There’s no “Next Twitter,” and that’s OK • TechCrunch
Like the future the wreckage of twitter skywrites a story of pride across the sky many have chosen – or made the choice for them – to direct their gaze to the horizon instead, hoping to see a ray of hope shine Through the Bomb Cyclone: The Next Twitter! But they are misled. There is no Next Twitter, and really, really, that’s fine.
First of all, though, lest at first I seem dismissive of people who depend on Twitter for their livelihood (freelancers, comedians, sex workers, etc.), I don’t mean that it doesn’t. ‘will be no negative effect on anyone from a popular platform disappear. Their loss is real, like that of any other group that eventually found Twitter to be a suitable tool for them to use. I hope these people find something that works for them.
But for the temerity of a certain wealthy individual, we might have seen Twitter drag on for another five to ten years, following its Facebook counterpart’s lazy decline into insignificance – halted occasionally by a transfusion of juvenile blood via acquisition of an innovative competitor. Now, however Twitter spends its remaining life force, that future is lost.
With Meta having bet on the wrong horse to the continued detriment of its staples, Tiktok ascending but starting to lose its shine, and Snap and other equally-rans spinning their wheels just to stay ahead of the wolves private equity for another quarter, it seems like an opportune time to assess the current crop of aspiring social media royalty.
Seemsyes – but it is not.
Illusion of choice
First, while it’s premature to evaluate these platforms strictly on the merits they possess today, it’s not that hard to see that the so-called alternatives generally suck. Some fail because they are not like Twitter, others because they are too much like Twitter, some for lack of direction, some for suspicious direction. But all of them fail, which is normal only when they have more or less chosen the moment of their debut. Such platforms are all about timing, and who could have predicted what happens now? Relevance was imposed on them. I fear that, judged insufficient at the time of the crisis, they will be abandoned before having achieved real traction.
But more importantly: think about the forces at play and, as Carlin pointed out, the illusion of choice. Twitter is down, so here are the handful of pre-prepared options you can choose from: what if Twitter, but someone is making money from it! Or some other quirk. The important thing is not the product, it is to continue to manufacture the product by disturbing the status quo as little as possible.
It’s a bit like someone wandering dazedly out of the wreckage of their old home and immediately being offered predatory and binding terms for a new one. It’s a market opportunity. Is it any wonder that financial interests bicker over the fractured attention economy like fishmongers? (With the greatest respect for the fishmongers. The practice is customary on the wharf.)
Twitter has permeated, if not dominated, the world of social media for a decade, and the choices that have been made on the platform have helped define and calcify the way we think about information sharing. But everything passes and Twitter’s moment has come and gone. Well, I say (although I might, having been a hater these 14 years. But I rejoice for nobler reasons than shadenfreude).
We’re at a time when the very nature of social media platforms, the basic functions they provide, how they work behind the scenes, how they should be run, funded, moderated – all of those things are up in the air. This is an opportunity to get rid of the conventions and assumptions that we have been told for years that they are fundamental.
In the void
But for that, we must reject the illusory choice of rushing to The Next Twitter. Twitter was more than a product: it was a moment in time, a raw manifestation of digital capabilities that, like any raw thing, destroyed as often as it created. It was necessary and interesting, but these messy delights have messy endings. Recreating it now, with only superficial lessons learned, would be like rebuilding a castle that fell on the same quicksand. Watch it sink!
So don’t take the bait. As author Robin Sloan has pointed out, this is an unprecedented opportunity: a chance for people to do something Newto get to work on the definition following era of how people connect, instead of just extending the previous, familiar one.
I do not wish the failure or destruction of these Twitter-adjacent platforms that are vying for position. But neither do I want the eggs incubated in Twitter’s cursed nest to be the ones that cross the boundaries of our online interactions. Like a rebound relationship, it will be twisted and influenced by the previous one.
Why don’t we all try something different? And I’m not talking about a new application. What would you say no application for a certain time.
Now, this isn’t a bait and switch for me to beat the “let’s all tune in IRL” drum. In an age when new ideas and methods are potentially of immense value, you cannot think for yourself and create meaningfully and wonder if you are doing it within the bounds of the previous ideal regime. It’s not about touching the grass or having in-person conversations (although both are great), but rather about putting some distance between you and the paddock you’re supposedly in. away over the past decade.
I hope people will take at least a few weeks to disconnect from these old patched-up ideas and do something else. Read articles, browse forums, watch a documentary, go skiing, play a game with your friends – do anything but participate in Twitter’s defined style of gathering and spreading information. How can you choose what comes next if you won’t leave behind what came before?
The perspective you develop in this way can only clarify and enhance your thinking about the questions that social media already claims to know the answers to. You can see they never had one to begin with, and the questions remain – perhaps more interesting than any answers.