And for the love of God, don’t take blindly voting advice by Elon Musk.
Take a walk on the decentralized side
Twitter may be much smaller than other social media sites, but it plays an outsized role in the public debate. It’s centralized: you log in and are torpedoed into one endless, cluttered timeline, where political and media elites chew over the day’s agenda. “While the future may indeed lie in a collection of more specialized, interconnected communities served by Mastodon, Discord and others,” Chris Riley, senior fellow for internet governance at Tech Policy Press wrote last week“Twitter retains one big advantage: centralized search and sharing are still very powerful services and difficult to replicate in a more distributed system.”
Still, now is the time to explore other social media services. Mastodon is experiencing a rapid increase in users as Twitter users flock to it. (Although it’s unclear how many people still use Twitter, I think a lot.) The project launched in 2017 as a non-profit, open source network of self-hosted servers. It mimics Twitter’s microblogging timeline and provides likes and boosts to posts; users can see posts on their own local, server-specific timeline as well as on a broader “federated” timeline.
If that all sounds confusing, that’s because it is. To sign up you have to choose a server first and the sign up process is slow and buggy. But right now, Mastodon has the energy that just showed up at the party that Twitter lacks. As Justin Pot put it in WIRED’s timely guide, Mastodon is “what Linux would look like if it were a social network… The internet has become autonomous. It’s refreshing to use a service that isn’t fully A /B tested.” See also: BlueSky Social (supported by Jack Dorsey), Cohost and Counter.
Other attempts will be made to build social networks that serve as a digital city square. Mass adoption requires at least some ease of use, plus cultural buy-in. But in the year 2022, an exact replica of Twitter may not be what we really want, or what society really needs. As Mastodon user Chris Bides put it, “Most people probably shouldn’t want a Twitter replacement. Now’s a good time to focus on what we really love about internet interaction and go from there.”
Don’t pay for Twitter yet
I happen to be subscribed to the original version of Twitter’s premium tier, Blue, which means I paid $5 a month to access features like undo or edit tweets. Now, under Musk, Twitter Blue has turned into an $8-a-month moving target, a service that offers blue check verification for a fee. The rollout has been chaotic (you will notice that this word is used repeatedly).
On Saturday, Twitter in Apple’s App Store was updated with a note that users who sign up can receive the blue check “just like the celebrities, companies and politicians you already follow.” Now that the launch of Twitter Blue has reportedly delayed until November 9, after the US midterm elections.