November 30, 2022

The answer to what’s next is in what once was

The internet as we know it is dying; the internet as we once knew it may be coming back.

A lot has been made about the slow, potentially-inevitable demise of Twitter. Its acquisition by Elon Musk is just one in a series of steps towards its slow descent into irrelevance, and while people will continue to post on the site for months to come, it’s clear that Twitter doesn’t have the same gravitas and cultural relevance that it once had—and that this relevance will continue to slowly fade.

Over the past few years, my use of Twitter has also faded. I posted less regularly than I did before, replied more sparingly. I still browsed my timeline for links to good articles and videos; I had become a lurker, mostly, rather than an active user. There was a time when this was untrue: when Twitter, along with Tumblr and Flickr, had been the backbone of my interactions on the web. I have Twitter to thank for a lot—my introduction to my first government job was made through Twitter, and I’ve met numerous friends and treasured connections through the site, especially when moving to new cities—all the way back to the days when we used SMS to communicate with the platform. Recently, though, Twitter became a place I perused for the occasional update from a friend or an interesting article, and less a place for forging deep connection.

I have not officially or fully left Twitter; I check back in once a week or so to get a sense of where the community I had curated has gone, and what they are doing now. I occasionally fight the urge to post things—my Spotify Wrapped for this year would have been a good thing to share—but have abstained. Things may change; for now I am at peace with this limited interaction.

So what’s next? The answer to that may be in the past.

A few of you may be asking: I thought you had shut down your blog? How are you back again in less than a year? (And for those of you reading via newsletter, just know that the newsletter is essentially just a replication of my blog that ends up in your inboxes, so when the blog is back, the newsletter is too.)

I’ve decided to come back to blogging because I’ve been thinking about how, prior to the rise of social media, blogs were our best way to connect with people: they were our original social network.

I was particularly taken by this excellent piece by Ian Bogost in The Atlantic on the decline of social media:

The terms social network and social media are used interchangeably now, but they shouldn’t be. A social network is an idle, inactive system—a Rolodex of contacts, a notebook of sales targets, a yearbook of possible soul mates. But social media is active—hyperactive, really—spewing material across those networks instead of leaving them alone until needed.

This blog, through its various permutations over almost 25 years, has been the backbone of my social network online. It’s a reminder of a time when I used to meet people and connect with others through seeking out their posts on their own blogs, by actively looking for connections and content rather than them being fed to me. (I still have a fondness for the social discovery of Google Reader.)

This is where I shared my thoughts on a platform that I owned, that I operated, as part of a community that sought out my writing rather than it being pushed to them constantly. There’s a delight in knowing that I have control over my own ideas and how I share them, and though it may be small, there’s a delight in sharing them with the network of people who have made the decision to seek them out.

And so I’m back, after only a few months away. Sure, I’m on Mastodon too—and I’m hoping more of you will join me there—but I’m back to using this blog as the place where I live online. My answer to what’s next is to return to what was once before; I’m so glad you’ve made the decision to join me here in what was once the past, but now may be the future.