The Twitter Debacle
If you have been following the news at all recently, you’re probably aware of the growing problems at Twitter following Elon Musk’s purchase of the site a few weeks ago. Since taking command of the company, Musk has
- laid off thousands of employees across the company (impacting several operational departments and apparently breaking several states’ laws in the process) (CNN)
- seen hundreds of mission-critical employees quit after he issued an ultimatum requiring them to commit to working long hours at an intense pace (Reuters)
- and on Friday, locked staff out of their offices until next week, for reasons that were unclear as of this writing. (BBC)
These moves leave Twitter with a significant employee shortage. Entire departments have been gutted, including those dedicated to identifying and dealing with misinformation and hate. And “the departures include many engineers responsible for fixing bugs and preventing service outages, raising questions about the stability of the platform amid the loss of employees.” (Reuters)
But employment issues aren’t the only troubles the company now faces:
- The incidence of hate speech rose quickly after Musk’s takeover. (Montclair)
- Musk’s decision to allow accounts to purchase blue checks (formerly a symbol of a verified account, meaning that the account really was who it said it was) resulted in total chaos, as a number of look-alike accounts sprang up, maliciously spreading misinformation or simply trolling. Pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly’s stock price dropped 4.5% after a fake account tweeted “Insulin is free now.” Other brands were similarly pranked in ways that could hurt their public image or their bottom line. (Vox has a good article explaining the entire “blue check” fiasco and why it matters.)
- Musk announced a permanent suspension of parody accounts that don’t clearly announce they are parodies after a number of prominent Twitter account holders renamed themselves “Elon Musk.” (BBC)
At this point, both employees and account holders, including many celebrities and authors, are leaving Twitter in droves. Many others are establishing an online presence elsewhere, either as a fall-back option or because they plan to leave soon. Still more have curtailed their use of Twitter while they wait to see what happens. And major advertisers and advertising firms are also pulling back, unwilling to advertise on a company this volatile and with this much potential for turning off potential customers.
If you have decided to leave Twitter, here’s how to download your Twitter archive (CNBC.)
If you’re wondering whether your favorite authors are leaving and where they are going, you may have to check either their Twitter account or their website or blog (or other social media sites) to find out.
Among the alternate sites I have seen authors and readers considering are:
- Mastodon. As I understand it, Mastodon is free, open-source software for self-hosting social networking services. It has microblogging capabilities that act sort of like Twitter, but in general it is more siloed. Mastodon groups I have seen authors migrating to include Mastodon.social (the “general” Mastodon edition), Mastodon Romancelandia (for the romance community), and a variety of Mastodon federated “instances” (communities) for people who like science fiction and fantasy. NOTE: you can sign up (create an account) in any federated instance and still follow people in other instances. Or you can have an account for each of the instances you follow. There are good reasons for either choice; check out this post on Medium.com.
- Reddit. Reddit has its own problems with hate etc., but it also has some amazing, enthusiastic, and friendly communities. If your interests coincide with some of those communities, you may enjoy hanging out on Reddit. I’m not
- Discord is essentially a VoIP and chat service (text, audio, and audio-video) that lets people set up a “server” for their intended community. Some servers are public, some are invitation-only. I’m currently in three Discord servers: one set up by an author I love (who also does writing workshops and is part of a writing podcast, so their server has both fans and writers in it), one for the local NaNoWriMo group, and one for a game developer I like. I will probably join a few more over time, particularly if any of my favorite authors set up their own servers. I have also used Discord with a small group of Robin’s friends; we got together nightly in December 2020 to read our favorite Christmas stories to each other, since we were all pretty much in lockdown.
- Facebook needs no introduction. There are authors who maintain an active author page and presence on Facebook, and some who haven’t used it much but may increase their activity in the future.
- Instagram is great for photos and video (“Reels”), but not the easiest place to have the sorts of lively discussions or longer threads are common on Twitter. That said, there are plenty of authors on Instagram already. There are also plenty of authors who don’t want to deal with producing all the visual content required.
- Everything I said about Instagram goes double for TikTok.
- LinkedIn is essentially like Facebook for professionals. Some authors may have a presence there, or set one up in the wake of the ongoing Twitter issues. However, depending on your own presence there, you may be cautious about who you follow. For example, I try to keep my professional online presence separate from my reader-blogger-fan presence, for the most part, so I’ll save LinkedIn for professional contacts only.
What’s next for Twitter?
It will be interesting to see how the whole Twitter thing plays out. Will the company survive? If not, what will take its place, and will that be a single platform, or a plurality of platforms with different strengths? If it survives, will it still be a place where readers and authors want to hang out? Only time will tell.