RIP (?) Twitter (?!) I hope you had the time of your life
As I write this, some of us are having a wake for Twitter, which is weird, because it’s not dead yet, but it might be soon. The signs aren’t promising.
As often happens when someone dies in real life, I am thinking about the good times. This thread. This and this and this and this. I mean, all of Dril. SO many times Tweeters made me laugh and made me think and were nice to me. I came out as bisexual on Twitter, which was amazing — everyone was great to me and I cried. Sincere thanks to you, because if you’re reading this, there’s a decent chance you were kind to me or funny or we interacted in some way at some time, and the chances are high that I genuinely enjoyed that. I am sorry that a billionaire temper-tantrum toddler is destroying something that for sure had problems but also brought together so many people in so many ways. And gave us this:
But just today, someone said the magic thing — a version of this: “I’ve been following your work one way or another since the Chicago Tribune days.” Readers, I am SO happy when someone says this. I worked for the Chicago Tribune from 1997-2010 and it’s where I made my bones as a critic and reporter. I had done reporting and arts writing and I had a zine in the ‘90s (that is the most ‘90s thing I could say). But being the TV critic at my hometown paper during a Golden Age of TV — I mean, shit. That was something. At times it was a very difficult something, and I could not be more sad about what venture capital goons made of the Chicago Tribune (which, to be clear, is still going, but, well, you know). What took goons years to do to the Tribune, That One Idiot managed to do to Twitter in about a month. A smoking crater will soon exist where the valuable thing used to be. ARGH.
Anyway, what I’m here to say is this: Twitter fucking mattered. It mattered. I learned SO much there. Yes, a lot of us used it as a place to procrastinate (and as someone who has worked from home for a very long time, it was great for that!). It was a place in which we could educate each other and be educated and learn about worlds and people and situations we didn’t know about. Yes, context collapse is a thing and Twitter was a yelling machine — even for me — a lot of the time. But it could be, at its best, a way for the powerless to speak up and make some change in the world. It was a place where many voices could join up and not really be powerless at all.
People who sail through life thinking they are the smartest person in the room and know everything kind of hated that aspect of it. Podcaster Michael Hobbes spoke truth when he tweeted “I think we'll look back on the last decade as a time when social media gave previously marginalized groups the ability to speak directly to elites and, as a result, elites lost their minds.” Where is the lie? We can all sit here and talk for a week about all the bad shit that went down on Twitter (and how Twitter, like most Silicon Valley entities, very clearly did not give a damn about anything but its bottom line for most of its lifetime, which meant that many folks, especially folks from marginalized communities, were left to fend for themselves against gleefully weaponized hate armies).
But I also have to say that being on Twitter changed my life. I not only got to hang with my TV Twitter* pals (and the wonderful Myles McNutt wrote a great elegy for TV Twitter in his newsletter Episodic Medium, which is also excellent). I learned a lot from people who are really smart and thoughtful and funny and wildly generous with their intelligence, time and organizing skills. Twitter also helped me dive headfirst into the forging fire of #MeToo. I found sources there, I was alerted to potential stories there, and I made contact with a TON of folks who were incredibly glad to help in any way they could, in the endless quest to make the entertainment industry better in ways small and large.
[*One of my most controversial Takes (and I say this as someone with many friends on Film Twitter): TV Twitter > Film Twitter. I said what I said!]
Now, fifteen years after joining Twitter, I am in the closing stages of writing a book on the entertainment industry and how it has (and has not) changed, and what more can and should be done to make positive change not just sustainable but undeniable (the full title of the book: Burn It Down: Power, Complicity and a Call for Change in Hollywood). In the middle of 2023, get your brains ready to download that book, the contents of which are absolutely informed by the people I met and the sages and scoundrels and heroes I got to know through the dang bird app. Not everyone I know in the industry is on Twitter — I do get sources, facts and interviews the old-fashioned ways too! But the course of my career and even parts of my life were altered by the contacts and friendships made or cemented there. How many times have we read something on Twitter (or something linked there) and thought, “Oh, I never thought about it that way before.” Probably a lot of times! If life is about learning and growing and changing, I honestly have to say that a lot of you garbage monsters* drove some significant evolution for me.
[*“Garbage monsters” is a term of love, because when I would take Twitter breaks — which I’ve had to ration to retain a few shreds of my equilibrium — I would often say this to myself, internally, “OK, it’s Garbage Time!” Because Twitter was just so much, all the time, and some of it was garbage, and some of it made me cry or laugh my ass off. It really was an everything machine, in good ways and bad.]
Anyway, I tweeted a Battlestar Galactica* gif today where Lee Adama says “I’ll see you on the other side,” and I will see you on the other side, wherever that ends up being.
[*I’ve been rewatching BSG and yes, of course it fucking holds up! “NO MORE MISTER NICE GAIUS!” Still slaps. All of it slaps. I still love it so much.]
I’ve been online since the AOL chat folders of the early ‘90s. I had a print ‘zine, I wrote for alt weeklies in the ‘90s, I wrote for a big urban newspaper in the aughts and became that newspaper’s TV critic, which was, for a long time, way beyond whatever I thought I could be. And before I left that gig and went off to Huffington Post and Variety, I was already on Twitter. I’m on Instagram too, and I have a site, and I will get back to posting stories for Vanity Fair, my current home, once my brain is delinked from this damn book, which I’m so proud of and is also a lot of work. Anyway, the funniest and most retro thing in the world would be for me post regularly on my personal site, and curate the comments there quite strictly. Let’s all make it 2004 again through science or magic!
I think, I hope, I pray we’ll keep finding each other. I've been through enough Internet/media turmoil to think we will. But as she often does, Roxane Gay said it best: “We lived our lives before Twitter and we will continue living our lives when it implodes or something better comes along. But still, something invaluable will also have been lost. I don’t even know how I would start to try and find this kind of community elsewhere, especially not at this scale.”
Yep. I recommend the whole post, and of course Roxane’s newsletter. (And I recommend the newsletter Garbage Day for more musings and reporting on our weird internet lives and how and why they matter, and so I can steal Ryan's sign-off: Any typos on in this email are on purpose actually.)
And now I will leave you with one of my finest hours on Twitter: On Nov. 9, 2020, we all lost our minds about the whole Four Seasons Total Landscaping thing, which of course went down in Philly. It’s always Philly. (Fetterman-Gritty 2024, you heard it here first.)
You may recall that the mall where Total Landscaping was located also hosted a crematorium and a sex shop (possibly better venues for that batshit press conference?). In case Twitter deletes these magic words, that night, Wynonna Earp showrunner Emily Andras tweeted this:
Pretty bummed our business didn't get the call, we're a crematorium AND a sex shop
And I replied
is it called Ashes to Asses [I'M SO SORRY]
I do not know why I apologized. We had all been through a lot. I still laugh when I think about that night.
Be well, garbage monsters. See you on the other side.