I joined Twitter in March 2008 and, after initially puzzling about what it was for, found it to be an amazing place. I particularly appreciated the focus on text, rather than copypasta pictures that seemed to dominate most of the other social media environments. I loved the requirement to be concise. I enjoyed taking the time to carefully craft a complete thought in 140 characters.
But it was also who else was there. Authors, scientists, journalists, historians. It was like a 24-hour cocktail party — especially when events were happening. It was also where you could call out a corporation and they would immediately respond to head off having your issue go viral.
And I used the Twitter API for a number of projects. I had created a twitter bot that could post Esperanto quotes. I had set up system to capture my tweets and save them at my website. I had a block on the front page of my blog to show my tweets. I frequently embedded tweets to support posts I was writing. I had set up Discord bots to gateway tweets for my publisher.
When I became a published author, my publisher encouraged me to create a separate social-media account for my publishing work, and so I created a new twitter handle and began developing a readership focused primarily on science fiction, fantasy, and publishing.
On Oct 27, the purchase of Twitter was completed. And, unlike some who immediately bailed, I thought I would wait and watch for a bit. But it didn’t take long to perceive what the new owner was going to do. And so, I began looking for alternatives.
I had actually created a Mastodon account in June, 2019: @email@example.com. I was very much in favor of the idea and the model. (And, actually, I also had created another account for an instance created by a student.) But most of the people I was interested in interacting with just weren’t there. So I’d logged in a handful of times, but had not spent much time there.
On Nov 10, I created a new Mastodon account and began to wean myself away from Twitter. This was during a huge exodus and the entire fediverse was straining to accommodate so many new users. I could see that wandering.shop was probably the best instance for SFF authors, but I couldn’t get an invite code. And, rather than waiting patiently, I decided to create an account at another instance that seemed interesting: mastodon.lol: “A Mastodon server friendly towards anti-fascists, members of the LGBTQ+ community, hackers, and the like.”
It was a rather heady time, with vast numbers of new people trying to figure out this different thing. The guy who ran mastodon.lol was adding capacity like mad to accommodate all the people looking for new accounts. It went from 8000 to nearly 80,000 users in just a few months. He set up a patreon and people contributed money such that, in short order, it was financially self-supporting. But he quickly decided that trying to run such a service on his own wasn’t any fun. He never said exactly what happened — at least not that I ever saw — but he evidently became disillusioned and, by February, had flamed out. He posted a bitter message that the service would be shutting down in a few months. And then he vanished.
By this point, I was easily able to get an invite code for wandering.shop and, on February 9, 2023, I migrated my account to @firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a while, my publisher had encouraged me to continue to post book promotion tweets at Twitter. And I did so until Jun 21, 2023, when the owner of Twitter asserted that “cis” and “cisgender” were slurs and would result in people saying them being suspended. This was a bright line for me and I informed my publisher that I would no longer be posting at Twitter. He indicated that this was fine.
By this point, I had largely finished grieving. I was already no longer visiting Twitter. But it was sad to watch all of the cool services around the Internet that had depended on Twitter gradually vanish. The block on my blog quite working. The bots for my publisher quit working.
Every so often, I would see another high profile defection as people gave up and grieved what they had lost. I still feel some pain, like a phantom limb. I like the new community at Mastodon. But it’s not the same.
It’s still astonishing to me how many people are still ostensibly there.
Even more astonishing to me are the people who, after watching their whole online world purchased and set alight to satisfy the ego of an unbalanced lunatic, are migrating to other commercial properties, like Bluesky or Threads. Did you learn nothing? Sigh…