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the “gradual decay” of Twitter

Am I finally done with Twitter? After years of leaving and coming back, leaving and coming back? If I haven’t learned how to leave Twitter, at least I’ve learned how not to claim that I’m leaving Twitter. But I’m closer than I’ve ever been.

There’s almost never any pleasure in visiting Twitter now, just the utility of finding out what my friends are up to. Still, something in my brain remembers better times, so left to my own devices I check in far more often than makes sense. So lately I’ve been using Freedom to block Twitter except for a brief period each morning and a brief one each evening. I have found that I don’t miss the place, yes, but also that more and more often I forget to visit when the window is open.

Now that Twitter is finally hobbling the third-party clients that make using the site bearable, and is continuing to get bad publicity for its inability to control bad actors on its platform, I’m seeing in my RSS feed a number of suggestions for how Twitter can be fixed. All of them are ideas that have been put forth for a decade now — adding a paid tier, forcing the third-party clients to show ads, improving the ability to block users — so it would be very strange if Twitter started making intelligent decisions at this late date. Mark Zuckerberg isn’t known for his wit, but I think often of what he said some years ago about the creators of Twitter: They drove a clown car to a gold mine, and then fell in.

Twitter’s current leadership are flailing around right now, looking for ways to fix their platform, but there’s virtually no chance that they’ll make good choices. They have never understood their own product, in large part because few of them use it themselves, and a dozen years in that’s not going to change. And for people like me, it’s too late anyway.

There’s a very moving passage in one of Samuel Johnson’s essays about how friendships end that captures much of how I feel about Twitter:

The most fatal disease of friendship is gradual decay, or dislike hourly increased by causes too slender for complaint, and too numerous for removal. — Those who are angry may be reconciled; those who have been injured may receive a recompense: but when the desire of pleasing and willingness to be pleased is silently diminished, the renovation of friendship is hopeless; as, when the vital powers sink into languor, there is no longer any use of the physician.

But if my friendship with Twitter is dying, I still care for the friends whose company I have enjoyed there. I hope I will hear from them elsewhere — maybe even at micro.blog.

Joe Posnanski wises up

About 15 or 20 years ago, I realized that talk radio was wrecking my writing process. I would be writing a column, and I would hear the talk radio voices in my head screaming, and I thought: “This isn’t helping me.” And so I stopped listening to talk radio. That’s sort of how I feel about Twitter now. All of the good — and there’s a lot of good in Twitter — just doesn’t for me outweigh the negativity, the rashness, the time-suckitude. At some point — I wrote about this — I figured out how many words I have written on Twitter, and it just about broke my spirit. I’ve written a full book on Twitter. A full, lousy, grammatically challenged, snarky, largely unfunny book of snap judgments and surface-level philosophy. I don’t have time for that. I have real books to write.

Joe Posnanski. Every few days or so I check in on Twitter and I see people still trying to write about important, complex matters there. They think, Hey, we have 280 characters per tweet now and I can link thoughts together in a tweetstorm. And then they produce inarticulate, disconnected, logically-challenged clumps of assertion— even when they’re perfectly capable of writing articulate, connected, logically clear arguments, at least when they’re on platforms that don’t enforce the equivalent of the electrical jolts used to keep Harrison Bergeron from thinking clearly.

If you’re trying to address complex issues on Twitter, you are serving as your own Handicapper General. Please stop. Get a blog. You’re damaging your brain and the quality of public discourse. We all deserve better.

Twitter [is] not actually a company, it’s a dysfunctional non-profit that accidentally provides a valuable service.  — Tim Bray

Why I Don’t Believe Twitter Will Do Anything to Address Abuse

Today I tweeted, “Okay that Twitter says it will deal better with abuse, but policies are only as good as their implementation. I left @flickr because they wouldn’t even respond when I was being harassed, in plain violation of their ToS. So policies as such are empty.” (FYI, I tell a very brief version of my experience with Flickr’s unresponsiveness in this post. And you can read more about Twitter’s new policies here.)

A few minutes later I got this response:

 

I followed, and provided the old case number. But all I got in return was a link to a page for reporting abuse — something I did a long time ago. So I replied, “Well, I already did report the abuse. And nothing was done. So basically you’re asking me to start over. If you folks want to do customer care, you can pick up the ball where you dropped it.” Flickr’s reply? “Thanks for helping us to make Flickr a safer place! We really appreciate it!”

In other words, a big fat middle finger extended right in my face. Publicly, Flickr expressed concern and responsibility; privately they mocked me.

This is what I mean when I say that stated policies mean absolutely nothing — indeed, in some cases, as with Flickr, they are PR ruses designed to hide total irresponsibility. (And remember, I was a paying customer of Flickr when they they couldn’t be bothered to address the abuse. Twitter has no paying customers, and no real competitors either.) I see absolutely no reason to believe that Twitter will do anything to curb the torrents of abuse that afflict so many of its users, especially women. I’d be happy to be proven wrong; I don’t expect to be.

All-Purpose Responses to Expressions of Puzzlement or Resentment on Twitter

  1. Here, let me google that for you.
  2. If you read a few other recent tweets of mine your confusion is likely to be remedied!
  3. I think you just tried to cram 500 words of meaning into 140 characters, so, alas, I find your reply incomprehensible.
  4. Thank you for sharing your passionate lack of interest in what I just tweeted about. Had I known that in advance it would have had no effect on my tweeting, though.
  5. Please do not take my tweet as an indication that I wish to conduct a debate on Twitter. I don’t use Twitter for that.

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