The final panel from an Unshelved comic strip. Two characters are looking out of a window having seen a bird crash in to something. One says "Twitter's down", the other replies "Not the first time."

It's sad to see the direction Twitter has taken under its Elon Musk ownership.

I've had a Twitter account since November 2008, when it was about 2½ years old, was all about sharing your moment with short messages and just community building. I loved Twitter. Loved.

Before I carry on, I need to say I'm not a social media expert. I'm an end user, who developed an interest in one platform in particular. This post is purely about my story, experience, and views.

My early days on Twitter

Looking back at my early tweets, I'd forgotten I originally used a Facebook-Twitter cross-poster, with my tweets quite obviously aimed towards Facebook with its third-party focussed "Chris is..." prompt.

There's the inane "[Chris] is cold", the ones that bring back instant flashbacks, and the mix of broken links (back in the day when it was vital to shorten links before tweeting them; no idea what I was surprised about!) and the "I'm surprised that isn't broken!" links - like the twitpic link as seen in this tweet with a photo of Reading's Green Park wind turbine.

I tweeted quite regularly up until late 2012, around the time I got a promotion in work and just didn't have the time/things to say.

Between then and mid-2014, most of the posts are automated ones from Last FM, Foursquare, my blog, and pre-scheduled Happy New Years tweets. In January 2014, I even blogged, and auto-tweeted, the question "Am I falling out of love with social media?"

What got me posting again was using Twitter more as part of my work. I used Twitter for its strength at talking with local communities; hyperlocal was the buzzword. Wherever you are, search for your location as a hashtag, #Tenby, for example, and you'd see what was going on around you. Working as a charity shop manager at the time, I'd post our latest fundraising campaigns, new stock that had arrived, and shout-outs for volunteers. And it worked.

Slight side note - I've just seen that in 2015 I tweeted about a 1980s Frogger game had been donated and was on sale for £20. "Must... not... buy it... myself...", I tweeted. 8 years later and, still annoyed with myself that I didn't by it, nor the Nintendo Game & Watches we also received, I bought one on eBay for three times that.

A screenshot of a tweet by @CRUKTenby. It shows 3 photographs of a yellow Frogger game from the mid-1980s, and a caption that it's on sale for £20.A tweet by @CRUKTenby showing 4 photos of 3 Nintendo Game and Watch games, and the caption saying they're on sale for £40 each or all three for £100.

Making a living from Twitter

Come April 2015 and Twitter was officially adopted for all our charity shops to use. I'd told my area manager that I was a Twitter user and would be happy to show the other shop managers in the area how to use it. Little did I know that would end up with me being invited to a national conference to live tweet the events, present at our regional conference... and end up getting a job in the central Trading team to focus on social media.

My job was to produce guidelines on how to use Twitter in the shops, encourage its use, provide support, and report on how it was being used. At its peak, I think I got around two-thirds of our 580-ish shops registered and tweeting. Some more than others, admittedly, but what was being posted was great. I went out all over the country to evangelise the greatness of the bird site: how to fundraise, how to attract volunteers and customers alike, how to sell your donated items before they'd even hit the shop floor.

I'd even created my own database of tweets and stats for the reporting thanks to the Twitter API and Microsoft Access. Yeah, Access - that's pretty much all I had access to!

I don't work in social media any more. After 5 years of social media I took up a new role to look after the charity's online shop. To be honest, I was not longer enjoying it and the new opportunity came at the right time. In fact, it even put me off my personal social media channels. To this day I rarely use Facebook or Instagram.

Twitter in recent years earned the reputation of being 'toxic', with trolls and divisive politics making it an unpleasant place for some. I, thankfully, didn't experience that, probably because I tried to avoid interacting with toxic topics or controversial conversations. In fact, I found Facebook to be a much worse experience for negativity.

But Twitter was still my go-to social media platform of choice. I had some 'real world' friends on there, there were people from around the world I enjoyed following, and it loading up Twitter was the first thing I did in the morning and the last thing I did at night.

So Elong

Then Elon Musk came along. Whilst the achievements at Space X are incredible, and Tesla are one of the major forces in electric vehicles, there was something 'off' from the start about him wanting to take over Twitter. I can't put my finger on one thing in particular that made me feel that way, but the constant public undermining of the platform, the 'say something - jk - no, really I meant it' attitude, the putting everything to public polls. The vibe I was getting just wasn't a good one.

In May last year, just over a week after Musk's buyout offer was accepted, I opened my first Mastodon account.

I posted to both platforms for a couple of months as I found my feet in the Fediverse, going back to Twitter more when there was the thought that Musk might pull out of the deal and everything would be fine again.

Then "Let that sink in" happened. And that was pretty much my last day of posting to Twitter, besides a couple of replies and posting a link to my Mastodon account.

Joining the Fediverse

I opened a few accounts around the Fediverse based on my interests, in the end settling down on a UK-based instance and the others redirecting to that and, whilst my circle of followers and followings is much smaller than that of my Twitter account, I'm much happier. Much less spam, the instances being run by people who care about the platform and their users, the focus back on communities, and no ads. No. Ads.

Of course it's not perfect. Most of the fractures I've seen so far have been around missing features from Twitter, such as full-text search and quote reposts, which are deliberately not part of Mastodon for safety and privacy reasons, although there are work-arounds for both.

Then there are the people who don't understand how the platform works. Being as there's no algorithm feeding you things to see, you have to do the legwork to build up a feed of what you want to see - the hashtags and people you want to follow. It's understandable that that's why Mastodon feels quieter than the other place.

Along with Mastodon, I've also joined Pixelfed, the Fediverse replacement of Instagram and it's full of beautiful photos from around the world without all the influencers, advertised shit, and reels. And it's recently introduced a tool to import your posts from Instagram, making the move much more inviting.

The latest twists in the Twitter story

I'm writing this blog post on the day Musk announced the introduction of "temporary limits" of viewing 6,000 posts a day for verified (ie. paid-for) accounts, 600 for unverified accounts, and 300 for new accounts. Throughout the day those limits have gradually increased (to 8,000/800/400, and now 10,000/1,000/500), but it's a very odd move.

Rate limiting annoys users and reduces the amount of advertising being displayed - why would you do that?! Accompanied with the site not loading, or error messaging stating that users have hit their limits, it's not been a good day for the bird site.

One of the theories that is circulating is simply that it's to encourage users to sign up to a Twitter Blue subscription. Another is that Twitter haven't paid their cloud services bill and a rate limit, along with a new requirement to be logged in before you can even view a tweet, is an attempt at saving money.

That second one is an interesting one as it's been pointed out that by restricting access to tweets, those websites with embedded tweets, and even the Twitter app itself, keeps trying to load something it can't reach thereby increasing the load on the servers. Twitter's effectively been self-DDOSing itself.

And being as Musk fired the vast majority of his staff, it's very likely they don't have the resources available to quality check, monitor, and maintain the site, let along respond to incidents like this.

Here's just one of the immediate takes on the situation, but I think it sums up the madness of everything that's been going on there recently:

 

So what of my old tweets and the future?

I've now locked my Twitter account down and it'll sit there until it gets removed or the site eventually dies. I just can't face clicking that deactivate button myself.

Thankfully, my 14 years of tweets aren't lost. There are some great tools out there that can turn your Twitter archive export in to a searchable site ready to share with the public. It's thanks to one of them that I've made an archive of most of my tweets available here. There's a link on that page too, if you'd like to do something similar.

It's thanks to looking through that archive I found a link to this Unshelved comic strip from 2010. Unshelved was a library-based comic focussed around the experiences of Dewey, a young male librarian in a branch library.

A three-panel, black and white comic strip. Two characters, Colleen and Dewey, both librarians, are looking out of a window. Panel 1: (bird, out of sight) Tweet! Dewey: "That bird looks like the Twitter logo!". Panel 2: (bird crashes in to something) *Smack!* Panel 3, both now looking towards the ground: Colleen: "Twitter's down." Dewey: "Not the first time."

Who knows what's going to happen to Twitter in future. Maybe it'll recover, but the way it's going right now, I genuinely expect the platform to either close or become some kind of exclusive, paid-for app. As for me, I'm happy on Mastodon and hope it goes on to thrive.

If you'd like, you can find me there at @This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and on Pixelfed at @This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..