2008-era Nokia phone with a tweet on the screen: @miaridge 'those twitters on screen are really distracting me at #mw2008'

Experimenting with Mastodon

I'd signed up to mastodon.cloud during an earlier twitter kerfuffle in 2017, then with ausglam.space in January last year, and glammr.us on a whim. [Edit to add, I've taken the plunge and migrated to hcommons.social/@mia as my main account].

2008-era Nokia phone with a tweet on the screen: @miaridge 'those twitters on screen are really distracting me at #mw2008'
Tweet from Museums and the Web 2008 'complaining' about being distracted by a twitterfall (remember that?) screen

This week I've gone back and taken another look. (So that's me, me and me). The energy that's poured in must be quite disconcerting for long-term users, but making new connections and thinking differently about how I want to post on social media has been quite exhilarating. It's also been a chance to think about what twitter's meant for me in the nearly 15 years I've been posting.

I've realised how constrained my tweeting has become over time, and in particular how a sense of surveillance has sucked the joy out of posting. The idea that an employer's HR, a tabloid journalist, or someone on the lookout to take offence could seize on something and blow it up – the uncertainty about how things could be taken out of context and take on a life of their own – had a chilling effect.

[Edited to add, also I've never stopped being annoyed about the way Twitter turned 'stars' into 'likes' or hearts, then shared them into timelines, as described well in this guide to Mastodon. I also acted defensively against the worst changes in twitter – my location is set to Jordan so that trending topics are in Arabic and therefore unreadable to me (except when BTS fans take over); I use the 'latest' view if I have to use Twitter's own client; and I normally use clients that only show things that people I follow have consciously tweeted, not random 'likes'.]

15 years is a long time, and I've also had to be more thoughtful about what I post as my job titles and institutions have changed. Lots of us have grown up while on the site, and benefited hugely from the conversations, friendships, provocations and more we've found there.

Twitter completely transformed events for me – you could find like-minded folk in a crowd as talks were live tweeted. Some of those conversations have continued for years. I have fond memories of making good trouble at events like Museums and the Web (and of course the Museums Computer Group's events) with people I met via their tweets.

I'll also miss the sheer size of Twitter that made random searches so interesting. You could search on any word you liked and get so many glimpses into other lives and ways of being in the world. I've never understood the 'town square' thing but it was a brilliant coffee shop. [Edit to add: that ability to search out very specific terms is also part of the surveillance vibe – it's easy to search for terms to get upset about, or to find a tweet posted to a few hundred people and pull it out of context. Mastodon apparently only allows searches on hashtagged terms, as explained in this post, so the original poster has to consciously make a word publicly searchable]

Over time, we've lost many voices as some people found twitter too toxic, or too time-consuming. Post-2016, it's been much harder to love a platform so full of harmful misinformation. At the moment this definitely feels like the last days of twitter, though I'm sure lots of us will keep our accounts, even if we don't go there as much.

If twitter doesn't last, thank thanks to everyone who's kept me entertained, changed how I think about things, commiserated, cheered me up, shared wins and losses over the years.

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