I joined Twitter in late 2008 under an alias to test the waters. I needed to get a better feel of the place first, understand its demographic and how accepting the platform was towards newcomers before deciding to use it as my new online social platform. If you have spent time on the networks that preceded Twitter, you will understand why I joined a new network using an alias – new online networks can sometimes have a serious ‘get off my lawn vibe’. And for anyone too young reading this that may not know which Pre-Twitter networks I speak of, I am talking about networks like Orkut, Friendster, Bebo, MySpace, Facebook etc. Back then, these networks did not have the same level of moderation tools present in social networking platforms today.
In April 2011, I created a new account on Twitter using my first and last names (@habibcham). I got to know Twitter confidently well and felt settled. I learned how to navigate through the town square without bumping heads. Furthermore, I created a safe space and crafted a tailor-made experience that sheltered me from unwanted stress and discomfort. The experience was pleasant and promising as the network went through its early growth stages. All that helped make my decision Twitter will be my new home online. Twitter became such an integral part of my daily life that I was sending SMS texts 140 Chars at a time (Look it up, kids) as if I were tweeting.
Life without Twitter was almost unthinkable. It became woven as part of the fabric of my daily life. I went on to spend over a decade using the service with the same Twitter handle. During this period, I primarily concentrated on the social aspect of the platform, building and nurturing online friendships as the years passed. I experienced so many meaningful interactions and conversations. Let me tell you, kids, it took skills to whittle down and condense your thoughts into 140 Char replies, making conversations meaningful and straight to the point.
As the platform grew and started stating a claim as the de facto network to be on, it faced challenges; racial, religious, sexual, political and socio-economic issues that shaped the platform and how it was utilised. Hell, let's even throw the rise of the social media clout-chasing influencer into the mix, all of which continued to dictate the direction the platform headed. Coupled with newly introduced algorithms that smothered average users like myself as if we do not exist, which gave rise and exposure to shit-posters, thus the new meme-posting generation dawned.
This started souring the simplicity of using Twitter as it was in the beginning when users tweeted about the most mundane events happening in their daily lives that, regardless, encouraged genuine engagement and chatter. Clout chasing and the need to establish relevancy on the platform destroyed the simplicity of using Twitter to a certain degree.
As a result, I started losing the energy and joy of having Twitter as a part of my daily online social presence. I faithfully accepted the reality and slowly started to wean off Twitter. Frankly, I would have left the platform if it were not for the carefully curated list of people I followed and mutually built solid online relationships. The other reason is not wanting to lose my Twitter handle that I spent years cultivating into a friendly and trustworthy name representing the human behind it. So, I continued making odd appearances, checking out my timeline to keep up with those friends and occasionally replying to their tweets. I wasn’t composing and posting tweets frequently.
When news started to surface about Elon Musk’s interest in acquiring Twitter, I thought little of it. I didn’t spend any meaningful time thinking about what Twitter under a different stewardship could mean, simply because I spent the previous 2–3 years not as active on the platform as I had in the past. Fast-forward to Elon taking over, bringing along the disruption, and obliteration of all the hard work put into the platform to address the challenges Twitter faced as a growing, evolving social networking platform. It made it impossible to continue using Twitter under his stewardship, thus leading to the mass user exodus.
In December 2022, I decided to stop having any form of participation on Elons Twitter. I, however, did not close my Twitter account straight away. I cleaned up my tweets, locked my profile and left it dormant. As much as I lacked the desire to use Twitter with enthusiasm and excitement, I clutched onto the hope someone out there saves Twitter. Meanwhile, I needed to test the waters on the new platform that Twitter users I engaged with who left were migrating to – Mastodon. Thanks to experience and wisdom, I did not need much time to figure out the new network, lay down the protective boundaries on which I established and build new relations.
Six months in, there is no sign of any hope Twitter will be anything like it was Pre-Elon under his leadership. All the while, my usage of Mastodon has taken me back to the early days of Twitter, where everyone gathered in the town square, engaging with each other without an ounce of 'I am more relevant than you'. I am certain this is happening on the platform. My no-nonsense tailor-made setup and approach to people I follow and interact with allow me the comfort of following people who, thankfully, don't exude such behaviour.
I now feel at home on Mastodon and the Fediverse and will do all I can to continue enjoying this sanitised experience right now. I am not naive to believe Mastodon and the Fediverse will never face challenges that could rock the very core on which the platform's mission stands today. Whatever that may be. Platforms as they grow will eventually face such challenges that disrupt the experience. I, at this point, have been refraining from developing any form of emotional attachment to the platform as I settle in. I can, however, say that joining the Fediverse has reignited my desire and enthusiasm to be active on a social platform.
Thus, today, May 1, 2023, 12 years later, I have deactivated my Twitter account for good. I do this without sadness or disappointment because I have been devoid of emotional attachment to Twitter for several years.
Onwards and forward to a post-Twitter future and all the goodness it may bring.