The Twitter thing escalated quickly. Within 24 hours, I went from being 100% sure I wasn’t going to leave Twitter regardless of what happened, to signing up on Mastodon ‘just in case’. I’m staying on Twitter and won’t be leaving it just yet. Who knows where this unpredictable situation will head, but I genuinely hope Twitter (as it was) survives and defeats the current invasion.
Twitter has been a beacon, a haven, an inspiration, and a cornerstone for me. I’ve tried insta and tiktok, but they never worked for me. I only joined FB recently just to stay connected with family and friends, but I don’t like it as a professional network.
Twitter is different. It is outward facing and hyper connected – whenever I felt alone or excluded in my local discipline or institutional networks, I always felt welcomed and connected on Twitter. It helped me grow my blog audience, found me new collaborators and new ideas. It kept me up to date with local and global news and events. I’m an ecologist, but I’m also a person, and Twitter kept me connected with all the communities that I felt connected to, however indirectly – academic twitter, ecology twitter, ag twitter, landcare twitter, insect twitter, nature twitter, Australian twitter, climate twitter, conservation twitter, journalism twitter, writing twitter, politics twitter, history twitter, the list goes on…
I feel really sad to see what is happening…I never thought I’d be so emotionally invested in a social media platform!
It’s easy to dismiss the disruption as ‘just another social media platform demise, time to move on’, but times have changed since the early days of social media and Twitter is very different. There is no currently available option that can replace it. The loss of Twitter (if it eventuates) will have huge impacts on information sharing networks and professional networks. For academia, Twitter has had so much value as a place to amplify marginalised voices, build interdisciplinary communities, and connect academics with non-specialist audiences. As a citizen of the world, Twitter has been more valuable than other news media to keep up with news and important events as they happen, to find out the truth behind the political spin we see in mainstream media. During emergencies, Twitter has been a better source of immediate updates than FB or other mainstream news. It will take a lot of effort to build a new system that can replace all that Twitter is.
Mastodon seems the only viable alternative right now, and it’s where a lot of my Twitter community have moved, so there I am (<a href="http://<a rel="me" href="https://ecoevo.social/@manusaunders">Mastodon@firstname.lastname@example.org). I’m not sold on it yet. It’s confusing and clunky, it feels much more siloed than Twitter, and I know I will lose a lot of the non-academic connections that Twitter facilitated for me. But I think I like what it’s trying to do.
Times change, social networks change, no platform lasts forever. But as we all disperse from Twitter to whatever online spaces we end up, I think it’s important to remember all the ways that Twitter helped build and support academic networks, especially for early career researchers. New collaborations, speaking invitations, increasing the reach of new papers, jobs and scholarships, stats help, writing help, friendships, victim validation, inclusive discourse, equity advocacy, debunking, calling out misconduct….and so much more.
What will we use to replace this space? Will academic blogs make a comeback? Will we go back to using emails and listservs to network and advertise opportunities? Will this all blow over and we’ll be back on Twitter before too long? Time will tell.
© Manu Saunders 2022