Twitter is at risk of losing what makes it special: You

I don’t want Twitter to lose what makes it special. It feels like the one social network I’ve ever truly enjoyed using is about to become very different, and potentially far less meaningful in my life. It makes me sad, and I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one feeling this way.

This isn’t a rallying cry to stick around or a heartfelt obituary, but rather a story about what Twitter means to me, and likely a lot of other people, today.

My Twitter

Elon Musk purchasing Twitter means some who are concerned about the future of the platform are now considering leaving it. I know, I’m one of them.

The trouble is, quite apart from there being nowhere else to go, I don’t really want to leave. I’ve spent more than a decade on Twitter, and it has become a carefully curated source of happiness, friendship, and companionship for me.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

But what makes it special, and why don’t I want to leave? Twitter is part of me, and it has definitely made me somewhat recognizable over the years, both personally and professionally. I’ve made friends there, opportunities for all kinds of things have emerged, and I’ve felt part of at least one “movement.” Twitter has been a surprisingly meaningful part of my life.

On several trips around the world I have met people I knew only through Twitter, and have done some amazing things with them because of it. I have conversed with a hero of mine through the platform, and been able to meet and spend time with singers who I only got to know because of Twitter.

Most recently I have connected with people through a shared love of the K-pop group Iz*one, and it has been amazing to share joy and sadness with them, and to truly feel part of something special. The more I think about it, the more fun and exciting things that have started out on Twitter come to my mind.

Twitter is always open as a tab in Chrome during my working day, and installed on every phone I use. I make a conscious effort to regularly tweet and to at least try and make my contributions vaguely interesting. I hope describing it like this shows it’s importance to me, and how I think it has genuinely improved my life. But it goes deeper than that, and that’s where the thought of leaving, or the platform dramatically changing, really concerns me.

Pandemic life

Since the pandemic began in 2020 my life has changed immeasurably, just like it has for millions of others. One thing it really emphasized is how few people that I know live anywhere near me, and how small that has made my social circle. Without travel and regular events connected to work, I see very few people indeed.

Twitter is where I keep up with all those who I no longer get to physically meet. It’s the natural home of the journalist, far more so than any other social platform, and so even the vaguest of acquaintances I’ve made have some kind of presence there. I may not talk to all of them that often, but it’s the one place I know I can. I’m not the only one either. Before one of the few events I’ve been to this year, a journalist friend sent me a DM on Twitter so we could met up. Without Twitter, this wouldn’t have happened.

It’s all these things combined that made me realize how personally attached I am to Twitter, and appreciate the impact it has had on me. If I was to up and leave I’d almost certainly lose contact with many people, purely because I don’t have the opportunity to see them in real life, and our only source of interaction until this point has been Twitter.

All the positive things that have come my way due to Twitter wouldn’t disappear, but I really believe fewer new things would come my way as a consequence of not being active. There is also no doubt at all that I would become even more socially isolated.

Not about me any more

I’ve made this story about me. It’s not something I like doing, but because it’s about a social network — an intrinsically personal thing — it seemed fitting. It’s also the only true way to illustrate what makes Twitter special. It’s about me, not in an egotistical sense, but because it’s a space built around the things and the people I like.

However, as with everything Elon Musk-related, even my carefully curated Twitter world is becoming all about him. I fear this will become increasingly more difficult to avoid as he pushes his own agenda. Like all divisive and powerful figures, his adoring fans will be quick to share his every word and claim each step as a victory, probably even more so than they do already. I really can’t blame anyone for wanting to leave because of his influence and the upheaval it will inevitably generate.

Given how integral to my life it is, and the lack of anywhere else to go, it feels like the end of something truly unique is coming.

I don’t know what Elon Musk intends to do with the platform, and this isn’t the place to go into his intentions, but I don’t trust him. That lack of trust, the uncertainly over his plans, and an unwillingness to indulge what could be the narcissistic whim of the world’s richest man, makes me question how much longer I’ll want to use Twitter.

Given how integral to my life it is, and the lack of anywhere else to go, it’s an incredibly hard decision and one that makes me quite sad.

The beginning of the end, or a new beginning?

I hope I’m mistaken. That it’s nothing more than the usual fear of change that goes along with many major alterations to our lives. I don’t want to look back on this article in a year’s time and think I was right. In fact, I don’t want to write any kind of follow up. I want to tweet that I was wrong, because this will mean I’m still using Twitter regularly, and one of the key connections to my own wider world is still intact. I’m fairly sure I won’t be the only one thinking the same thing.

What makes Twitter special isn’t the memes, whether there are spam bots or not, or one person’s interpretation of free speech. It’s you and me, and if even one of us leaves because of this takeover, then not only will the platform be worse for it, there’s a strong chance someone else’s life will be too.

That’s certainly the way it will be for me.

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