Losing Access to Truth
If you aren’t on Twitter, you probably haven’t thought much of its ongoing drama and what may be its impending collapse. I am on Twitter. It’s where I go for news and real-time information and has been for years.
It has changed the way media and advertising and marketing work, and even if you aren’t on Twitter, you’re probably going to be affected by it if it closes or becomes unusable. It’s often mined by “journalists” for “news stories.” It’s also used by government agencies and other organizations to share real-time information. It’s sometimes even referred to as an entity unto itself in other forms of media, e.g., “Twitter reacted to X.” Not to mention, it’s used by small businesses, artists, authors, freelancers, and sex workers, among others, to connect with audiences/customers/clients, i.e., their livelihoods. It’s used by nonprofits and activists and countless GoFundMes to spread the word. It’s used by the disability community and other vulnerable people as a lifeline. It’s used to connect people with common interests — I have personally made friends on Twitter.
Twitter also plays a vital role in crisis and disaster communication. Twitter has provided tsunami and earthquake warnings; it has helped first responders find areas in need; it has helped people find community in healing after disasters. It’s functionally a public utility that is now owned by a megalomaniac billionaire having a tantrum. Capitalists always destroy the commons.
Of course, there are many bad things about Twitter on the user side — pile-ons, harassment, slurs, threats, disinformation, Ted Cruz, US-centric discourse, doxxing, bots, advertisers, and content-pushing algorithms. It feeds into people’s reactive tendencies. There are many (so many) not-well-thought-out “takes” to be found. All that said, it really does have some uniquely good things about it, and I have a particular worry about what will happen if it collapses or if it gives into right-wing, edgelord chaos. I’m worried about the truth.
I’ve seen other people trying to describe the uniqueness of Twitter. The best I can do is that it’s a space where you can get expert information about Supreme Court cases, updates about academic workers’ strikes in California, memes about Liz Truss and a head of lettuce, a bot that tweets lines from Ocean Vuong’s poetry, a friend trying to crowdsource advice…