Kieran McClung
cover image for The fragility of social media
3 min read

The fragility of social media

Firmly fitting within the "too long to tweet, not long enough for a proper blog post" is an ill-structured mind dump of the Elon acquisition and general musings on Twitter.

When the news dropped, I, alongside my followers, shared our collective disdain that Elon was on the brink of purchasing Twitter. I’ve built a nice little echo chamber on Twitter, so the general message of “fuck Musk” was felt in force. Many claimed to want to leave Twitter if this acquisition went ahead. It did, and they did. I have very few followers, so losing a handful is very noticeable, but even higher-follower accounts noticed the ripple.

It wasn’t long before people offered an alternative in the shape of Mastodon. I jumped ship. Well, I’m currently towing both. I guess I have one leg on each, sporting a split that’d almost certainly make you blush. But this whole situation shattered that echo chamber. There's fragmentation. Some followers are maining Mastodon, some haven’t returned, and there’s a generally off air about the place. It sounds dramatic, and it is really, but it’s made me think more about how fragile Twitter is and how this thing isn’t going to last forever. And that made me a bit sad.

Twitter is a different thing for many people. Some use it purely for work. Some avoid it like the plague. Some use it daily (hello). I’ve always enjoyed being on the platform. There’s a lot to dislike about it, but once I got over that feeling of not being able to block anyone I had no interest in listening to, it became something of a sanctuary. Maybe even unhealthily so. But particularly over the pandemic when I, nay we, were trapped indoors, it served as a much-needed connection to other people. We were all in this together, unified in a state of utter shit.

I’m largely a lurker on Twitter and use my profile to air thoughts that get stuck in my head. Is Twitter a therapist? Maybe, but it almost definitely shouldn’t be. I tend not to interact with people outside of my circle that much other than dropping a like or leaving a hilarious gif in a reply. But despite that, it still feels like I’m part of a little community. There are mutuals that I genuinely care about, and when the upset happened earlier in the week, it felt like this little part of my life was coming to an end.

That sounds even more dramatic, but there was a moment when I thought about how best to keep in contact with people should everything crumble. Could I, even? Despite being mutuals for years, it feels like I'm overstepping the mark by asking for a mobile number to keep in touch through WhatsApp, for example. Although I did exchange details with a couple of folks, but that's by the by. But even outside of my circle of mutuals, there are common faces that I see on the reg. People whose tweets I enjoy reading but also people that I definitely couldn't keep in touch with. The whole thing felt a bit like when you were on holiday as a kid. You meet some new kids, have fun for a week, and then you never see them again. This analogy only works if you're old like me, pre-mobile phones.

This is basically where my post tails off but I guess what I’m trying to say is that social media isn’t going to last forever. There will be a time when a platform disappears, or people move on, so maybe we’ve just gotta make the most of it, and each other, while we can.