I’m horribly addicted to Twitter. Will Elon Musk save me from myself this year? | Joel Snape

Where are we all going when Twitter dies? Mastodon? Hive? Back to sitting in saggy armchairs reading chunky books? Personally, I’m hoping it’s the latter, but I’m not optimistic. Twitter, of course, has been designed by a lot of very clever people to be extremely addictive, and if everyone switches to something else, it will probably be because it’s more addictive again, prodding all our dopamine-spiking buttons in some as-yet-undiscovered sequence with which battered airport paperbacks will be even less able to compete. Which, come to think of it, means it definitely won’t be Mastodon.

Obviously, I’m hopelessly addicted to Twitter, like so many journalists who pretend we are using it for our jobs. I’ve tried to tie myself to the mast like Odysseus, installing apps that block it at certain hours or force me to take a cooling off period before I refresh the page, but I always find a way around them. Even if you delete your account entirely, there’s a 30-day cooling-off period, during which I inevitably re-up, like Odysseus with a pocketknife inside his tunic.

Elon Musk, then, may be my only hope. Soon after his acquisition of the platform, a few waggish types suggested he might be deliberately trying to tank it – to make the public discourse less toxic, maybe, or just for the lols. Recently, that opinion has become less fashionable, but I’m clinging to it like Odysseus to a fig tree – hoping that there is some galaxy-brain plan in motion in which Musk is prepared to sacrifice his fortune and reputation to let us get back to doing something useful.

Author Clay Shirky talks about “cognitive surplus”, the free mental energy we have to collaborate on projects that can be useful to humanity – and now Twitter is just a great big machine for turning all that energy into hot takes and Thanos memes. If Musk kills it, maybe his next step will be to unite us all in using that leftover thinking-space for the collective good, such as designing Mars rockets just to spite him, or something. Which would make him … Poseidon? I don’t know – I haven’t actually read the Odyssey.


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