My bird is sick

THIS IS AN ANIMATED GIF FROM THE ’ SKETCH

I have written this to work through something that has been troubling me.

I want to write a blog post about my quest for the perfect teapot. I think it’s a good story that will make people smile.

As part of the story, I was taking a position about social media. I was suggesting that it doesn’t matter if the platform you are on is a cesspool filled with actual Nazis, because you can cultivate your own sewage- and fascism-free network on the platform.

I can’t make this argument in good faith, specifically about . I feels like it would make me complicit in something deeply wrong — and a wrong that seems to be getting deeper as the weeks go by. I don’t see that it’s possible to ‘fix’ a platform that is commercially driven, and where controversy seemingly increases profits.

I can make an argument about networks in general. I think they are what you make of them, and as an individual you can have a bit influence on how they function. Go out there with a big, open heart and do some small good.

Still, I won’t be leaving Twitter.

To qualify, I mean I won’t be leaving Twitter with immediate effect¹. I do have to move away though, because Twitter is going to die at some point like other social networks before it. These are platforms, not infrastructure. I don’t think they can be permanent.

This is a tough prospect though. I’ve been through it before with , and I’ve pretty much stopped using too. I know that Rupert Murdoch bought MySpace and I don’t think much of him, and I know that Facebook has deep moral and ethical problems that almost certainly can’t be solved now. However, I didn’t stop using MySpace and Facebook for these reasons. I stopped using MySpace and Facebook because they were (are) functionally shit.

Twitter has had an effect on my life, particularly my working life. Overall it has been a positive effect. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be doing my current job² without Twitter, and my job is pretty good. It actually helps me to do my job, too. I have met lovely new people through Twitter. I never met anybody new through Facebook, and everybody I ever met but didn’t like seems to be on .

As Twitter inevitably dies, I need to replace it with another thing, or other things. Don’t read this as a defense of Twitter. Rather this is an expression of my general, selfish needs:

  • It has to be open. Networks that are designed to be closed do not suit my purposes. Twitter is a really helpful internet ‘glue’ for me. It’s relative openness sets it apart from most every other platform and tool available.
  • It should be free of charge. It is true that I am cheap, but this is also my preference on general point of principle. I guess money is the root of the whole problem and oh God I can feel the pros and cons spiralling off into infinity so I’ll stick with free of charge but can accept that I’m… wrong?
  • It needs to have a degree of permanence. It’s important to me to be able to refer back to what I (and others) have said. To avoid repeating myself; to hold myself and others to account; to see how I’ve changed; and to learn from others’ experience.
  • The technical barrier to entry needs to be low. I am not very good with computers³.
  • It needs to be constrained. 140 characters was a great constraint, with positive effects on expression and experience. Maybe it was all an accident who cares. I like to work within constraints, and I really like a limited feature set.
  • It needs to have a functional search, and to facilitate search. Twitter’s search is fine, as far as 21st century search functions go. It gives me answers when I want them (looking for things I’ve said); I can find people that I’ve met; I can search by emoji. Also I can find tweets outside of Twitter.
  • People need to be there. Not just my friends. And if it’s going to be a genuinely rich, diverse group of people then it really will need to deal with abuse and fundamental culture proactively.

I think the main thing that I need to do is not invest so much in another platform without thinking more about the fact that it will come to an end. I feel strangely unprepared. I need to remember that my relationship isn’t with the platform, it’s with the people.

¹ I feel some hypocrisy here. I don’t feel ‘foie gras for breakfast’ bad, but I could be a better person. I don’t use Uber, for balance

² I am the Head of Data and Search at the

³ Relative to many of my work peers, at least

--

--

--

Head of Data Science at Citizens Advice. These are my personal thoughts on work.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Twitter > Instagram: Why I am starting to enjoy Twitter

How much social is too much social?

Online Communities: Friend or Foe?

I Am Violating Facebook’s Community Standards

Things You Need to Know About Facebook and Mass Manipulation

100 Followers Isn’t A Given

Are adding restrictions and age limits on social media apps important or is it violating people’s…

The Officer Tatum Censored On YouTube, Time To Make Your Own YouTube

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Dan Barrett

Dan Barrett

Head of Data Science at Citizens Advice. These are my personal thoughts on work.

More from Medium

Redefining Female Leadership

Systems change from the frontline: sharing the learning