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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Can’t Decide What to Do About Twitter? Here Are Some Options

As 2023 arrives, it's time to take action. Consider it a deadline for those of us who've been dithering: Twitter is in crisis, and each user must decide their own course of action.

It's not just that Twitter has been a toxic dumping ground for hate, harassment, and abuse. That's been the case for at least half a dozen years, and users stuck around. But 2022 left longtime Twitter users shell-shocked. Billionaire Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter, which once seemed like an unlikely stunt, came to pass, and the results have been disastrous. With an exodus of employeesincrease in hateful languagebannings of journalists, the paid verification mess, concerns about Twitter's overall securityaccessibility and stability, and a strong sense that the party is winding down to an ugly conclusion, it's time (perhaps past time) for a user exit strategy. Consider all of this and more the Case Against Staying on Twitter.

Should you opt for the possibly greener pastures of alternative networks like Mastodon or Post, where many high-profile Twitter users have already migrated? Or should you stay and hope things turn around? Or hey, what about stopping with this type of social-media posting entirely and freeing up some time? Here are some things to consider as you weigh your options:

The Case for Staying on Twitter

If entropy is your thing, staying on Twitter means you don't have to take any action at all. You could sit on the sidelines, stop posting, and just ride things out to see if the reign of Musk passes and Twitter is somehow able to survive and regain some of its former glory.

Why would anyone do this? You may feel the sunk cost of investing so many years building your followers, lists, and reputation on the platform is too much to let go. You may still see things that make you smile and feel good on the platform. If you've carefully curated the list of people you follow, you may be insulated from much of the ugliness on the rest of Twitter. Maybe you only dip in and out and the chaos hasn't affected your experience. Maybe you don't care about what's happening outside of your own Twitter account.

The Case for Going to Mastodon

Mastodon has gotten the lion's share of attention as alternatives to Twitter have entered the conversation. It launched in 2016 and has a familiar format and feel that doesn't seem foreign to longtime Twitter users. The character-count limit of 500 is higher than Twitter's, and there are lots of ways to post images, sound, animations, links, and polls. Unlike on Twitter, you can edit posts, but old versions of the posts are still visible to others, and if your edited post was reposted, others will be made aware of your edits. Mastodon also has a useful content warning feature that allows you to warn followers about sensitive or triggering information in a post.

Because different server instances can be tailored to specific interests or types of communities, you may be able to find people with similar interests and feel welcome more quickly than you would on other social networks. Plus, there are tools to help reconnect with other users who came over from Twitter.

The Case Against Going to Mastodon

Because of its decentralized nature, all of Mastodon's users aren't on one server; instead they're spread across different communities, and new users must choose where they want to start. There are directories to help, but if you're indecisive, it could be an obstacle to getting started.

Mastodon has no official verification process, paid or otherwise, for users, because of its decentralized nature. Users can get links to home pages automatically verified, but not their Mastodon profile itself

The service boasts close to 6 million users, about 3.6 million of them active, which seems like a lot—but it's nowhere close to Twitter's user base of nearly 238 million. Of course, that includes bots and fake accounts, but it's significantly more people to connect with. Still, the rush of users who moved to Mastodon in November caused outages across the platform itself.

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Not everyone is impressed with Mastodon. Some call it clunky and slow, some in the security world say it's far from perfect, and because different servers may be run differently, there's no consistency to moderation and rules.

And you may be philosophically opposed to the fact that instead of “tweets,” messages on Mastodon are called “toots.”

The Case for Post, Hive Social, or Other Networks

Post News is another interesting option; it seems built for newshounds and journalists. But it only just launched in late November, so it's still in beta and has a waiting list. It was founded by former Waze CEO Naom Bardin, and it seems geared to allow users to buy, comment on, and share articles from news providers, as well as tip creators, with no character-count limit on posts.  

Hive Social, another new social network, is mobile-only and currently ad-free. It feels a lot more like Instagram, or even a throwback to MySpace, than Twitter, in that it's very media-focused and geared toward connecting with friends, not discussing serious world events or running for office. You can add a theme song to your profile and share things like your zodiac sign on your profile.

The Case Against Post, Hive Social, or Other Networks

Many of the same reasons against moving to Mastodon apply to these other social networks. They have far fewer users than Twitter, they may be missing features you've come to depend on, and because many of them are startups, they may not be around long-term.

Security is also iffy on the newer social networks, and we don't know as much about how they will handle an influx of users and the challenges that poses, or whether they will do much to moderate content.

Ultimately, it's risky to put a lot of energy into unproven social networks that may go the way of Plurk or Google+. Instead, you could just focus more energy on established platforms you're already using such as Instagram, Facebook, or Linkedin. Obviously, they all have their own issues, but there's little danger they'll disappear, and they're much more stable than Twitter has been in 2022. 

The Case for Ending your Twitter Career

What if you just let go? How about accepting that Twitter was a moment, a very lengthy run of time when people posted their micro-thoughts, and those micro-thoughts had an unprecedented influence on politics and culture—and that time finally passed?

Rather than continuing on a path that has run its course, what about just stopping? Not seeking another way to do the same thing, but finding something else entirely to do with that time and energy? What if you got a hobby that didn't involve posting anything at all?

It sure feels like many users have been reevaluating their entire relationship with social media these past few years, and that may go further than just deciding whether or not to keep tweeting.

You could leave your Twitter account in place, frozen in time, without deleting, or just save your archive of Tweets for posterity, delete the account, and walk away forever.

Maybe this is the moment when your life completely changes because you decide to never tweet again. If that idea fills you with nervous, thrilled excitement, it might be the best, most overdue decision you could make.

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