I made it big on Twitter. Now I don’t think I can stay.
For a long time, staying on Twitter was worth it because Twitter could change your life. I broke big on Twitter more than 10 years ago with a hashtag, #solidarityisforwhitewomen, and Twitter was great for my career. It allowed me to reach a worldwide audience and gave me unprecedented access to editors. This helped me make the transition from being loud online to becoming a published author with a book that is on the NYT bestsellers list.
But my use of Twitter has decreased dramatically over the past few years. I used to tweet 500 times a day. Then it was 500 times a week. Now? I post fewer than 500 tweets a month. Twitter has changed from a place where socializing was a regular habit to one where I stick to routines and not because I have a need or desire to. I spend more time on TikTok and Instagram than I do on Twitter. It could be harassment or lack time. Some of that is true. The truth is that I don’t have to be on Twitter anymore to be heard.
If Twitter closes tomorrow, it would be upsetting and jarring for a while. But then, I’d move to another platform. Or, I could just stay where I am now, with my toes in social media, but not as much of me living there.
I imagine that other people feel the same way today. After months of negotiations, allegations, and accusations, Elon Musk has officially purchased Twitter, and the questions we’ve all been asking are that much more urgent: Will Twitter still be free to use? Will policy changes make it unviable for liberals and leftists? Will it be a refuge for the far right or will it sink like other right-wing platforms ?? Will there be endless Tesla ads on Twitter? There are many questions that only time can answer. For those who used Twitter to build their careers, sustain their careers, or just to connect, the real question remains: Where do you go from here?
Sure, just staying on Twitter is theoretically an option, but frankly, so is moving on to the next big platform. Twitter is already losing its relevance in terms of social media. Many online creators are now focusing on TikTok and Instagram. Much like Facebook, Twitter stopped being cool as soon as its primary user base got old enough to spend more time talking 401(k)s and mortgage rates than pop culture. Sure, some of us hung in there to live-tweet Scandal, dissect Game of Thrones, and talk politics. For many, this is their job and not a leisure activity. It came with a price, whether it was being dogpiled online by trolls or feeling exhausted by the daily drama. Some people lost their jobs or relationships due to online comments. Others were harassed on social media ..
There’s always a chance of being semi-public. While the attention can be very rewarding, it can also prove to be destructive. Online gambling can be dangerous for your future. You never know who you might meet.
Granted. My long online history has shaped my view of Twitter’s future. I came to Twitter from LiveJournal, a blogging platform that officially died after it was bought by a Russian company, SUP Media. It was already dying in America before SUP entered the fray. Already users were on one of the LiveJournal clones, Tumblr, Twitter, etc. We didn’t know that Twitter would be the most popular place to transition to so we opened accounts in many places. People have been creating accounts on Mastodon and Pillowfort for the past two years. Platforms are fundamentally about the people and not the owners. Even before Musk offered to buy Twitter, Twitter’s leadership was not popular. People who relied on Twitter to organize protests, raise awareness, and crowdfunding were frustrated by the way the company seemed determined not to make advertising easier, but harder. It’s easy to wonder if the current trend in internet culture is not just the next step. Can any platform be the only one that matters as technology changes? Or will we always find new platforms to suit our changing needs?
Twitter held so much power for so long, it’s frightening to think about the end of this form of microblogging. But already, more than 50% of Twitter’s heaviest users don’t really use it anymore. There are many reasons for this, but it’s always true when a platform crashes. Going viral in the way that I did with hashtags in 2011 may not happen again on another platform, though all signs point to virality being a permanent aspect of online life. Influence became a career goal, not a fluke. Everyone will follow the lead of cultural influencers and celebs. This is my most Chronically Online Hot Take. Musk seems to have bought an internet millstone and not a cultural touchstone.
Twitter was a significant player in the internet’s history five years ago. But, now that we consider the possibility of Twitter going away, what will it mean for people who use the internet but don’t live off it? Users of social media who lose touch with each other on Twitter will be reunited on different sites. I have friends I first met in AOL chatrooms in the ’90s! Because I have a unique username, they have found me on other platforms. Their audience will be able to follow those who have made their big break on YouTube or TikTok. Microcelebrity is not for everyone. Many people will find what they need on social media, and then slowly retire from their online careers.
Social media is a tool that many people use to get what they want. However, it is not a place where you can live your life. Twitter’s popularity was largely due to our ignorance about the potential impact. But now we know how much it costs. It’s not clear that we will miss it enough to continue paying this price. Musk may make some money from the deal, but even Musk seems to know that Twitter is dying. Musk may believe he can revive it, but no one likes a zombie. Mikki is a writer and occasional feminist. She is also the author of Hood Feminism ..
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.