I joined Twitter back when the company didn't have an E in its name. Back before, most people had never heard of it. Twitter was a news feed for the geeks and nerds of the world. It has changed quite a bit since then.
Over the years, celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Oprah gave Twitter the attention it needed to enter the mainstream zeitgeist. What was our cozy little space to microblog and share our excitement for the latest gadget or photos of our lunches quickly became a space where politics and opinion dominated the landscape. Technology topics gave way to celebrity gossip. Gossip gave way to politics. Politics gave way to culture wars.
Donald Trump brought something to the platform we hadn't seen before. He used it as his virtual podium. A place by which he could make 140-280 character statements and ignore the follow-up questions reporters would usually shout in response. It became his megaphone, and millions of people visited it to see his message daily.
Some would argue that Twitter helped Donald Trump win the Presidency. Indeed it was a large part of his campaign.
My relationship with Twitter changed during this time. I found myself watching lists of accounts rather than my home feed. Lists of politicians, news outlets, and subject matter experts on various topics. I'd doomscroll more than converse.
January 6 changed my perspective on Twitter. While yes, we had seen Arab Spring and other dramatic social changes triggered by the discussion on the network, it hit home that day. We didn't just see the riot from the news cameras; we saw tweets about it from the people who broke into the building. We watched videos and saw images taken by the rioters themselves. It unfolded in real-time right in front of us.
Twitter responded by banning Donald Trump and many others in his sphere of influence from the platform. This triggered a backlash from the right. People on the right side of the political spectrum saw this as censorship and silencing conservative voices. Folks on the left saw it as necessary to prevent further harm to the American political system.
Two years have passed, and now Elon Musk owns Twitter. One of his first acts as the new owner was to fire 50% of the workforce. Then, he gave an ultimatum, which resulted in an additional 1,200 employees walking away.
He invited back many of the same banned individuals that Twitter's management had removed previously. Then, after a poll, he unbanned Donald Trump himself.
I've soured on Twitter. Not because of the unbanning but because it has become an entire network focused on a single individual's trolling of the world at large. It became a cult of personality and lost the feel of a hub of individual discussions.
In just a few weeks, the software stopped working as smoothly as it had. The discussion became more toxic. The trust I had that my data would remain somewhat secure was gone.
So, last night I decided to deactivate my Twitter account, which I had held on to since the platform's earliest days. I loved Twitter for what it was, but I'm now searching for something anyone doesn't own. A federated solution like Mastodon sounds like a great alternative. A place I can go to find community on my terms.