quality content, at least not by most people’s standards. (Unlike this amazing blog!)
Still, it’s generally my go-to social network, mostly because of the accounts I follow. I also like that I can still view my feed in the order things were tweeted instead of being subjugated to some stupid algorithm that chooses what I get to see for me, as Facebook mandates. Granted, Twitter has shadowbanned people, making their tweets mysteriously not show up on my feed, but it’s still better than Facebook. Even if I don’t tweet anything, I usually scroll through my feed anywhere from once to five times a day.
Censorship, free speech, and propaganda
Unfortunately Twitter (like Facebook and YouTube) has a long history of unjustified censorship, the most aggravating among conservatives perhaps being the banning of then president Donald Trump and the censorship of the Hunter Biden laptop story just before the last presidential election. Meanwhile they’ve boosted stories confirming there was definitely no widespread election fraud in the last presidential election, and putting warnings about Covid-19 “misinformation” on tweets linking to certain articles that questioned the government’s position on the virus and the effectivenss of vaccines.
To me, the most grievous censorship as been the suspension of accounts that deny that men can be women (or vice versa) just by saying so and dressing the part, such as the suspension of the Babylon Bee’s account when they tweeted a link to their satirical article: The Babylon Bee’s Man Of The Year Is Rachel Levine. This sort of censorship is the most grievous to me because it punishes a reflection of objective truth (that Levine is not a woman). Everybody knows this truth, yet the Twitter censors partake in a knowing willful denial of it for the sake of some idealized reality (in which everyone just pretends to not know), and the censors actively punish those who do not abide by this objective lie.
This sort of censorship (not to mention all the similar unjustices outside of Twitter surrounding this issue, such as men clobbering women in womens’ sports) is the seed of every dystopian horror, where everyone knows the truth but is forbidden to acknowledge it. The idea that censorship and other methods of idealogical enforcement will somehow just make people slowly and silently change their beliefs about such basic and obvious facts of life as the differences between men and women is the height of arrogance and stupidity. You are just setting up a [figurative] bomb to explode. (Granted, I think some people know that and, for them, that’s the whole point.) It is literally a demonic force.
Go somewhere else?
There are Twitter alternatives, of course. Gab, Parler, and Gettr perhaps being the most prominent, and now Trump’s Truth Social3. They each have their various strengths and weaknesses, but their greatest weakness is that there’s just nobody on them, other than political refugees. And while I don’t mind some political debates and memes in my feed, it’s not the only thing I want to see. I want to see a scientist tweet about his latest book or podcast appearance, or an artist about her latest artwork, or a gamedev about his current programming progress, and those sorts of people are, for whatever reason, still largely only on Twitter4.
Enter Elon Musk
That Elon Musk would buy Twitter is not something I would have ever predicted. I don’t know much about his politics or his business views, and I don’t want a Tesla (not that I could even come close to affording one if I did).
But his views on free speech definitely sound like something Twitter could use. He tweeted:
Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.
He also tweeted:
By “free speech”, I simply mean that which matches the law.
I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law.
If people want less free speech, they will ask government to pass laws to that effect.
Therefore, going beyond the law is contrary to the will of the people.
Regarding the censorship of the Hunter Biden laptop story, he recently tweeted:
Suspending the Twitter account of a major news organization for publishing a truthful story was obviously incredibly inappropriate
These sentiments definitely get a thumbs up from me.
I did not at all think Musk would ever actually buy Twitter, so what do I know? I predict one of three possibilities:
- There’s some contention and debate for a while, but ultimately not much changes for the foreseeable future, except hopefully less unjustified political censorship and annoying propaganda.
- Twitter becomes even more popular, with Elon Musk revitalizing the platform with positive features and changes.
- Twitter becomes less popular and gradually eats through its funding until it’s sold off again or just withers and dies.
I think that covers all the possibilities, so how can I be wrong? Since I have absolutely no idea what will ultimately happen, any of these outcomes would not surprise me.
The third possibility would really stink. Despite Musk’s good intentions, I’m not sure there’s very much money to be made in Twitter, at least not in its current state. I think much of its funding in past years has been for the purposes of its censorship and propaganda. And although I scroll through my feed quite a bit, I’m not sure there’s content on there I’d be willing to pay for. How much more money is Musk willing to sink into this business venture if needed?
Who knows! But it’s definitely an interesting development. We’ll see what happens!
- The old blog is archived here, at least at the time of writing this post.
- YouTube also used to use 5-star ratings instead of likes and dislikes, or what is now just likes, because too many dislike the wrong things.
- I’m not quite sure what Trump is thinking with this venture; won’t its audience be too obviously politically skewed?
- For now anyway; time will tell if they stick around with Musk’s takeover.