Thoughts on Musk’s destruction of the virtual public square – and what democracy is losing
I think you are romanticizing Twitter before Musk. I am glad Twitter is dying and I hope it dies for real. Even before Musk quality of debates was abysmal with academics and journalists screaming at each other. How do you want to have a serious debate in 280 characters? As far as "cancel culture" goes - this is the fault of the Twitter algorithms which reward the most extreme, attention-capturing content. It is basically designed to generate moral panics. I don't see that as any improvement over the "old" media guarded by affluent, educated, middle-aged gatekeepers.
Mourning the carnage is not helpful. The evidence that I HAVE BEEN ENLIGHTENED FOR TODAY, OF ALL GLORIOUS IMPERFECT AND PAINFUL BREATH SURVIVAL MODE LITERAL WORD'S MEANINGS SPOKEN BY OUR LEADERSHIPS POWER OPPOSITE OF REALITY BY OUR DIVINE CIVIL SERVANTS FOCUS ON FAITHFULLY FOLLOWING OUR HIGHER INTELLIGENCE BEST PRACTICES IN AMERICA SOCIETY BY OUR CREATORS PURPOSE THINKING FREELY, PETULANT FLESH WHINING WILL SILENCE MWE BREATHING FREELY HUMAN BEINGS BRAIN'S POWER TO SURVIVE IN DEFENSE OF ALL BREATHING BRAINS SURVIVAL MODE TOGETHER WITH RECOGNIZING HISTORICALLY ACCURATE DATA FROM EVIDENTIARY REQUIREMENTS BY OUR FEDERAL CONSTITUTIONALITY PROMISED TO OUR GOVERNMENT CONSTITUTIONALITY BY TRANSPARENT LAW ENFORCEMENT REGULATIONS AND PROCEDURES FOR PROTECTING OUR CHILDREN'S HELL THEY WILL STOKE DARKNESSES DARKEST ATROCITIES AS WE WERE WARNED ⚠️ 💙 MWE, BREATHING BRAINS 🧠 SURVIVALMODETO MUST PROTECT OUR CHILDREN AND ELDERS FROM THEIR TYRANNICAL BANALITY AND HENCEFORTH OBEY OUR RULES FOR EVIDENCE AND COMMON SENSE THE BEST WE ARE CAPABLE, BECAUSE, MY VESSELS PURPOSE MAY NOT SEE OUR WORLD AS OUR IMPERFECT FOUNDING FATHERS EXPERIMENTALLY IDEA OF HISTORICAL REPRESENTATIONAL SYSTEM OF GOVERNANCE FOR ALL UNITED STATES OF 🇺🇸 AMERICA CITIZENS GOVERNMENT CONSTITUTION, BREATHING BUT I AM THROUGHLY AWHERE AND UNBELIEVABLY PROUD OF YOU TRUTH SHARERS 💙 SPEAKING 🔊 LOUDER THAN SATAN'S REVEALED SIRENS 🚨. I NEVER DOUBTED THE WORD'S MEANINGS SPOKEN BY OUR LEADERSHIPS LITERALLY LITERALLY SAVED MY BREATHING BRAIN 7 TIMES BECAUSE OF MY BLACK MOMMAS EYE'S LOVE PROTECTED ME FROM MISMANNERED BEHAVIOR WITHOUT A SINGLE WORD. GOD, MY PAIN LEVELS ARE ABOUT 14, but as long as I remain calm in faith of psalms and proverbs faithful delivers SENTIENCE OF LIFE IN BREATH SURVIVAL MODE TOGETHER ROWING IN TANDEM TOWARDS OUR GOVERNMENT CONSTITUTION more perfect UNION 🥰.
I spent some time on Twitter, it was useful for connecting with a variety of people and institutions, but its devolution drove me away. I realized that social media is used by too many as a substitute for social action. I think the practice of using social media as a substitute arose during the COVID quarantine. In a sense, many of us never went back out. However, a critical mass did go back out. The spring local elections showed new energies of opposition to the right's electoral slates. In my area of central Illinois clean sweeps occurred. Social media was part of the campaigns, but precinct canvassing is the factor that won.
I have a heavy heart. I am avoiding Twitter now. I became so enlightened there. I am older and have health problems. I need my life to be more simple as I slow down. 🐌 🥲 keep up the good fight! I am a cheerleader!
I found you via Political Girl’s podcast and was so extremely please you are on Substack. I highly value your perspectives and writings. Thank you!
The majority of people now with the blue check marks have proven to be right wing weirdos. Actually quite helpful to know whom to avoid.
I must have missed how wonderfully democracy improved when Twitter came into the world. If it didn't, then the loss of same can hardly do more than take us to the status quo ante of democracy in 2005.
Thank you, as always, for this. Your retrospective explainer about the vibe of the 1990s - which I'm sure is useful as historical context for those too young to remember, sheesh - is embarrassing for me to read, because I "was there" - and yes, it was just as you describe. I had the good fortune to be living and working as a journalist in Southeast Asia, Kashmir and Pakistan - where real events were happening, with real life and death political and historical stakes, on the ground - until 1997-98, but after that I was in Blair's "Cool Britannia", and OMG, yes, it was exactly as you describe [barf emoji].
Another great piece by Dr. Zimmer. I always find reading Dr. Zimmer's pieces help inform my own views and am thankful for the access. Twitter is a mess, and perhaps it is a microcosm of what is happening to western democracies. The advent of technological access promised and delivered incredible potential for greater conversational connections as Dr. Zimmer noted. While maddening at times, and occasionally hampered by bad actors, it still managed to establish and grow those conversations between experts and average people like me. Personally, it served as a re-awakening. Now in my 60s, it felt like I was in my 20s going back to university. I didn't mind having to bat away the odd troll because the access to, and wealth of, intelligent educated diverse views reinvigorate my desire to participate again. It did so during a time when our western democracies had been failing to provide the promised benefits of a better world. Wealth inequalities had widened not only domestically, but globally. More and more power had been concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. And social media has become the next battle ground for power. I think it is in that environment that we must understand Musk's almost visceral destruction of Twitter. And it isn't only Musk. Plenty of billionaire funded dark groups have been toiling away to pit communities against each other, destroy participation, or otherwise distract from their wealth hoarding. I am somewhat buoyed by the response of many with some social media power to reject Musk's rather erratic and infantile moves, but worry that the fallout still achieves the hostility towards democratic pluralism that people like Musk intrinsically want. Insights like those provided by Dr. Zimmer help and I hope they will find other avenues should Musk's destruction become total.
I’m a baby boomer and not very comfortable with modern technology. During the pandemic newly acquired online acquaintances made a case to me for using Twitter as a source of news. So I decided to give the platform a try. Eventually I learned how to make it useful in that regard for myself. I really appreciated access to new ideas and especially to current events in other countries, to perspectives from around the world. I do miss that. I am having to be more proactive now about seeking out this information in other places, a time intensive project that will never really be a substitute for what I could access under one roof. But I’m willing and ready to make that effort. Twitter was a moment. The platform still brings the War in Ukraine to my doorstep. I think that’s an important service. (I curate what I read carefully.) If a reasonable alternative pops up, then I’ll probably give it a try. But otoh I’m not sitting around waiting...
Thank you, Dr Zimmer.