My First Monday Without Twitter
On Saturday (actually very early in the morning on Sunday, because I sometimes don’t sleep), I quit Twitter.
As to Musk and Trump, it's pretty simple.
If Trump is let back in, I'm bailing out. Trump disrupted Twitter so badly it became a different and uglier place.
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) May 10, 2022
I did it upon seeing that on the basis of a Twitter poll, Elon Musk had decided to reinstate Donald Trump’s account.
Wait Trump is back?
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) November 20, 2022
Musk had previously threatened to give reinstatement of Trump “serious consideration” but making the decision on the basis of a poll of Twitter users, particularly those who follow his account, look a great deal more either frivolous or pre-determined than that to me. (I’m informed Trump hasn’t yet done anything with the reinstated account, so that’s good, I guess, but more on this below.)
What IS the correct plural of "fiasco"?
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) December 9, 2021
Many of Musk’s decisions made during the month after he took over look like this: impulsive, dismissive of consequences, and of questionable wisdom. Selling the blue checks disrupted the way Twitter does business. Perhaps it’s not the kind of thing that Twitter couldn’t survive, at least if it were a decision made on its own. Significant personnel cuts of questionable legality and other personnel moves of questionable wisdom and significant concerns regarding security along with an apparent lack of a plan to introduce the electronic banking that Musk has had past successes with, again suggests pretty strongly that there simply was no plan. He’s making it up as he goes. This is particularly problematic because he’s dealing with a split between the people from whom the company derives income and the people who are supposed to benefit from its services.
This may be obvious to some people, or assume to already be in the background for others. A fundamental mistake I think Elon Musk has made in buying Twitter is confusing clients for customers.
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) November 12, 2022
Some (and by “some” I mean “I”) muse that Musk is actually running the company the way that a sort of trollish user would brashly claim it ought to be run, much in the way a trollish Trump partisan would say “whatever liberals say they hate, do that.” Maybe that’s a clever slogan to some; it is not a particularly great decision-making rubric in real life. I feel like this dovetails with the notion that Musk may not fully appreciate that his previous social media success as a Twitter user came from being kind of trollish. You can’t do that when you’re the CEO.
You had four years to do anything that looked remotely like this. There's nothing even remotely close to a Trump healthcare plan available to even read and consider.
And right now, your Justice Department is asking SCOTUS to ELIMINATE pre-existing condition protections. pic.twitter.com/hEQXxhnNM3
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) October 28, 2020
Donald Trump is in many ways the ultimate Twitter troll, full of bile, anger, insults, outrage, falsehoods originating in both intent and neglect, falsehoods both harmless and malicious. I have had my own life experience dealing with narcissists, and the way to deal with narcissists is to walk away from them and shut them out of your life. There is no accommodating a narcissist. They either get all the attention or none . The way to deal with them is to make sure they get done.
I've had a close relationship, albeit not a family or romantic one, with a narcissist. It can be hard to tear yourself away and it's seductive to make small concessions to get along and rationalize the bigger stuff.
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) September 7, 2020
Oh, don’t worry about the narcissist’s social welfare. Narcissists can be very charming and charismatic and will attract a new retinue of followers no matter who leaves them.
I say charisma is at least as much a skill as it is an immutable attribute. Narcissists acquire and learn this skill with alacrity; they learn early in life that charisma facilitates the transactions which are their proxy for relationships.
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) July 29, 2021
This winds up being the real problem with Trump. Like all narcissists, he can be funny and charismatic. Consequently, a lot of people like him, at least on a superficial level. He polarizes opinion. Because of the size of his platform, he will necessarily become the focus of all attention, sooner or later.
Theology-of-Taco-Bell-bisque Twitter is WAY better than Trump-Rocky-Balboa-photoshop Twitter.
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) November 27, 2019
Of those two choices, I’d put my money on “sooner.” Trump’s running for President again. Twitter and the platform and visibility that it gave him was an instrumental part of his against-most-expectations victory in 2016. He clearly wants to be President again. He is not going to leave Twitter in his tool kit unused (unless Twitter stops mattering).
No. I'd quit Twitter instead.
Not just because I disagree with him on things. I follow a good number of people I disagree with.
Not just because he's a liar and a narcissist. But related to those things, he sucks the oxygen out of any conversation he's near.
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) November 15, 2022
So, it’s inevitable to me that he’s going to suck all the oxygen out of the room. For the past not quite two years, we’ve been using Twitter, I think, roughly as it was intended. To talk about the issues of the day, yes, and to talk about things that aren’t necessarily political. Even political Twitter has been discussing a variety of people and issues and not just Awful 45. But soon enough, Trump will return and use Twitter to make himself the only person, the only issue. And how bleak and dreary is that?
I can see that.
I really think a wait and see approach to what he actually does is the right way to go. To avoid the frog-in-a-pot phenomenon, I suggest taking a moment to ask yourself what your line of toleration is.
Mine is Trump.
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) October 27, 2022
Getting back to Twitter. When Musk bought the company, my initial attitude was, “let’s wait and see.” It was not out of any sort of distaste for Musk, even though I don’t really like him much as a public person. Still, he’s done a good job of building up Tesla (which he did not found) and turning it into an interesting, productive, and perhaps even one day profitable-on-the-basis-of-actual-product-sales company. Same with SpaceX, which seems to be profitable and is doing interesting things (although we should remember that the flagship space tourism operations are not the profit center).
Let's be fair: putting together teams of engineers who DID design electric cars and reusable rockets is still an impressive achievement.
Thomas Edison didn't personally do a lot of the things that he's credited for either; he built and ran a team of inventors.
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) November 4, 2022
So, I wanted to see if Musk might similarly be able to do something interesting and useful with Twitter. But…
The fish rots from the head down.
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) February 26, 2021
If there’s one thing that my observations of business and other large institutional behavior has taught me over the years it’s that the old fishmongers’ aphorism is correct. What the HMFIC does, sooner or later, will get replicated, in various ways, all the way down the hierarchy. It seems a lot of advertisers and a decent number of celebrities, and for a brief time even CBS News, felt the same way or at least entertain the same sorts of worries.
No, I just saw Trump's video (which Twitter is not allowing any more reposting of) and he insists the election was stolen and tells the terrorists he loves them even as he urges them to "go home in peace."
He's not going to concede anything.
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) January 6, 2021
Trump’s reinstatement was the milepost that, if passed, was to be my point of departure. Because it’s not just narcissism, it’s communication, and Trump’s communications are malignant. But some of the other things going on with Twitter contributed to that as well. There are powerful personal reasons I feel to stay that I had to overcome.
I have found that nearly everyone I've interacted with well online turned out to be a great person to meet with and make friends with in person. Our imaginary friends from OT were all wonderful to hang out with!
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) September 21, 2022
Sometimes I feel lonely. And I feel like a number of the people that I have met on Twitter, sometimes including in real life additionally Twitter provides a way to connect with them. For a lot of interactions, this isn’t super deep. I don’t use Twitter to flirt for potential mates or for business (though some professional activities begun on Twitter have worked out well).
Really great interactions this afternoon! Colloquied with three smart people with interesting perspectives, followed them all.
Every once in a while Twitter proves to be something other than a cesspool of insults, bad news, and clickbait; that's why I don't delete my account.
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) November 12, 2019
Twitter also provided a way to get news quickly perhaps quicker than any other way that I’ve ever encountered in life. There would often be some things floating around Twitter that were genuinely funny. Memes and clips from the more clever users could be found usually pretty quickly and we’re usually pretty high quality. And of course, there are goat videos. Better yet, BABY goat videos.
Always here for goat content https://t.co/ODnZqNFK0m
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) December 13, 2021
All of this comes with a price, of course. And we all know what that price is by now: your time, your attention, your mental capacity. Maybe that’s a tradeoff you’re willing to make. To be fair, there is likely a net benefit to this, particularly when you start out toward the early end of the social media engagement curve. But as with so many other things, the curve eventually hits that “hockey stick” point, and reaches a point of diminishing returns. You get fewer and fewer of these benefits on the margin as you give the social media venue more and more of your attention.
Me and my two friends would love that.
Okay, okay. Me and my one friend would love that.
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) October 28, 2022
I’d long since perceived that I had passed the point of diminishing returns. I was putting more into social media than I was getting out of it. And to be very honest, it was becoming one of several factors that were eroding my mental health. Certainly, I felt like it was something that I was doing more instead of professional work than I should have been doing, and probably doing more of instead of pursuing actual social life with people in meatworld than I should have.
To former FB & Insta users, welcome. If FB is like sitting next to the schizophrenic guy on the bus loudly giving verbal vent to his vulgar mental health demons, Twitter is like that except he's on a skateboard while he does it.
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) October 4, 2021
I began blogging on 13 June 2005. And I’ve have had some kind of forum on the Internet continuously ever since. I probably won’t walk away from that, not after 20 years of being a participant in some kind of online community. This community, what is now called Ordinary Times, in particular. But walking away from Twitter seems like something that is going to be a net mental health benefit. True, I’ll give up the instantaneous nature of Twitter’s feedback. But maybe the ability to think and express myself in a longer form is better for me, and better for what I’m trying to do when I exercise might need to express myself.
I know of no purely or at least principally online news source that I would consider trustworthy. We can all name several that provide partisan or ideological lensing. NPR is about the best source for information I know of. WaPo has been doing a good job lately, too, IMO.
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) January 25, 2018
One of the things I quickly noticed was that without Twitter I felt at a loss for where to get information about the outside world. Where would I turn to learn what people were talking about, what was going on? And how would that affect the way I thought about those things?
True story: I learned a LOT about cars from the 1960's trying to distract my dad from watching Hannity and O'Reilly (or indeed any Fox News)
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) July 26, 2017
Consider how my father and his partner acquire their news. Neither of them are technologically incompetent; for instance, I noticed that she is on Facebook often communicating with her family and many of her friends and my father is putting together a series of YouTube explainers about aerospace engineering. But it looks like most of their news comes either through her Facebook feed or the television on broadcast or cable media. This seems to reinforce their political conservatism, and teach them facts about the world that are at variance with the facts I have been embracing. In the abstract, at least, a difference in political opinion between they and I is neither good nor bad. But it sure is disorienting sometimes.
I never want to hear about Hunter Biden's laptop again.
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) August 12, 2022
They are dead certain that there is something incriminating that affects President Biden on his son Hunter’s laptop, and I don’t believe I’ve had a conversation with them for the past two months where that laptop has not come up as an issue. In my world, that laptop, or rather the data that is or was on it and is now in dozens of files all over Capitol Hill, is a big old nothingburger. Hunter Biden does not have any substantial influence on the formation or execution of public policy in the White House, and excepting some salacious personal habits, he doesn’t seem to have broken any of the kinds of laws we would care about in terms of political influence or corruption. We should no more care about him than we did Billy Carter or Roger Clinton.
Hunter Biden and Burisma might be corrupt, or not, but that doesn't matter. They're not the ones being impeached.
There is nothing about this TV thing that suggests it will contain even a scintilla of relevant, trustworthy information. Nothing whatsoever. https://t.co/SHhpAImMYz
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) December 12, 2019
But to my dad and his partner, “the laptop” is obviously a smoking gun and the subject of massive Democratic efforts at concealment (which is objectively false, or if it is true, profound evidence that Democrats suck at concealing things, because Republican congressional staffers have been analyzing this data for months now). I prefer not to engage with them about this subject at all and generally prefer to avoid talk of politics altogether unless they bring it up. I mention this as a means of illustrating how your source of information will lens the way you see the world. Maybe they’re right and I’m wrong. Maybe I’m right and they’re wrong. Maybe it’s somewhere in the middle. Not important here. (Also note that there is a difference between seeking truth and seeking facts.) What I call out for your observation for purposes of this essay is that my sources of information about this subject are different than theirs. Thus, for both parties, our different sources of information magnify rather than temper our respective opinions. Your brain is like anything else in your body: you are what you eat.
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) May 10, 2022
Now that I’m off Twitter, my source of information is about to change. Monday morning, I sat down to drink coffee and eat breakfast and wondered about… Twitter. Not missing it or to wish to get back on it, but people commenting about affairs at Twitter was my principal source of information about the world, and still is for many. So the significant commercial activity affecting a lot of people because of Twitter’s management changes is therefore news. Where would I fill my hunger for new information about this subject?
I thought you liked me, @npr.
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) February 19, 2022
So I looked for a news source that I trusted to be fair, and decided on NPR. Sure enough, NPR had a top-of-the-fold article about affairs at Twitter, And I was able to read it without jumping back on that Twitter feed which would cause me to break my vow to leave my Twitter account be and not doomscroll through the TL. My news shall once again come from actual journalism! And so the NPR article felt very very different from the information sources I had been getting on Twitter.
Ironic that the world cup will collapse because somebody decided at the last minute to not sell beer and that Twitter will collapse because they fired the only guy who could work the on-site security badges.
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) November 18, 2022
Back on my Twitter timeline, I was getting information that had been retweeted originally from people who had worked at Twitter and left either by being fired or by quitting.I understand that these people have a particular bias and perspective on what they were reporting. They also have particular expertise in the fields where they had been working, so my thought was to use my own brain to identify where bias and lensing occurred, see through to the facts underneath, and think critically to my own conclusion.
People don't quit jobs. They quit bosses.
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) April 24, 2022
I’m very used to the phenomenon of getting an individual worker’s perspective on business events. I frequently talk to people who either are in the process of leaving or have just left companies. Sometimes they’ve been fired. Sometimes they quit though they really didn’t want to, but felt they had no better choice. And like all people, they all believe that the thing that they did at that company was of critical importance, and that their departure was going to wind up hurting the company. Sometimes they’re even right about that. So when Twitter gets a new CEO, a fair amount of downstream turnover is certainly going to be inevitable. And there are going to be a lot of emotions that go along with that, and those emotions are going to lens the things that those people say.I get that period and I also think that the concerns they raise should still be addressed. Particularly the ones concerning information security.
.Another successful beta-test of FutureTweet℠ this time from the near future: pic.twitter.com/UbcPTyueXO
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) November 2, 2017
Does that mean that Elon Musk’s team is never going to solve those problems? They probably will solve them, albeit in ways that will be criticized by the people who are leaving. Whether those criticisms are valid or not is something that will have to stand the trial of time and experience. I’m sanguine that that doesn’t necessarily mean that Twitter, the company, is doomed. It does mean that Twitter, the company, is going to change. I can also see that it’s institutionally a shame to see so much talent, institutional experience, and interpersonal value those people represented disappear so quickly, that they were valued so cheaply.
When you see the world through a transactional lens, then you look for an exchange of consideration everywhere. As opposed to, say, a world of moral obligations based upon benefit to all, duties owed others by virtue of nothing more than their humanity, or the habits of virtue.
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) June 18, 2019
Not the least of which were because I think the most important thing Twitter can do to preserve the value it brings its users and thus to keep those users and remain attractive to the advertisers who pay for the place to keep operating, is content moderation. Where Twitter, a private company, is basically free to act as it sees fit (in the United States, anyway) and ought to be feeling a powerful market pressure to do so. I’ve fretted for some time that Musk has a juvenile understanding of what free speech is and what it should look like in a private, revenue-driven forum. After having served on the editorial board here at Ordinary Times, I can say I can distill the basic imperative down to a two-word guideline, but one that necessarily involves a lot of hands-on human work, because it is very likely impossible to reduce to an algorithm.
Yishan is a bit repetitive in the thread, but that may be useful for those working through these concepts for the first time. In my experience on the Ed Board at @ordinarytimemag I didn't censor viewpoints but I longed for a better way to articulate the rule of "no assholes."
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) April 15, 2022
Nevertheless, these were the people who offered the most interesting perspectives that I read about what was going on Twitter that was my source of information I did what I could to un-lens it and understand what people with particular and close perspectives had to say. But when you go to a more formal news source, they do that for you. NPR looked for perspective in places different than I would have. In particular, the NPR article seemed to care about people from venture capital firms. Some of them were optimistic about Twitter and others were pessimistic, but they offered very different kinds of perspectives. The editors made the decision to conclude the story with relatively optimistic quotations from VC types about what was going to happen at Twitter. It was certainly a different impression, a different taste in my mouth than “there are very serious problems that didn’t have to be created, and for which management appears to have no solutions.” Rather, it was “there are problems, but there are always solutions, and there’s no particular reason to think that there won’t be a solution of some form before things get to the point of collapse.” Which left me wondering, have I made a mistake? I make mistakes, after all.
Everyone, I beg your attention.
Earlier, I made a reference to Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, one of the worst movies ever filmed.
This was a grave mistake on my part and out of character for me. I offer no excuse for my actions. This is not who I am and I promise to do better. pic.twitter.com/O3IdfFKFxb
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) November 10, 2022
Understanding that a lot of the things that are being called portents of doom are probably really only speed bumps on the route to whatever it is Twitter is becoming, should I stick around? No, I think my answer remains the same, at least for now. I think my social media use needs to change, whether or not Twitter survives, whether or not Twitter become something good again, whether or not Twitter gets swamped by the Return of Trump. My anxiety there is simply fear of missing out on Twitter. I’m not deleting or deactivating my account. I’m just not going to use it. This seems to me a better choice than missing out on other parts of life that I have been deprecating because of my own social media addiction. I hear that quitting smoking is no fun, either; I am by this point in life quite thoroughly addicted to expressing myself to others.
You are always welcome to come back and write if you ever want too
— Andrew Donaldson (@four4thefire) September 6, 2022
As for my own need to express myself to an audience of others, this forum, this community, worked very well for me for 10 years, there’s no reason to think it won’t continue to do so. I may be showing up a little bit more often around these parts than some of you are used to. Hey, for those of you who like me or enjoy my peculiar way of blending nostalgia for obscure one-hit-wonder 80’s pop bands and melancholy musings about historical events, perhaps that’s good news!
This song came on my 80's channel (yes I have an 80's channel because I'm old). I choked up a little bit. This wasn't their lone big hit in the USA. The video is a little bit disappointing. Two more thoughts follow.https://t.co/a3OZqwC8d5
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) November 19, 2022
Meanwhile, the first weekday I went cold turkey I also learned about a shooting at an LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs (awful); that the Iranian soccer team is refusing to sing their nation’s national anthem in solidarity with human rights protestors back home (respect); the Orion probe successfully flew 81 miles above the dark side of the Moon (amazeballs); and got an update on the war in Ukraine (mixture of hope and dread). So my emotional journey is actually quite similar, although I took it all at once. I feel like that was pretty good for being dialed in for the day.
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) May 21, 2022
Having at least provisionally solved my news problem, what else will I do while waiting for admittance to various places, nights when I’m home with no social plans, breakfasts, or days at work where there are only boring things on my plate? Once upon a time, I used to read books. Maybe I’ll do that again.
What I missed most was not being able to share this photograph of this most excellent shrimp and grits with Andrew Donaldson’s still-excellent #twittersupperclub. Seriously folks, come to Portland to eat!
One last thought about Twitter: I hope there have been camera and microphone crews following people around from the day that Elon Musk made that first tender offer. This could be the greatest documentary ever made — after all, everyone loves a fiasco.
So if you read here regularly, I’ll be seeing you.
If this is really the end, let this picture be my epitaph pic.twitter.com/8ucsc3CbnT
— Burt Likko (@burtlikko) November 18, 2022