I’ve been dithering about writing this newsletter for the past several weeks, and today, Revue, the Twitter-owned service where this publication has been hosted for the past year, announced it is shutting down, encouraging me to finally finish it and hit send. Here we are.
In the previous issue, I discussed that I intend to stay on Twitter despite what I thought was going to be a disastrous environment for marginalized communities. That hasn’t changed. I’m still there, yelling into the ether, opening myself up to abuse (of which, anecdotally, I have seen a definitive increase), while other users move elsewhere.
They’re moving for good reason; while I don’t think Twitter is going to imminently implode, the site and app have been glitchier, and the discourse has shifted. People are angrier. The site is all Elon Musk, all the time. I don’t find myself mindlessly refreshing and scrolling as much, because it’s become boring, less useful, and it feels like even more of a waste of time than in years prior. I’m deriving no pleasure from it and learning nothing from it. It is increasingly at its worst—that is, it is most often the place I know so intimately, the one that has subjected me and my family to nastiness and physical threats I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Now, many more people are getting a taste of that hell at the urging of the man in charge. It’s nauseating. I will stay, but it feels like I’m witnessing the slow decline of a beloved pet who has now become senile and lashes out at loved ones in a violent rage.
In the past few weeks, I’ve opened accounts on Mastodon and Post, and I’m willing to give them a shot (if I can figure out how to add yet more reading and writing into my schedule as the working mom of a six-month-old, when downtime is already a scarcity). I’m still posting on Instagram, though I’m not really sure why. I am not a photographer. I am not patient enough to make Reels. As Emma Gannon recently put it, “I get the ‘ick’ from anything that makes you feel like you are working for free for them...Personally, not my style. I just want to write without the endless singing and dancing needed.” (Okay, I don’t mind the singing. Yes, even after...all that.)
And it's okay, because it’s right here, on my newsletter, where I’ve seen the biggest increase in followers since Elon Musk bought Twitter. It’s not like there are suddenly thousands of you, but since late October this little publication saw its largest and fastest increase in subscribers over time.
Thank you. Despite my extremely sporadic writing schedule (this is the 50th post in a nearly-four-year-old newsletter that was originally meant to be weekly, ha!), you’re here. I’m grateful.
I’m also pleasantly surprised. Does this mean, after years of begging people to slow down and be more deliberate with their online consumption, some of us are finally putting that advice into practice? Will we, as Caroline Sinders writes, opt for much smaller, slower online communities in the post-Twitter era?
It certainly seems that way. Young adult fiction author and YouTube content creator John Green has left Twitter, and the 4.5 Million followers he had on the platform. So has @PopeHat, who provided legal analysis and commentary for his 339,000 followers. So have several disinformation researchers and friends, all of whom enjoyed significant followings and have no clear secondary place to share their work; they just don’t want to be part of the toxicity anymore. Casey Newton, perhaps the United States’ most enterprising tech journalist, writes poignantly in a recent issue of his newsletter, Platformer, that “it’s time to start leaving Twitter behind.” Casey then lays out how his newsletter community, which boasts over 100,000 members, will go forward without an emphasis on Twitter: he’ll be breaking news on Discord, gathering news differently, and experimenting with other platforms, among other changes.
I also have been a lot more introspective about my online presence, in part because, after what I’ve been through over the past seven months, the Twitter drama feels very personal. This space—despite its many, many faults which I have loudly and publicly criticized—was one millions of people treasured. I warned in April and again in October that Elon Musk’s free speech absolutism would unleash nastiness. It is now on display, in a microscopic play by play, as Elon boosts “groomer” conspiracies about a former staffer, undermines public health and trust in government, amplifies QAnon, and interacts with neo-Nazis.
I have been weighing where to take this space, as I certainly didn’t want to give Elon Musk any of your hard earned coin via subscriptions. Now Revue is shutting down anyway, hastening my decision. For now, I am headed back to Substack, a platform I very publicly departed just over a year ago. I am not a fan of their moderation policies, to say the least, but in the year since I’ve spent a lot of time there, Substack has built some pretty appealing community features. Authors can recommend each others’ newsletters, prompting new subscribers to sign up to receive similar publications as they confirm their subscriptions. They can host chats with readers. Readers can—and, it seems, do!—comment on posts and discuss amongst themselves. Those are the parts of Twitter I miss most in this new, post-Musk world.
It felt important to be transparent about all these decisions in a world in which opacity is often turned into intrigue. In the new year, you’ll be getting these missives—a bit more frequently, I hope, but parenthood may beg to differ—on Substack, with a bit of a facelift and maybe some fun new features. I look forward to seeing you there.
Here’s to greener pastures in 2023 🥂