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Goodbye Social Media – On Musk, Twitter, & Mastodon

Goodbye Twitter - a SirTapTap expressing disgust at the Twitter logo

Yes, yes, funny lying meme rich person number #345 purchased a social media site. A common assumption is it’s going to go the way most Social Media acquisitions tend to go. This article isn’t so much about Twitter’s Impending Doom as it is about why Twitter and its kin probably shouldn’t have been part of your daily routine in years, acquisition or no. I am uninterested in whether Twitter gets worse because it’s already Really Damn Bad.

For a long time, I’ve been weaning myself off Twitter and I deleted my personal Facebook account years ago. I already use Limit and Blocksite to keep me off distracting or unhealthy websites. Yesterday I private’d my Twitter and I think I’ve given up on picking up Mastodon as well. Mastodon seems better, but I’m just so exhausted I think it’ll be better for me to just drop the whole thing. Why? Why why why indeed.

The Glorious Twitter Algorithm

One of the most visible gripes about social media in general is the holy Algorithm. Even YouTube which I still use is certainly not free of this blight. The Algorithm (praised be its name) is a magical box that takes my 5000 Facebook followers, showing my posts to about 40 of them. YouTube is not much better, with only 5.2% of my views last month coming from “Browse Features” including subscriptions, 5.8% coming from Suggested Videos, and most of the rest coming from search or off-site.

Twitter was a late adopter of the Algorithm, but its dreadful influence kept creeping in. There is now the “Home” algorithmic timeline and the “latest” timeline that shows in real chronological order. In a lovely “Screw You” to their behated users, Twitter actually automatically switches back to “Home” after a while, giving you only an illusion of choice.

And perhaps the absolute worst thing about The Algorithm—aside from it undervaluing my absolute BANGER videos on YouTube—is how it thrives on hatred.

Outrage Culture

It seems contradictory, but humans like to get mad. Anger is actually physically addicting as rage-seekers get hooked on the endorphin release, the triumphant highs, the rageful lows. Twitter’s structure somewhat uniquely reinforces this phenomenon thanks to “The Ratio”, an intrepid way of expressing distaste on a site with no downvote button for posts. Then there’s the beloved Quote Tweet which seems to almost exclusively be used to “dunk on” bad takes and the like.

But the problem is that all the harassment in the world doesn’t make these “bad takes” disappear. Quite the opposite, by sharing a bad tweet to shame it you’re actually signal-boosting it. Several pundits seem to have realized this and intentionally post “dunkable” tweets because people will share them. People more ideologically aligned with the original tweet see the dunk, think “but he’s RIGHT” and by trying to harass someone you’ve just made them more popular.

Rage Spreads Rage

It’s an insidious trap and honestly, both sides are pretty gross. Even if I agree with the dunk, I don’t want to see disinfo, lies, hatred, etc. on my timeline. The Dunkers often bother me more than the Dunkees in that way. Yes, @WhitePride1988 just said something awful about the age of consent, but YOU, @BernieCanStillwin95, just put it in my timeline where my poor eyes had to see it.

The phenomenon has made mute the retweets and sometimes even the regular tweets of friends. Outrage Culture makes me dislike people I completely agree with because they’re mad and Twitter’s setup encourages them to try and make me mad too. I want to be LESS mad. Be mad at the voting booth, PLEASE, but I’m just here looking for video game news and large anime breasts.

Another thing about rageposting is that simply, no amount of anger, no amount of Ratio, no amount of dunking will actually diffuse the misinformation users are often mad at. Because the system is almost designed to give the largest reach to the most outrageous, and thus often wrong, posts.

Never A Lie Too Blatant

Speaking of Algorithms and outrage, let’s talk about my least favorite twitter feature: trends.

Just yesterday, Ivermectin was trending on Twitter, a common post being of the structure “Ivermectin works! – Let’s see if Elon Musk kept his promise!” The alleged intent was to see if Twitter was “censoring” them. As is common in the modern age of lies, it’s not even just one lie.

  • No one says Ivermectin “doesn’t work”, they say it’s not effective against COVID, which it isn’t.
  • Twitter always allowed you to say Ivermectin. The entire premise of the “test” is a lie. Basically all forms of misinformation are extremely common on Twitter, even ones that are explicitly called out in their TOS as not permitted.
  • Finally, Elon Musk doesn’t have control of Twitter yet. As is common for massive companies it will probably be months before Twitter changes its policies post-acquisition.

The Multi-Lie seems to be a common debate tactic anymore, a complex trap where one is tempted to only attack one layer of the lie, implicitly validating all the other layers. And no one likes a wordy tweet, so attacking all of them at once is often a loss too. In all honesty, I do not think humanity is at the point where we’re capable of defeating short lies. The truth is long and our attention span is—ohhh puppy!

It’s all just so god damn exhausting. People can’t even tell the truth about their damn lies, everything is a Matryoshka doll of lie inside a different lie inside a misrepresentation inside of a misquote inside of a vaguery. Countering these lies just doesn’t scale, and it’s very clear Twitter’s new owner is eager to remove any form of fact-checking or signal deboosting of false info—What more could we expect of the “Pedo Guy” guy?

A Brief Thought On “Bangers Only Mode”

One of the reasons this frustrates me so much is that I just cleaned up my Twitter. I paid a service to be able to delete almost all of my old, low-like, low-RT tweets. I found Semiphermeral as well as Mastodon’s Privacy features, and I liked them a lot. And that work probably went to waste, so I’m just going to blab about it here instead of giving it its own article which I originally was going to do.

Social Media is decades old. My Twitter account was over 10 years old. Some people’s Facebook accounts are turning old enough to vote. That’s a lot of info, a mess to read through, and a hell of an attack surface for malicious or data-harvesting agents.

Enter Bangers Only Mode: the automatic deletion of older tweets/posts that don’t reach a certain threshold of likes/retweets. I asked a bit back why it didn’t, it turns out it kind of does thanks to Semiphermeral. Mastodon’s Auto Delete settings are similar. Deleting all your social media is a tempting but also difficult affair. What about your cool tweets. What about the time Hideo Kojima retweeted me? By picking an age/like/share threshold, you can delete your several thousand “yep. nrdinking ber,” tweets while keeping the good stuff.

Decrease Your Attack Surface

As a victim of some pretty deep cyberstalking, this has an even deeper appeal. Stalking so deep I’ll note they harassed me over tweets I didn’t make, from an account that isn’t me. In a way, it was pretty funny because it shows how clean my actual tweets were. But even more importantly, being right doesn’t actually make the harassment feel any better.

With literally 10 years of tweets, there were surely some opinions that no longer represent “me”. Some poorly worded takes, perhaps even, however unlikely, I may have even been…wrong? As unlikely as it is to be wrong on the internet, of course.

I don’t think mankind is quite ready for literally every moment of our lives to be a permanent, public record. (Sorry, Blockchain). Bangers Only Mode feels like a near-ideal balance between privacy and history—just the good bits. And with automatic rules, it saves you the trouble of actually manually pruning through literally tens of thousands of tweets. As a side effect: it kind of makes you look funnier than you were. I’m not complaining.

Bye Twitter

So for now, I’m giving up on Social Media. It’s just exhausting, adding very little of value while adding a lot of things to be mad at. I already set my Twitter account to Private. I’m a bit of a data-hoarder so I don’t think I’ll delete it just yet, but it seems clear a long-ass break from all the lies, hate, and Algorithms™ can only be good.

Everyone’s talking about Mastodon and if you simply want a Twitter alternative, I really do recommend it. Mastodon has some cool features and I even made an account. But as I’ve been mulling over the last few days I’ve decided to just take a break from the space altogether. Mastodon might not have everything that made Twitter quite so bad, but it’s still a social network site with most of the social network features. I think we’re many, many years off from ‘solving’ social media in a way that’s healthy and informative instead of angry, miserable, and disinforming.

If you want to reach me, you’ll have to do it on Discord, or a good old-fashioned email. One on one, with no algorithms, muskrats, or hashtags.

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