Feeling overwhelmed by Everything That Is Going On on social media this week, I resorted to the meditative and enjoyable practice of digital archive diving. One of my favorite things to do when I have a special interest is to pore through everything left behind by anyone who’s ever also been interested in it; I love to feel connected to other fans throughout time and space, to do an archeological dig through the detritus of past passions.
As I pored through long-abandoned LiveJournals and Geocities sites, using tools like the Wayback Machine and Marginalia, I wondered if anyone would ever be doing the same with my own remnants. Will Twitter be usable in ten, twenty year’s time, let alone searchable? I’ve always been interested in digital preservation, and the prospect of a looming platform shakeup has me revisiting texts like Abbey Smith Rumsey’sWhen We Are No Moreand Casey Fiesler and Brianna Dym’swork on platform migration in fandom. Will a brand new social startup sweep onto the stage and become the province of Twitter expats,as some are suggesting?Fiesler and Dym’s research suggests that while the most common reason for leaving a site is because a newer, better one is already available, policy changes like that of LiveJournal in 2007 and Tumblr in 2018 also influence migrations — Twitter in 2022 seems like it’ll be next.
But what happens when there are no immediately apparent alternatives? I mean, Occam’s razor states that most people will stay on Twitter and be unhappy about it as it spirals further down the drain, while some others decamp to existing platforms, old or new, which also suck for different reasons. How will people determine where they end up, or whether to stay? Well, for many it will depend heavily on who they’re a fan of.
InThe Atlanticthis week,Caroline Mimbs Nyce suggeststhat Taylor Swift’s sprawling fandom is well on its way to creating its very own metaverse. Her interlocutor, metaverse expert Wagner James Au, comes off as more than a little bit skeptical about that proposal. It makes for interesting reading. He goes so far as to allow that “[Swift fans] live in a cross-platform virtual world that is all Taylor Swift and Taylor Swift–associated content,” and then suggests quite rationally that she has what Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t have, e.g. a desirable brand which people go out of their way to participate in.
(As an aside, I just wanna put it out there thatthe virtual office that Swift created is, far from being some kind of wildly innovative proto-metaverse product, a ripoff of J.K. Rowling’s illustrated, interactive website circa 2006, on which I spent hours upon hours clicking around to try and find new easter eggs about the forthcoming seventh book.)
Meanwhile, Cory Doctorow’snew article about how to leave dying social media platformsargues for an en-masse drive towards interoperability, enforced at a policy level. It’s a worthy argument, but David Craig, a media scholar,pointed out on Twitterthat in conflating the social and the digital, Doctorow misses how creators and influencers lead the charge on social media (especially Twitter). Sure, celebrity-branded social platforms like the Jeremy Renner app have long been the butt of jokes and memes, but then you look at something like the thriving galaxy of influencer, YouTuber and musician Discord servers out there, and it’s plain to see that formations of existing audiences are the core building blocks of the evolving social paradigm.
If Taylor Swift were in fact to spin up her own independent platform I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t involve 3D technology, but it certainly would attract a huge proportion of her existing audience. What lies before us maybe isn’t one main mass migration but a dispersal, a disruption of the hegemony as everyone throws up their hands, shouts “OY!” and heads off to a variety of smaller, more bespoke environments: influencer Discords, celebrity or fandom communities, invite-only groupchats, boutique apps likeCohostandSomewhere Good. Of course, this is only asocialdispersal: content, if not communication, will continue to be centrally distributed through TikTok and YouTube. But it’s quite possible that we, as a social public, will never be as digitally centralized again as we were during the last decade’s tripartite dominance of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
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There’s been a whole bunch of developments with Elon Musk and Twitter, but as I wrote over the weekend, all of it is embarrassing and seems poised to make the site actively worse. Which, as a bit of a social media anarchist, who believes Twitter, more so than even Facebook, has made the act of using the internet worse and has dreamed of its implosion, I think this is all pretty fun to watch.
But I do want to focus on two things today that I think are important for understanding exactly how some of Silicon Valley’s richest, and, unfortunately, most influential men see the internet. First, theNew York Times’ Mike Isaacreportedthat Musk, amid all the firing, has instated a “war room” made up of folks like venture capitalists David Sacks, Jason Calacanis, and Sriram Krishnan. Iwroteabout Krishnan back in June after he wrote a whole thread about how he thought anti-crypto journalism was actually a conspiracy concocted by liberals who just wanted to cash in on being haters. And it seems like the first big idea from this war room is a new verification subscription system.Platformer’s Casey Newtonfirst reportedit would start at $5.99 a month to have and keep your blue checkmark on Twitter, butThe Verge’s Alex Heathis sayingit’ll be $20 a month and it’s meant to start as early as next week.
I’ve been verified on Twitter since around 2013. It has helped me professionally quite a bit because it gives me a more impactful DM. If I direct message someone for a story I’m working on, they get an alert. And that is still true. The other features that verification used to exclusively provide users with, such as spam filtering and anti-abuse tools, are now fairly universal, though. There is a “Verified Only” mentions tab you get when you’re verified, but I never use it because everyone who is verified on Twitter is a boring nerd. And no one has ever tried to impersonate me on Twitter, weirdly enough, which is something else verification helps with, but I suppose if I wasn’t verified, they may have tried (folks have on other platforms).
So, if this hairbrained scheme goes through, journalists (or news outlets) will have to decide if they want to pay somewhere between $60 and $240 a year to do their jobs properly. And celebrities and other high-profile users, which have been leaving the site in droves for years, will have to decide which is better, paying to verify your identity on a site full of nazis, or abandoning it entirely. As novelist Stephen Kingtweetedtoday, “$20 a month to keep my blue check? Fuck that, they should pay me.” Which is a good point, if journalists and creatives aren’t able to easily and securely provide the site with the (free) content that makes it valuable, exactly what else is there to do?
But paid verification, as outrageous as it sounds, is part of a very specific project that the weird sad men in Musk’s war room have been working on since the start of the pandemic. They thought Clubhouse could do it. And then they thought NFTs and the mass adoption of crypto could do it. And now they’re just going straight to the source — the blue checkmark itself. They want to turn social platforms into an airport lounge. They want to pack us into a crowded and poorly moderated downstairs that they can fill with ads and micropayments while they pay for a higher level that’s walled off from the rest of us. The only problem is that social networks aren’t like the places that rich people spend all their time in away from us in physical world. If they were, Clubhouse would still be successful. Instead, all Musk and his buddies are going to do is kill the site they’re all addicted to because of their compulsive need for landlordism and, honestly, I think that’s super funny.
I looked and I’ve lost about 30 followers myself recently. I don’t have a ton on there to begin with, but it does seem like Instagram is going through a fairly big purge at the moment. There are other usersreportingunexplained suspensions and crashes, as well.
We’re at a very weird impasse with social media right now and I’m super curious where this all goes. It seems clear we need new social platforms, assuming we even still want “social” networks anymore. But all of the companies that we used to rely on for basic socializing online have essentially just stopped giving a shit. So I really don’t know what happens next. Though, I do sort of think that social media is actually just something that happens naturally with an internet connection and that we don’t really need any of these companies in the first place.
As much as Elon Musk seems extremely interested in being the new permanent main character of the internet, I am trying very hard not to make Garbage Day into the Elon newsletter. But this is one last item I wanted to touch on. Over the weekend, as I’m sure many of you saw, David DePape, a right-wing conspiracy theorist and Gamergater, allegedly tried to assassinate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and is accused of attacking her husband Paul with a hammer, instead. And Musk shared and then deleted a tweet baselessly claiming a DePape was Paul Pelosi’s male prostitute.
Former Republican and Never Trumper Ron Filipkowski tweeted that because of Musk’s retweet “the dark corners of the internet are now mainstreamed.” There are a lot of people who think like this. And one of the things I’m the most interested in about the current collapse of Twitter is that, at a certain point in the very near future, that actually won’t be true at all about anything Twitter. In fact, every day we are inching closer to a point where Twitter will be so far removed from mainstream American culture that the only people who will be “mainstreaming” the dark corners of the internet are the people who write about what’s happening on Twitter.
In fact, let’s play a game. Let’s say Musk had recently purchased Reddit, not Twitter (it’s definitely conceivable, he has a real the narwhal bacons at midnight milady edgelord energy). If Musk had dropped a link to this conspiracy theory in the comments of a popular post on r/News about the Pelosi attacker, would you have cared? If not, ask yourself why you do care that it’s Twitter and exactly how small does the site have to shrink to until that’s not the case anymore?
This one is pretty funny, it’s a shop worker not looking at you entering your PIN at the convenience store. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any good English writeups of this year’s costumes yet, but with some Google translating, you should be able to enjoy this roundup done byDaily Portalz. And you can use the hashtag#地味ハロウィン, or #SimpleHalloween to see the others on Twitter.
P.S. here’s aclip from Taiwan’s Pride weekend that goes hard as hell.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***