Monday, September 4, 2023

Cutting the Cord: Social Media edition

 I have been reluctant to quit twitter despite all of the Musk-ness.  I have built up a pretty cool network of followers and followees over the past 14 years, and I didn't want to lose that.  Path dependence/sunk costs are a thing--as are network effects.  But Musk has made twitter a Nazi house party--this weekend's attacks on the Anti-Defamation League, cheered on by real life Nazis.  That Musk embraced anti-semitic conspiracy bullshit is not surprising given that he has already proven to be transphobic (at the expense of his kid), racist, and more.  All those hatreds tend to travel together, but Musk didn't have to platform and amplify them.  That was his choice, and since he has made Twitter not just a social media company, but his play thing, it was time for me to pull the ripcord.  Yes, I know that twitter has long been a hostile place to many groups, but I found my pieces of community there.  Now?  Oy.

So, what did I get out of twitter?  How about the classic listicle to ponder what we are losing?

  • Friends.  Yep, real life friends from silly virtual interactions.  This is what has been most valuable and what I hope I can carry over to the alternatives.  Twitter fight club, for instance, did an amazing job of not only connecting me with tons of sharp national security folks--scholars, analysts, practitioners in DC and elsewhere--but helping to foster friendships, even with those that denied me a victory.  
  • Icebreaking.  I was able to use the tenuous, virtual connections to meet people I would never have met.  While I started out mostly focusing on those most directly related to my research and other interests, I began to use twitter to meet the next generations of scholars and policy-makers and especially those from different backgrounds.  My feed got increasingly diverse over the years.
  • Expertise.  All those connections gave me quick ways to catch up stuff around the world.  I am not only a deeply curious person, but I also need to know stuff that is going on for my classes and for engagement (more on that below).
  • Research.  For me the civ-mil community has been so great on twitter--learning of ongoing projects, getting perspectives on the stuff, building panels for conferences, etc.  
  • Engagement (that didn't take long).  I developed connections with and friendships with journalists in Canada, the US, and even occasionally elsewhere.  This made it easier to have productive conversations for stories they were working on, and I would occasionally get some handy info as well.
  • ENGAGEMENT.  Not just journalists but folks in the policy world and in the public and in the political world.  So strange to have members of parliament and admirals and other folks follow my stuff.  I know that the public affairs folks at the Canadian Department of National Defence were following what I have been spewing on twitter.  Twitter has helped me bridge all kinds of gaps.
  • CDSN.  The Canadian Defence and Security Network probably wouldn't exist without twitter.  It helped foster connections that led to partnerships and a credible "knowledge dissemination strategy" for sharing our work with the public and the policy world. We used twitter to try to get audiences for our events, to get folks to apply for our various opportunities, and so on.  Twitter's collapse is going to make a dent in our efforts, but we are lucky this is happening so deep into our run than if it had been year 1.
  • Promotion
    • Other: I have greatly enjoyed connecting folks to exciting work I have found.  I got more deliberate over time about promoting the work of junior folks.
    • Self: twitter was always handy for promoting my own stuff.  Indeed, the fact that I started twitter about two months after I started blogging is no coincidence. I have used twitter to promote my research projects as they have bumped along, the products (hey, you want to find a good cheap book on NATO....?), the events I have been organizing, and all that.  One of the strange realizations over the past few years is that I have some influence in Canada via my ramblings online--twitter, blogging, the podcasts.  I don't get additional pay to be an influencer, but I get more media attention and govt attention because I am loud on social media. 
  • Fun.  So much fun stuff. 
    • I have met virtually some folks who featured bigly in pop culture--Henry Winkler and Morgan Fairchild to name the most obvious cases.  I have had conversations with my cooking muse Nigella Lawson.  Mark Hamill even liked one of my tweets.  
    • I have found cool podcasts via twitter.  
    • I have enjoyed the snark and the memes about all things--political and otherwise
    • Twitter became a more hostile place over time, even before Musk, but there was always room for heaps of humor and silliness.
  • Fixes.  I have complained about some companies which led to their responding to me and getting my problem fixed. Other times, folks have provided solicited and unsolicted advice that has been most helpful.  

 What am I going to do next?  Bluesky.  Same  I have tried Mastodon and Post, but neither really took.  I am avoiding threads for now.  Bluesky seems to have much potential and feels kind of 2011 twitter.  Much snark, easy to use, not too much noise.  I hope to build networks there from those that I had developed over the years at twitter.  I will post announcements over at twitter since I had something like 19k followers over there.  But I am not going to visit that often, moving my app to off the front page of my phone.  I will check out mentions and such because ... FOMO and narcissism.  

I will also blog more--that instead of 12 threaded tweets, I just will jump over here and post something.  Like the olden days of June 2009.

What will you miss about twitter?

No comments: