As I’m writing this it looks like Twitter has made some changes to the way that third-party clients interact with service. My favorite client, Tweetbot, is locked out right now. The situation is still developing but it’s not looking pretty for anyone using anything other than the web interface. While I will definitely miss the way I use Tweetbot I think it’s the kick I needed to move away from Twitter more than before.
A Window on the World
The apps that we use to consume and create content are the way that we view things. Maybe you prefer a webpage over an app or the way that one client displays things over another but your entire view is based on those preferences. If the way you consume your media changes your outlook on it changes too.
I didn’t always use Tweetbot to view Twitter. I tried using the standard app for a long time. It wasn’t until the infamous “Dickbar” incident back in 2011 that I broke away for something that wasn’t so slavishly dependent on ads. The trending topic bar might not have been specifically for ads at the time but the writing on the wall was there. The way I chose to view my content wasn’t compatible with the way that the service wanted to monetize it.
Fast forward to today. Instagram doesn’t show you time sequence posts. Neither does Facebook. Twitter now defaults to an algorithmic timeline. Apps like TikTok are built on their algorithms. It’s all a way to show you things the system thinks you want to see with a sprinkling of ads mixed in whenever they want to show them to you. Could you imagine a TV channel where the ads were just thrown in to the show whenever they wanted you to see one as opposed to more of a standard time? You probably can imagine because that’s what it feels like to watch platforms like Youtube.
Platforms cost money to operate. That fact isn’t lost on me. What is annoying is that trying to change the way I access the platform in order to serve more ads is going to cause more damage in the long run. Given the choice between using the web version of Twitter and just not using it I’m more inclined to the latter. I want a timeline that shows me tweets in chronological order without the need to change to that format every time I open the page. I want to see what I want to see without being forced to view things that don’t interest me. Forcing me to use the web app to see ads is almost as bad as forcing me to follow people that you think are interesting that I have no desire to interact with.
The Only Winning Move
I’m more than a passive participant in services like Twitter. I create content and use them to share it. I participate actively. And I don’t like the way I’m being forced to play.
I started a Mastodon account many years ago the last time Twitter looked like it was making changes. In the past few months I’ve migrated it to a new profile. The Mastodon interface has robust apps and a great way to interact with people. It may not have the numbers that Twitter does right now but it won’t take long for a lot of the best creators to go there instead.
More importantly, choosing an open platform over a monetized nightmare gives me hope that the real value of what we do on the Internet isn’t selling ads. It’s creating valuable things that people enjoy and sharing them with a receptive audience. That may not be the millions of people on Twitter right this minute but those millions of people are about to find out what it feels like when the best reasons to be on a platform are gone.
I want to choose how I see the world, not how someone wants me to see it. I want to decide how I share what I’ve made with people and when they see it, not have it placed behind other things a software function decides are more likely to be clicked. If the future of social media is endless ads and trickery designed to make me spend more time fighting through the timeline instead of consuming it then I guess my view of the world is outdated and needs to change. But it will change on my terms.