Platforms Are Temporary, Community Is Forever

Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover is a good reminder to log off and build deeper connections offline.
Janus Rose
New York, US
A per
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

“RIP Twitter” was trending on Monday, within moments of it being announced that ultrarich shitposter Elon Musk reached an agreement to buy the social media platform. While conservatives celebrated the move as a triumph for their favorite billionaire edgelord, progressives, queer and trans folks, and other communities lamented what they saw as the platform’s inevitable demise. 

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In many ways, the reaction was reasonable, given Musk’s long track record of implicit and explicit transphobia, labor abuses, and generally being an insufferable shit who regularly uses his immense wealth and influence to make himself the main character. Combine that with Twitter’s long track record of failing to protect marginalized groups from targeted abuse and it’s easy to envision a future where Musk rolls back even meager protections, re-welcomes QAnon conspiracy peddlers, and makes the platform unusable for large sections of the human race.

But instead of mourning and doomscrolling, I found the prospect of a Musk-led Twitter an even greater incentive to do what I had already been doing on the Bird Site: logging off.

I joined Twitter in 2007 on the insistence of a friend, who was convinced that “micro-blogging” (as he described it at the time) would be the wave of the future. Fifteen years is a long time to stay on a social media platform, and people tend to have short memories when digital spaces begin to feel timeless and everlasting. But nothing lasts forever, and despite its transformation from quirky novelty to public forum and breaking news source, today’s Twitter feels simultaneously essential and soul-crushingly tedious—a prison that is only made bearable by fleeting moments of joy shared among irreverent shitposting mutuals.

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Being that a large portion of my IRL social circles include heavy Twitter users, I have heard this lamentation many times. Even long before Musk’s takeover attempt, the vibe has been that using Twitter involves exposing oneself to increasing levels of psychic damage in exchange for occasional hits from a shrinking supply of dopamine. We all want to feel connected, but for many people—especially those who inhabit marginalized identities—the vibes are off, and the numbers just don’t add up like they used to. 

Like all large social media platforms, Twitter’s business model involves manipulating human attention to generate profit. Algorithms are crafted to drive up engagement and time spent on the site so that the company can sell ads—and nothing generates engagement like conflict and outrage. 

You no longer need to be a “technology is ruining our brains” person to see how this is completely unsustainable and fucked up. After two years of pandemic isolation, it feels like this dynamic has hit a breaking point. With more people taking extended social media breaks, the time feels ripe to scale down our interactions away from massive public forums and into smaller, tight-knit communities—both on and offline. This means reconsidering the entire idea that we should be constantly connected to global communication platforms that incentivize outrage and engagement, often at the expense of our mental health and safety.

This is a lot to ask for someone like me who is Extremely Online, but the benefits of taking more frequent breaks from social media can’t be overstated. This is especially true when those breaks become opportunities to reconnect with communities on a smaller scale. Some of my longest breaks from Twitter have involved re-connecting with friends on Discord, or getting plugged-in to local mutual aid projects, like grocery delivery for food insecure people during the height of the pandemic. It doesn't feel like a coincidence that the largest racial justice protest since the Civil Rights movement occurred at the height of pandemic isolation, when millions of people were unemployed and desperate to reconnect with their friends and neighbors, away from glowing screens.

For some, seeking refuge from Elon’s Twitter might involve trying alternative social platforms like Mastodon that aim to replace the blue bird site with something ostensibly less centralized and evil. But like the many Facebook exoduses that came before, it seems unlikely that most Twitter power users will abandon their followings for greener pastures. 

More likely, if Musk’s dreams of “free speech absolutism” come to fruition, it’s possible we will see more people simply spending less time on the site. And if reclaiming our time and attention means investing more in smaller-scale communities and relationships, then logging off can be a beautiful thing. 

Platforms come and go, but strong communities are forever.