You May Have Noticed…

….or not.

But the Twisters are over. The last straw, to use a well-worn idiom, was Twitter’s idiotic shift to 280-characters. I say idiotic, but I’m sure there were people at Twitter who saw this as….a path to further “engagement” or, perhaps, a way to get new users to sign up, since they must have had research that indicated Twitter was “too complicated” and “too short” and “too much noise.” So given their myriad problems, their solution was to increase the character count. There was no clamor for this. But it’s what they decided. Did this work? For the bottom line, it’s possible. For the user, I doubt it. For the long time fan (and I’ve been on Twitter since 2008): absolutely not.

If anything this change had the opposite effect on me.

Had Twitter continued with the character counter, it might not have been a big deal. Not to people like me (and I admit I’m a member of a small tribe here). But, no, they decided to go to some circle that approximated your character count; it is a solution only an engineer could love. And added to the character count change was the change in Twitter’s character; its refusal to silence the bullies, it’s idiotically idealized notions of “free speech” (and, let’s be clear, this notion is pervasive throughout Silicon Valley – I’ve long said that ideology is easy but thinking is hard), its standing by while individuals and entire communities were hurt by bullies and trolls and Nazis, its bully pulpit status for countless politicians but mostly for a certain President who continues to do whatever it is he does for reasons that remain unfathomable to me, and Twitter had become a place I no longer wanted to visit.

Others have published far more eloquent things about the problems with Twitter. My friend Mike Monteiro has written about quitting Twitter a few times (here and here). Here’s another great piece by Lindy West. There is this by an educator (I’ll get to this reason shortly). CNN published a list of famous people who left the platform. I could go on and on. All of the essays cite arguments that are valid. My reasons are “all of the above.” How does one enjoy a place where so many people are so angry and hurtful and, well, dumb?

In the past year (18 months really) I have also completed two (!) novels. One is really complete (and during its completion I also switched agents) and the other is very complete. I have rough outlines (and when I say outline I really mean “paragraphs” and “advanced scribbles”) for two more. I’ve been productive! To put this in perspective, my first novel took the better part of a decade to finish. All this productivity means something has to give.

Back in 2008, Twitter, and social media in general, cut in to my TV time. A media platform had to fall off, time is finite after all, and I cut back on TV. Today, I find I’m watching more TV again. So something had to fall off. This time, it’s social media.

I’d given up on Facebook a long time ago (though, full disclosure, and for reasons that I almost resent, I still have an author page). It makes people ridiculously inane. More so than Twitter. It functions at a level that most people don’t quite understand – is it media, is it a place to meet friends and stay in touch with family, is it news, is it, rather, the world’s most successful and lucrative personalized ad delivery service….All of the above? The fact that the Russians used Facebook so well, serving up highly targeted ads and memes, to help elect the Orange Clown, and that Facebook denied that involvement for so long (take a look at Mueller’s indictment; it mentions Facebook almost 40 times), all the while reaping incredible profits…is, well, it is the way the world works. The Russians, Shitler and his minions and the trolls in general seem to understand how social media works better than most people. If they are in possession of genius, this is it (the Russians are much smarter, of course – they saw social media as a way to divide people, as a way to feed their basest hungers, and they fed it; they did not exploit anything that was not already exploitable). All this to say, I don’t really have feelings for Facebook one way or the other. It’s there. It’s the Microsoft of social media. The fact young people aren’t attracted to it anymore gives me a certain amount of satisfaction. (The other thing Facebook has accomplished, of course, with Google, is to suck up an amazing amount of digital advertising, a fact that impacts local media around the world every day, and I truly believe that the entire edifice of journalism begins with local media.)

Twitter, on the other hand, meant a lot to me. The novel my agent is shopping now started with a character that I found reappearing in my Twisters, a character I wanted to explore more and more until I found I’d written an entire novel. I have met people on Twitter, made connections and friends, I would not have otherwise have made. I enjoyed it when it was enjoyable. Because it was. At its best, Twitter was exhilarating, like watching the world unfold in real time, with a group of genuinely entertaining and smart people. And funny. Twitter was a funny place. Talking about it like this now makes it sound like make-believe, like something out of a parallel universe. Which makes my retreat from it all the more painful. To me. (Make no mistake. Whether I am writing 140-character short stories on Twitter or not will not change the world one way or the other.)

I doubt that I was going to continue to write my Twisters forever (and for those who care, about 80% of my Twisters are searchable here). The road would come to an end sooner or later. All roads do. And that end has come. I just thought I’d let you know.


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