It seems like just yesterday we first met, but it wasn’t. It was April 16, 2009 at 7:43PM to be exact. My first tweet was the next day.
That was almost three years after you launched but that was when Twitter was really catching on. Maybe it was Ashton Kutcher becoming the first user to reach over a million followers or maybe it was that picture a ferry passenger uploaded of US Airways flight 1549 successfully landing in the Hudson that established Twitter as a source of news but it was in that Spring of 2009 that I decided to join.
The early days 😎
I used my own name. I didn’t hide behind some avatar of a bunch of flowers and pretend to be someone else. If I was going to tweet I was going to own up to what I tweeted and stick to my brand. You see I am not one of the Twitterers who uses the platform to lie or spread false news. I look for the facts, even when I don’t like what I find.
You were a lot of fun in those days. The creativity behind trying to get a message across in 140 characters was part of the uniqueness of the brand. In those early years, I discovered new things and even made some Twitter friends. The algorithms weren’t yet being manipulated to grow revenue. They were much more random and much more interesting. I could sign on to discover something new instead of being pushed tweets by what the algorithms decided they wanted to show me. It helped me to build my platform, but somewhere around accumulating 5000 followers I started to lose interest and to question what I was really getting out of this.
Then came trying to make 💰
Like most start-ups at some point you have to figure out how you’re going to make money. That’s the moment when the user experience falls a distant second to what needs to be done to grow revenue. In the case of social media platforms like you, that came down to manipulating the algorithms to benefit the advertisers – something you were never that successful in figuring out.
You increased the character count to 280 in 2017. That did something to the uniqueness of the brand. Having to get a message out in 140 characters or less was part of the charm of Twitter and what made it distinctive from its competitors. Now you have Twitter threads that can go on the length of an 800 word blog post without the same effect.
And then came the anger and the hate 😡
The hellscape atmosphere that exists today is not how you began. I couldn’t tell you the exact moment, but if I had to guess it was around the 2016 Election when you let Trump dominate and did little to monitor the bots and trolls that were part of a concerted effort by our adversaries to disrupt our social and political discourse. Trump consistently broke the platform rules but you ignored it for far too long.
Still I hung on, tweeting less, but still checking in. Partly out of curiosity and partly because as a marketer and an educator, I am fully aware that the influence of Twitter is disproportionate to the number of users and I prefer to experience first hand social media instead of looking in from the outside.
Once a choice, now a bad habit 👎
I started to notice how anxious it made me feel. The far right thinks they have no voice on Twitter, yet their rhetoric and lies consistently infiltrate my feed and dominate what is trending. Checking my Twitter feed has become a habit that somewhere along the line stopped bringing me joy.
And now we have Elon Musk, one of the wealthiest men in the world who has been very successful in building Tesla and SpaceX but clearly has no moral center. He manages by chaos, already firing half the staff and has a reputation for building toxic workplaces. He talks about being a proponent of free speech without understanding that free speech and hate speech are not the same thing. He tweets a conspiracy theory about the violent attack on Paul Pelosi and thinks he’s being funny. He is so full of himself that he thinks he will save you and surrounds himself with a posse who nod their heads in agreement.
I am not convinced and I am not sure I want to stick around and see what happens. That’s why I wrote this letter, to help me figure it out.
When it stops bringing joy 😒
I have a rule about most things, whether they are relationships or jobs. When it stops being fun, it’s time to move on. But I also know how hard it is to break ties, even when you know it’s the right thing to do.
It’s over. At least for now. ❌
It’s time to end this relationship. Maybe Musk will surprise me and make you something I will want to be a part of again, but for now it’s time to end this relationship.