…I decided that I couldn’t afford to like everybody anymore, you know? I went on a low social cholesterol diet. No more fatheads.
Utah Phillips, “Mess with People”
I discovered Utah Phillips through Ani DiFranco. Rarely does a day go by where I don’t think about something he said (especially on the album The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere).
A couple of years back, I wrote a post opining about hollow Easter candy. I hate hollow easter candy. If you’re interested… go check it out here. I discussed the issues of form over substance.
The current state of social media has me thinking about this post and the issues of form over substance. I mean, we elected a game show host to the presidency as the ultimate realization of form over substance.
But that individual is not what this post is about.
It was the utterly insipid announcement Twitter made about testing a 280 character limit that started me thinking earlier today. Jack Dorsey then followed-up with a statement saying how proud he was of the team “solving a real problem people have when trying to tweet. And at the same time maintaining our brevity, speed, and essence!”
It’s “a real problem” he says. This service has existed since 2006 and this is “a real problem.” I feel like beating my head against a fucking wall.
No, Jack. The real problem is the abuse. For example, as Zoë Quinn has pointed out time and time and time again (I don’t care what you think of her, you know she’s 100% right on this), Twitter is a haven for literal Nazis and trolls who love to play Nazi. In the past year alone, these trolls, others like them, and the environment they’ve created there have helped drive innumerable users from the site, inhibited Twitter’s growth, and destroyed any attractiveness Twitter once had as an acquisition… but Dorsey thinks the team really nipped a big one in the bud by testing out a doubling of the damned character limit.
What sort of reality does he live in?
That sort of broke it for me. While my current Twitter account is from 2011, my presence on Twitter goes back to 2007. I’ve been active on that site for a decade. That’s a lot of time, energy, and (honestly) fun that I’ve put into it — but it has become work now. Twitter is supposed to be ephemeral. It’s supposed to be organic communities coming together and interacting. And for a long time, it was. I won’t blame GamerGate — I think the toxin was already flowing through Twitter’s veins prior to that. But GamerGate showed the trolls the “power” they had. It showed them the vitriol gave them a sense of control and they liked it. They turned ephemeral and interesting and quirky and communal into absolutes and poison and hate and spite — and good old 45 led the way with it. And they loved it.
And it led to the site not knowing how to react. And instead of coming up with ways to better fight the trolls… we get 280 characters.
Wheeeee. It’s form over substance all over again. Dorsey is so scared those literal Nazis will leave the service and make him lose more users that he simply won’t fight them they way he should.
So, for how, I’m done with Twitter.
Why are we rewarding Facebook with our time? Why are we rewarding them with our data? Why are we allowing them to make money off of us when they allow advertisers to find ‘Jew haters’ (amongst other racist demographics). Facebook was so focused on their ads, on the form… they didn’t realize how they were lacking in substance.
Why do we continue to enable these sites that care nothing for their users? Why do we pay them with our data?
So, hey — Zuck? Jack? Until you guys care more about the substance than the form, I’m out. If Twitter can get its collective head out of its ass & start doing better by its users, I’ll come back. I’m not too sure about Facebook, though. That damage may be too extensive.
If you need me, I’m here. Drop me a line.