Go ahead and feel sad and weird about Twitter

On the evening of November 17, newscast Twitter is swept away by the fact that the platform has lost a significant number of employees, and it likely no longer has the people behind it to keep its most vital service running. To mark the occasion — unlike the violin on the Titanic — longtime internet culture reporters Katie Notopoulos and Ryan Broderick hosted The Twitter space is huge To discuss the demise of the service.

At the time of publication, Twitter couldn’t stop raving, and it’s not a given that it will be shut down. However, the changes made by new owner Elon Musk — structural (such as firing thousands of employees) and cultural (such as breaking the verification system, bringing back banned users, bringing back former President Donald Trump) — have contributed to the feeling that something has fundamentally gone wrong. change.

At one point in the discussion, one of the speakers admitted that he was “ashamed” of feeling the anger he did towards Musk over destroy twitter. The implication was that the “Cursed Birds Site,” as it’s often called, was just a place for online posting and drama — not a place you’re supposed to feel devastated about.

Then again, human nature doesn’t work that way. Yes, people loved to hate Twitter and hated to love it, but the love was real nonetheless. Telling ourselves it’s stupid to feel bad about Twitter belies the human drive to build connections and connect — which is what Twitter users have spent years doing. We are shaped beings Unhealthy levels of emotional attachments for robots. Did we really think we wouldn’t be totally upset about the apparent sudden destruction of a social media platform that’s been a digital home for millions of people for over a decade?

It is difficult for us to treat the spaces of the Internet as “real”. We think they are less important or important than real life. But the truth is, for many people, the connections we make online are just as important to us as the ones we make offline. a Study 2017 Found that online friendships can enhance feelings of companionship, while 2015 study From digital emoticons (albeit by Twitter’s marketing team) I’ve found that reading, tweeting, and interacting with your Twitter feed can dramatically increase your emotional engagement. And that was long before the pandemic relegated many of our most precious relationships to screen time and virtual messaging, making Twitter more important to more people than it has been in a while.

Even in terms of just its content, the loss of Twitter as an archive is hard to contemplate. Jack Dorsey co-founded the site in 2006 so 16 years ago 200 million users have been churning out tweets, hashtags, gifs, memes, videos, art, stories, direct messages, group chats, threads, discussions and sub-tweets , quoted tweets, and all other content held in the Library of Congress It is briefly considered worthy of preservation. This doesn’t even touch the intangibles—the myriad human contacts, the professional networks cultivated, the countless moments of joy, humor, and collective tragedy; From life, told in real time, for years, as it happened to each of us.

Because internet culture is steeped in cynicism, most people who use the internet have been conditioned to match our honest feelings about the internet community in cynicism and condescension. After all, as Broderick points out in his book Twitter autopsy, “The online spaces we spend time talking about are for us, but they’re also full of dumb shit.” Perhaps an appropriate expression of sadness, he said, is irony: “This Twitter era is over and it’s okay to be sad about it, but it’s also OK to feel silly because you feel sad about it.”

Feeling silly that you feel anything at all is the default, especially on the Internet; in age cringe cultureto be very sincere about something the court is mocking and mocking; Honest passion is to be seen on the side, especially if it comes to anything going on online. This might mean, for example, coupling Your Twitter feelings with a disclaimer about how high you are, or surveillance that Twitter “wasn’t just a hell site, it was a hell home.”

All this is understandable. After all, it comes with more than a little Gallows humor. But sarcasm can also lead to feeling Deprived grief – A psychological term that means when you experience a real loss that society does not consider a real loss. The stages of true grief and mourning remain, but without the confidence that grief must have felt at first.

However, if any space on the Internet deserves our sincere respect, it’s Twitter, which has served as more of a “true” public domain than any other social media platform. This is the platform that The hashtag was born, with all its endless and often surprising uses. It has helped give rise to countless social movements, from # Resistance to the Arab Spring to me #Black Lives Matter movement to me #Me too. Not all of them were good – see GamergateAnd the pizzagateAnd the QAnon, and others – but they are all unequivocally important. Twitter, with its mingling of celebrities, certified professionals, politicians, journalists, trolls, bots, regulars, fanatics, and everything in between, was the place where the innovators split their bread with blue checks. gave us Kpop attacks racists with their hashtags. Its transparency and networking ability have given the black Twitter community a deep public presence, and cultural prominence that even Much missed vine (Another gift we owe to Twitter) We can give. gave us coffee And the dog rates And the Horse Books And the Testicles of Nicki Minaj’s cousin friend And the drilling.

There is no such thing as Twitter, and there never will be again.

This is also why it’s hard to know what to replace it with, if at all. Many of us who have used the Internet for two decades have witnessed the collapse of multiple sites that once seemed like they were going to be there forever. (AOL, Myspace, LiveJournal, Vine, Flickr, everything Yahoo has touched, the list goes on.)

Nothing is permanent on the Internet, not even websites that look more like miserable old edifices. Based on this assumption of impermanence, community experts, including academics who study community migrations across online platforms, Argue that the best way To ensure stability is to have your own servers and make multiple backups, and to accept that your internet environment is a fragile one and not just a collection of websites. When part of your habitat is destroyed, you have to rely on the entire ecosystem to recover, and it can take a while. But even as an internet veteran, I was baffled by the idea of ​​what would make an effective alternative to Twitter. Twitter’s “public square” has less and less appeal in an era when harassment has grown but moderation hasn’t always evolved with it, and so users have also increasingly retreated to semi-private spaces like Discord, Telegram, private group chats, and WeChat.

These secluded spaces make it difficult to find friends across platforms and interests; Without the transparency and searchability of Twitter, it would be difficult to stumble across people who share a cross-section of your passions or to dive deep into your very specific interests: for example, forcibly befriending everyone who also likes James McArdle’s leg twitched During the “Democracy in America” ​​monologue from Angels in AmericaAnd the It leads you to create a buzzing group chat of like-minded people, I don’t speak from experience.

Not everyone desires constant, intimate interaction with strangers, but even among friends, replacing Twitter won’t be easy. The worst thing about Musk’s uprooting of Twitter is that if it really breaks down, entire communities will be uprooted and displaced. Subcultures such as fandoms, networked communities, sex workers, educators, queer spaces, and transgender people rely heavily on the freedom to use pseudonyms on Twitter. But this also makes it difficult to reunite with all of your cross-platform borrowed friends, given the difficulty of trying to meet on one agreed-upon alternative platform. For groups that huddle across language barriers, losing Twitter’s handy “Translate Tweet” button means even more separation from people who share your interests, if not your native language.

So, yes, there is reason to be sad. The truth is, this is a tough time: Even if Twitter doesn’t collapse, it does change, and you’ll likely lose friends, content, and the ability to relive memories. It’s okay to be sad. It’s even okay to be angry and devastated – whether over what we’re losing or over the fact that we even had to lose in the first place. After all, we, the end users left clutching at this bag of weird sadness and even weirder guilt about it, aren’t the ones who dismiss Twitter or minimize it. We were there – we’re still there – controlling the miserable birds app to the very end.

What else should we value online if not spaces like Twitter that have given us so much joy, frustration, and slices of humanity? What else matters in the digital landscape if not fighting for the integrity and importance of people coming together, even on broken platforms that need an edit button like this?

The real loss isn’t that you’ve spent far too many hours of your life scrolling that hell-bird app instead of touching the grass.

The people who destroyed it would not consider it a loss at all.

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