Bye Bye Birdie

2022.12.14 by Josh Erb; 774 words.

Every time I start a new work journal[1], I like to write a quote on the inside cover that feels like it has some insight into the state of the world as I currently experience it. In my journal for the past couple years, I wrote the following:

"To be truly countercultural today, in a time of tech hegemony, one has to, above all, betray the platform, which may come in the form of betraying or divesting from your public online self."

— Caroline Busta, "The internet didn’t kill counterculture — you just won’t find it on Instagram" (retrieved on 18-Jan-2021)

This feels particularly prescient as we all watch a decade-old[2] micro-blogging site be dismembered by a man with the emotional control of a toddler. Oddly enough, I don't think the hostile takeover of Twitter by an ultra rich megalomaniac changed my relationship to the site that much. Twitter has always been owned by ultra rich megalomaniacs, the previous ones were just a little less visible and weren't constantly mugging at the camera looking for approval from shitty viewers.

Spending less time there is something I've been thinking about for quite some time, as evidenced by previous posts on this blog (ref. exhibits A & B). However, with recent changes it is unavoidably clear that staying in a place where my ad impressions directly help prop up the boots of a deranged, fascist-curious oligarch who would remake the world in his own, shitty image. If this is going to happen, I'm going to exercise the only form of direct action I can: I'm going to purposefully remove my contribution to the bottom line.

Is writing a blog about this performative and a bit melodramatic? Yes. Am I still grappling with the things I'll lose by disconnecting entirely? Also yes. I use Twitter to stay up to date on labor fights, local political initiatives, and all these important things that I care deeply about. But I'm making the conscious choice because every additional day I spent on that website after the takeover has made it clear that the decision to stay or go also carries clear moral implications. There were moral implications before, of course, but they could be reasoned away by focusing on the good that sticking around had[3].

I've pulled my archive and I'll probably spend a weekend figuring out how I want to host it here on my personal site, for posterity. So many formative experience as captured in the last couple years of my Twitter activity[4] that feel worth archiving.

I find these things are best if you just rip the band-aid instead of scheduling them. Apologies for the short notice. If you're one of the few who followed me on Twitter and you want to stay in touch, I'm still not sure where I'll end up. For the moment, I'm on a mastodon instance as it's full of academics and writers and is generally quite a pleasant place to spend time.

Ultimately, though, I'll be dedicating my energy to improving my non-digital social network. For the moment, and as best I can, I'll continue cherish and nurture spaces that the billionaire class hasn't schemed their way to[5].

  1. Yes, this is something I do. No, I don't think it's weird.

  2. Twitter was founded in 2006, so it's not quite yet "decades-old", which is kind of wild to think about.

  3. There are some who have argued that we can't cede this space to far-right reactionaries. That it's valuable despite who's in charge and profiting from our engagement with one another. Notably, I've seen Chanda Prescod-Weinstein pushing back as people talk about ceding the space. I do think she makes an interesting point, but I also don't know that I can fully accept the equation as she outlines it. We have several examples of what happens if we cede the space to far-right reactionaries: Gab, Truth Social, &c. These spaces never reach the same level of impact because they have effectively become echo chambers that leave these reactionaries with nothing to react to, if enough people leave Twitter, the same will play out.

  4. Notably, when the Mapbox Workers Union went public and the network the visibility into contemporary labor organizing this has helped me cultivate.

  5. These spaces also have the benefit of containing considerably fewer neo-confederates and Nazis (i.e. none)

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