Social media is dead

Just over two weeks ago, Elon Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion. There is no part of this that makes any sense.

How anyone can justify a sum of money greater than the GDP of 56% of all (current) nations to acquire what was already the digital equivalent of a dumpster fire is beyond me. I have no doubt in my mind that everyone who was just bought out made very quick transactions to move that money into something stable, like precious metals, because going anywhere near technology right now is suicide.

(I’ll only mention in passing the FTX crypto exchange collapse announced today.)

It was a stupid decision to begin with, and every decision Musk has made since has only made things worse. Twitter is, at this point, a massive joke.

I’ve been on Twitter since 2007. I know this because I downloaded all of my data. Every tweet, every image, every comment. I have no idea what I’ll do with any of it, if anything, but I’ve got in case … something. And I don’t know what that is.

The fact is, Twitter is no longer the social platform it was even a few years ago. Like Facebook, Twitter became a home for rampant disinformation, based in ignorance and state-sponsored activities. The platform that had meant to be a town square for discourse turned into a shouting match with no winners. There were no fact police and those who sowed fear reaped tremendous rewards. And the world suffered for it.

I will not mourn Twitter’s ultimate demise. It was a good idea, but it was allowed to rot. Facebook, too, put advertising dollars over the truth. The almighty dollar ruled in favour of humanity. I’ve all but abandoned Facebook, and while I was lured back to Twitter, I suspect I’m not long for this world, either.

What’s next? That’s the interesting question. Facebook and Twitter were universal: open to the world, no filters, no restrictions. The next generation of social media, however – Mastodon, CounterSocial, Cohost, among many others – create pockets, little silos of activity. The siloing of social media will lead to greater isolation from one another, a return to the world we were in before Facebook and Twitter broke those walls down.

And I think that’s a good thing. Prior to social media, we stayed in our circles, we were more readily supported, more able to filter out the noise. And while many will leap up to stay that this isn’t a good thing, that we were better off knowing all that was going on in the world, I will argue the opposite – we are not evolutionarily capable of handling it. We cannot understand it, we cannot process it. The noise makes us angry, irrationally so, and we are left with trying to calm not just ourselves but also those around us. And it is a lost cause.

Virtual communication will outlast the fall of social media, of that there is no question. But the form it will take will be more contained, more moderated, less tolerant of every random voice. And, maybe, a quieter, calmer world, too.