Private platforms as public utilities

Twitter is now owned by Elon Musk. He’s purchased the brand, the code and the data. He’s purged many employees, in a rather callous and irresponsible manner. There’s a lot of fear mongering about the demise of twitter. It will definitely change, for better or worse, but it’s not like this website was propped up by thousands of employees. Large companies are complicated organizations, often with many redundancies and teams of people exploring new ideas. Twitter is not going to disappear overnight. Some users may choose to leave, many will stay. It is hard to break habits and norms that have been this established in society.

Twitter is not kept running by employees running on treadmills.

Facebook, Twitter and others are just websites. But they’ve become optimized communal meeting grounds for communication. So much so, that it’s changed the very discourse and impacted previous forms of mass communication. People’s habits and routines are built around these systems. We use them like their sole purpose is not to extract data from us to generate money and keep us coming back. We’ve given them so much power. There has to be a better way.

These kind of changes can be a fork in the road, an opportunity for collective self-reflection. I’ve recently been thinking about how I used to aggregate and track stuff on the web before these systems. It was a hot mess, mostly bookmarking, url collection sites, rss readers. These things still exist. Perhaps it’s time to take a look at them again with a fresh pair of eyes. Maybe it’s an opportunity for new tools and solutions to impact the world for the better. Slack and discord are basically polished IRC apps. How could the paradigms of the past be re-imagined for a broader audience today? How can the tools we use help us be more intentional and meaningful in our consumption habits.