This, by Cat Valente, is a superb piece about the inevitable ruin of social media – a pattern that repeats again and again.
I’m so tired of just harmlessly getting together with other weird geeks and going to what amounts to a digital pub after work and waking up one day to find every pint poisoned. Over and over again. Like the poison wants us specifically. Like it knows we will always make its favorite food: vulnerability, connection, difference.
As someone who’s been in online spaces since the early 90s I’ve seen the pattern Valente describes so many times.
I’ve joined online communities, found so much to love there, made friends and created unique spaces that truly felt special, felt like places worth protecting. And they’ve all, eventually, died. For the same reasons and through the same means, though machinations came from a parade of different bad actors. It never really mattered who exactly killed and ate these little worlds. The details. It’s all the same cycle, the same beasts, the same dark hungers.
Incidentally, if you’re wondering why I’m back blogging it’s because of what Valente writes about in that piece. In recent years Twitter was a much more convenient way to connect with people, but now that Musk is running around like a comic book villain opening all the doors of Arkham Asylum it’s very clear that what we’ve always called a hellsite is going to become considerably more hellish.
I know people who are effectively trapped on Twitter at the moment: they hate what it’s becoming but it’s where they live online; it’s where they’ve spent years building connections, and networks, and in many cases careers. They can’t just move to Mastodon and replicate all of that. So because Twitter can be and has been sold to someone who doesn’t give a fuck about them, everything they’ve made is now under threat. Twitter has become a Titanic and they’re clinging on for dear life.
As Valente writes in the linked article, this is not new. It’s more extreme because of Twitter’s place in the culture, but it’s not new. People build communities online on platforms they don’t own or control, and sooner or later the people who do own and control those platforms destroy everything that was good about them. It’s more profitable to have people buying things and hurting each other.