Jack's Weblog



The Deluxe WebLog is a new place where I'll be doing longer-form posting (aka "blogging") from time to time. This could mean an in-depth review of some piece of media, or a post about something I've been thinking about, or just anything I feel like writing. It's my website!

You might also notice that this page looks different from the rest of the Deluxe WebZone. That's partially for ease of reading and partially because I had this idea for a '60s-looking brutalist web layout bouncing around my head. I reiterate: My website!

On Twitter

I'm sad that Twitter is going away, or at least becoming less usable at alarming speed. It's a blend of several types of sadness. There is a sense of nostalgia; the strange feeling of losing something that was never yours, the pang of watching a crane demolish your hometown mall. There's the feeling of futility and powerlessness at watching something you value be killed by a stranger whom society has granted immense wealth and power despite being, by any account, a "showboat and a dunce." The capitalist-hellscape ennui associated with a stark reminder that everything you like or care about, regardless of utility, is merely a bad fiscal quarter away from nonexistence is part of it. And there's also a sweaty uncertainty for the future, as we scatter to the tides of online: many people I know from Twitter are moving to Bluesky or Cohost or something else, and I will still see them around and hear from them now and then. But the unity—in proximity, if not in culture—is dissipating forever.

I think it sucks that the ambient attitude toward Twitter's collapse is a cynical glee just because its owner is a piece of shit and the collapse stands to possibly cause him financial harm. It's pyhrrically funny to see this unfold how it has, but in no timeline would I choose to give up something like Twitter in order to harm the livelihood of a rich guy I personally loathe and a bunch of software engineers I don't know. I would prefer to never think about them! In a reality where the online platforms we use have to be owned by somebody, the ideal scenario is for that owner to be a sort of hands-off landlord who doesn't call very often or let his weird nephews stuff flyers for their AliExpress reselling business under the door. From the irony-hardened mind of a longtime poster, it makes reflexive sense to proclaim that this is what you always wanted. It saves face, when the walls are coming down, to cement "Aha, these walls sucked ass!" as your take. I don't even think it's a farce to call yourself smarter than Elon, who is demonstrably very stupid. But it blows to leave something behind, and it's okay to express remorse over it even if—especially if, maybe—you've been forced to give it up by circumstance. To overdramatize massively, I don't think the Russian villagers who left their cottages and crops ablaze ahead of the French army were yukking it up with the neighbors about how Napoleon deserved it for being "cringe."

Episode of the war of 1812 by Illarion Mikhailovich Pryanishnikov, 1874. Wikimedia

We all know Twitter is-slash-was a net social ill; it was abused by bad actors and misunderstood by its owners for basically the entire lifespan of the service. As a straight white man I almost certainly missed the worst goings-on; the place was lousy with Nazis and scammers and sex creeps until the bitter end, which is when most of the scammers and creeps started paying monthly to make the place much lousier. I joined Twitter in September of 2012, when I was a tender thirteen years old (if you know a thirteen-year-old child, please stop them from doing this) and I think I recieved between five and twenty spam DMs a week for a straight decade. The Musk-administration reforms could be allegorized as the new owner of a factory that manufactures extremely annoying guys cutting costs by dumping toxic waste in the town reservoir.

And yet. And yet! There were also good people there, nice people I care about and respect, whom I couldn't have met any other way. I formed friendships and creative partnerships with so many talented, wonderful, kind individuals. Groups I'm proud to be part of—DESKPOP, CARI—would exist but I would never have learned about them and subsequently been able to join in. As a conductor for social interaction Twitter was lower-resistance, for better or worse, than anything else. Twitter was the sociological equivalent of the jelly they use in Petri dishes to grow bacteria: a medium so easy that every community imaginable took root with total ease and fermented over years into its logical extreme state. Sure, that includes communities like Taylor Swift extremists and flat-earth evangelizers. It also includes communities with good premises and nice members. No website is ever going to reach notable size without hosting both.

To talk business for a minute, one thing I am very sad and worried to see go away is the discoverability and exposure Twitter brought freelancers and creators. I depend on freelance income to pay my bills most of the time, and I consider myself pretty fortunate to get the amount of work I do. All of it comes from online connections and references, and the huge bulk of those originated on Twitter. As much as I grimace to self-advertise, it's necessary to keep living my life (in the real world—hey, remember in 2013 when people tried calling that "meatspace?" That was wack) the way I like. Twitter is very obviously sputtering out as I write this, and if it fully shuts down or if the emigration of users speeds up substantially I don't see a good alternative platform that serves artists like myself the same way. And speaking of grimacing to self-advertise, it also lets me do that in a way that was at least tolerable to me: sharing work, posting links, always keeping it earnest and real. When I think about grappling for "exposure" by mechanically separating my creative process, mashing it into performance-ized goop, and extruding it as emulsified pink slime in the form of a TikTok or an Instagram Reel I think about chucking my laptop in the river and getting a regular job. I know people who do pretty well at these things—but reader, if I am ever in such dire straits that I start uploading portrait-mode videos of myself designing scored with Fleetwood Mac nightcore or whatever, I am authorizing you to take me out.

The endless tube of hot-dog goo represents content. That's the metaphor I was building. ResearchGate

The root of this problem, and something I've talked about at length before, is that corporate assimilation has made the Internet too fragile and too small to survive. With everything compacted into a few sites upheld by a few investors, and those investors trained to yank the rug at the first sign of unprofitability, any of the remaining major platforms could basically wink out at any moment—and given how deep we've let capital stripmine online spaces, a fifth to a third of human knowledge hosted on one of these sites would just evaporate overnight. It's our fault, in some ways—convenience supplanted vigilance, art became "content," forums became subreddits—but there's no way back now. "We are living through the end of the useful internet."

My prescription for this problem has been to get small again, to spread out our personal online footprints beyond one critical dependency. But the fences and boundaries put in place by capital to divert and attract traffic make it impossible to regain the networked sense of discoverability within "the Internet" as a whole the way it existed on Twitter. Search engines are in their last useful days, as endless GPT-generated garbage chokes out real results. The "AT Protocol" dream of social media as a unified, distributed standard like email is years away from fruition and frankly seems doomed to fail the profitability requirement for existing very long in this world. This all stinks! It's fun to have a little website. It's probably healthy (both in a Marxist labor-reward sense and as a low-pass filter for toxicity) to return a little craftsmanship to the online experience. Building a whole page from scratch without the scaffolding of a post format is nice! The less you depend on a corporation to hand you in terms of tools, the more freedom you gain in your voice and style.

Compositors' Work And Stereotyping, Jan van der Straet, ca. 1580. Wellcome Collection

And yet. And yet! What the distributed, re-personalized Internet can't offer is the audience and conduit to that audience that made Twitter so powerful. You can share things in the same channels where people who like them will learn to look. The pyramid effect of your followers sharing your work to their followers meant you can have things unexpectedly blow up—and for all the weird haters who always show up, it's a nice windfall for people who depend on that organic, word-of-mouth (word-of-phone?) exposure for a career.

It's difficult to imagine a standalone webpage "doing numbers" the same way a Tweet randomly can. It's not 2002 anymore, and people have been trained to fear exploring away from the major sites. The environment of the modern Web is designed to keep you on marked paths in monetized spaces for as long as you're awake. The boomer cry of mass ADHD is halfway accurate, but the general reduction of attention spans isn't an emergent result of technology adoption—it's the intended outcome of years of social maneuvering by profit-driven entities with profits created by higher usage time and more ad space.

We're locked in, and they're gouging us on pretzels. Reddit user BJoshua34

All this is to say that I am really sad to see Twitter go, even for all its problems, and I am nervous that the future looks grim for artists who needed it. You can find me on Bluesky, but it's not the same.