Why it’s time to formulate your Twitter escape plan

The following op/ed comes from Eamonn Forde (pictured inset), a long-time music industry journalist, and the author of The Final Days of EMI: Selling the Pig. UK-based Forde’s new book, Leaving The Building: The Lucrative Afterlife of Music Estates, is out now via Omnibus Press. 

Until very recently, Twitter was an incredible and truly beautiful place. It was awash with altruism and joy. No one expressed any terrible opinions. No one made death or rape threats. No one was racist or xenophobic. Unfounded and unsourced stories were not circulated as fact. Sock puppet accounts and politically powered bots did not exist or try to hatch nefarious plots. 

Twitter’s owners and operators were all gracious and caring people, concerned only with the health of democracy and never directed by profit. It was, genuinely, Jürgen Habermas’ ideal of the public sphere

But then Elon Musk bought it. That was after initially wanting to buy it, then not wanting to buy it and then having to buy it for $44 billion. After 16 years of gamboling across those blue remembered hills, people suddenly decided Twitter was no longer going to be a good place so they were going to go to Post (good luck with that) or Mastodon (good luck trying to understand that) instead. That’ll teach you, Space Karen

That said, Musk probably doesn’t care about musicians like Moby outlining their moral and ideological reasons for quitting Twitter as he (Musk) is too busy trying to concoct a triumphantly Trumpian Twitter return. That is despite the object of his affections seemingly not being interested in a return as they appear more focused on their struggle to make Truth Social a going concern rather than a sparsely populated crucible of ire. Musk is also somewhat occupied with trying to start a war with Apple.

Taking stock of the past few chaotic weeks on Twitter under new management, one is left with the conclusion that sometimes a dark cloud comes not with a silver lining but with an escape hatch. 

Rather than trying to rebuild an idealised version of Twitter on a new platform, why not… just not bother? 

If you’re a musician, there are some good reasons for being on Twitter (and, indeed, any social media platform). But the good reasons are vastly outnumbered by the bad reasons. 

There was a lot of post-pandemic daydreaming about The Great Reset – an opportunity to build a new and better life and a new and better society from the ground up. 

Rather than treating Mastodon or Post (or whatever new SEO-chasing social app emerges this week) as The Great Reset for Twitter, we could just see Twitter as marking the start of The Great Switch Off. 

Leave. But don’t immediately replace it with something vaguely similar. Here is an amazing opportunity to claw back huge chunks of your week and to eradicate acres of stress and turmoil from your life. 

This should not become a new sort of social media Stockholm Syndrome, switching out one captor for another captor. This should be an evacuation. This should be liberation. This should be a reclamation.

“Think about the reasons for not staying on Twitter and not starting from scratch again on a new social platform as credit in the Bank Of Time as well as the evaporation of unnecessary trauma.”

Think about the reasons for not staying on Twitter and not starting from scratch again on a new social platform as credit in the Bank Of Time as well as the evaporation of unnecessary trauma.

(If you enjoy Twitter and can swallow the fact that its “disruption”-obsessed current owner is doing for democracy and social technology what Liz Truss – when Prime Minister for six afternoons or however long it was – did for the British economy, then fantastic. If, however, Twitter was something you endured rather than enjoyed, then read on…)

Twitter has horrifically low engagement rates. Your beautifully crafted “content” is being hurled at walls that do not exist, so none of it is going to stick. Unless…

… You pay to boost or promote posts. Even then, it’s still not going to get you the optimum engagement you crave. You are not throwing anything at a beautiful giant wall that you just paid for; you’re throwing everything at a single brick in a bomb site. 

The company now wants to charge you monthly to verify your account. Elon Musk has described this as “[p]ainful, but necessary”. Maybe it is worth it, but in early November the platform was awash with a multitude of fake “verified” accounts “in the names of politicians, celebrities, major organisations and businesses”. I am no economist, but this does not look like good economics to me. 

The algorithm makes Henry F Potter look like Bedford Falls’ most benign being. The more you feed it, the more you are in its debt and the tougher it will get for you with made-up late fees. It’s a productivity Ponzi scheme. 

People can be absolutely vile there. Of course, there are some fans who will fawn over you, but there are plenty of others who will spend their time explaining, in great detail, just how terrible you are and how pathetic the music you make is. Side point: fan-led sycophancy is, in its own way, just as bad for your self-perception and self-worth as the people calling you completely useless. 

When you are famous, Twitter is a weapon used against you by the tabloids. It’s arguably slightly better than having them hacking your voicemail, but you have stumbled into a Faustian pact whereby you willingly surrender information and opinions that will be spun into hysterical non-stories by gossip columnists on a deadline who have even more aggressive algorithms to feed. Twitter makes you your own mole. Don’t remain a willing participant in the old grey whistleblower test. 

As a “creative”, you can operate at “a different frequency” to “civilians” and your “genius” is prone to being “misunderstood”. I am talking in polite euphemisms here. Basically, you cannot be trusted to be on social media and to not get into a fight with someone or say something that is dumb, dangerous or both. 

It’s bad – really, really bad – for your mental health as it takes up too much of your actual time and your emotional labour. There is a massive deficit in terms of what you put into it versus the good you manage to extract from it. It’s like chewing rocks to ward off plaque. 

Social media does not “humanise” you. All it does is let light in on magic and evaporates all the mystery around an act. Social media is predicated entirely upon over-sharing. In this instance, to over-share means no one cares. 

Linked to this, being “relatable” on social media is just another way of appearing mundane – the antithesis of what music is about. 

You have suddenly been handed an opportunity to eradicate giant knots of stress and hassle from your life. Do you really want to replace Twitter with something equally demanding, draining and damning? No one willingly walks out of a maximum-security prison and then locks themselves in an oubliette. 

Maybe Twitter should be seen as akin to smoking. It might make you look cool and a maverick at the start, but it will slowly kill you. You need to quit cold turkey. Don’t start “vaping” instead.Music Business Worldwide

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