Before You Rush Out to Find a Twitter Replacement

Elon Musk as a Bond villain

This is for those of you who might be trying to figure out where you'll go after the end of Twitter. Of course, most of you don't use Twitter at all. The numbers I've seen suggest that only one-fifth of the U.S. population uses Twitter. Even that seems high to me, but one would never know it from how our corporate-owned news media cover it.

It is also important to note that some of you who do use it will be happy to stay put. There are plenty of reasons you might do so. You might prefer the political views of the Bond villain who is now running it. You might jump at the chance to pay for something that has always been free. Or you might not want to mess with the learning curve that comes with most alternative platforms.

It is fine if you'd prefer to stick around on Twitter. That's your choice to make. This post isn't for you, and it isn't for those of you who don't use it. It is for those who are thinking of leaving Twitter but haven't yet made up their minds.

Exploring Some Alternatives to Twitter

The good news is that you have lots of alternative platforms to consider. The bad news, as you may have feared, is that none of them will mirror your Twitter experience. They will all be different in some important ways. That's because they don't aim to copy Twitter; they seek to improve upon it.

I have been exploring a couple of alternative platforms, and I'm happy to share my impressions. But first, I'd encourage you to join me in taking a step back to consider some basic questions. Why do you use Twitter? Set aside what you might like to do with it and focus on what you are actually doing with it. What sort of value does it add to your life? Have you considered the possibility that you might be happier without it or anything like it?

It is tempting to dive into a replacement, and this might make sense for some of you. Then again, the collapse of Twitter offers an intriguing opportunity. We could try living without it or anything like it. Most people who have done so report being happier. What if it had that effect on us too? We won't know unless we try.

I'm not someone who thinks that social media is good or bad. Whether it is good or bad for us depends on how and why we use it. But many of us use it without considering why we are using it or how our use may affect our experience. Doing so might help us make a better choice in selecting an alternative platform.

Why I Have Used Twitter?

I started using Twitter in 2008 as one method of promoting Atheist Revolution. It has never been the most effective social media platform for this, but it has been somewhat helpful. Today, there are many good options for this. Blog promotion, by itself, would not be a good reason to stick with Twitter.

Beyond blog promotion, I discovered some other benefits along the way. Twitter can be a good source of news and information, as long as one is careful in evaluating the source. I can get all the news I want elsewhere. Twitter's main benefit here is one of immediacy. This is something I could learn to do without. After all, it wouldn't hurt me to develop some patience.

Twitter also makes it easy for me to amplify good content I'd like others to see. But Twitter is hardly unique here. I can and do use many other platforms that are better at this than Twitter has ever been. I could give up this aspect of Twitter without any trouble and focus my efforts elsewhere.

Twitter can be a great way to connect with people one doesn't have access to offline. As an atheist living in Mississippi, social media is the only way I have to interact with other atheists. This is the main thing that has kept me using Twitter for all these years. Nothing else comes close to it. But this isn't unique to Twitter. I could do this with other platforms if I was willing to put in the work.

Might I be happier without Twitter or any replacement? I've been asking myself this question lately and will continue to do so. I don't have a clear answer yet, but I would miss interacting with other atheists. For now, this is the main thing that leads me to look for other options.

What Do I Want In a Twitter Replacement?

I'm not going to focus on features, although they are important. Some platforms do not allow one to mute others (e.g., Tribel), and that's a dealbreaker. I'd rather consider the ease with which I can find (or create) the sort of community I seek. And what is that? I'm after an intelligent, reasonable, and kind community. You know, the kind of people most of us wish there were more of. That's what I'm looking for.

I'm not interested in hate or bigotry directed at any group. That includes the hate and bigotry directed at LGBTQ+ people. It also includes hate and bigotry directed at Republicans and Christians. My opposition to hate and bigotry is not restricted to when others direct them at people like me.

I'm also not interested in hyper-partisan politics. I enjoy political discourse, as long as it remains respectful. I recognize that activism can't always afford to be respectful, and I'm on board with that. At least, I'm on board until the name-calling and dehumanization start. That stuff is unhealthy and leads to division and violence.

I'm also not interested in memes. They are lazy, and we can do better. I know most atheists who are active on social media won't agree with me here, and I'm okay with that. I am used to being a member of small and unpopular minorities. I can handle another. And I'm sure as hell not interested in seeing photos of anybody's goddamned food!

Of course, I don't expect others to cater to my preferences. That's why having the ability to mute or filter content is so important. I guess you could say that I'd prefer a platform that gives me the tools I need to reduce annoyances.

Beyond that, I like the idea of a decentralized platform like what Mastodon offers. It doesn't have an owner who can sell it or run it into the ground. If policies at one instance change, users can move to another instance. This gives it a more organic feel, warts and all. Servers go down, and glitches surface. But it seems preferable to the alternative.

What Do You Want in a Twitter Replacement?

Your wants and needs may differ from mine. That means that whatever alternative platform I choose might not be the right choice for you. By considering your wants and needs before you rush into a new platform, you might make a better choice. And remember, walking away from social media might be the best choice of all.

Photo by author via NightCafe