There are benefits Naturally. Even my cold academic heart cannot deny the joyful relief of my trans sisters and siblings who made it into the Bluesky open beta and express their immense relief how much better the environment is there. How could it not be when a recent post by an MMA fighter openly contemplates publicly executing any CIS person who helps transgender people? was greeted by dozens of muscular blue checks, who enthusiastically agreed– say the idea is “based”? Anything is better than the humiliation of seeing such a bloodthirsty crowd for even a few seconds.
But I remember a few months ago a lot of people saying the same thing about Post, Hive and Mastodon, myself included. Watching the war between servers destroy an entire brand new Mastodon instance populated mostly by trans women was a grueling reminder of how dangerous it is to believe that honeymoons last forever – or that the safety of marginalized people is simply an issue the escape is. Fragmentation will perhaps isolate this toxicity in the form of separate servers on each of their respective layers of Hell, preventing some degree of virality, but it will still exist – as Mastodon did in abundance evidenced by its rampant hostility towards its black users.
The Bluesky owners’ goals are noble indeed, and even align with some of my own desires for social media — to be broken up, individualized, and made more resilient to encroachment by governments or malicious plutocrats like Elon Musk. But they may not be consistent with the exact dream of so many of these shitposters; especially the marginalized. If Bluesky delivers on its promises, the various right-wing “culture warriors” and other crypto-fascists could find themselves behind a permanent deadlock that corporate bullying cannot break. But the same mechanisms will inevitably erect barriers between them diverse Communities that hide many of them from the same radical-minded shitposters, thereby making it impossible to restore Twitter’s randomness.
To tell the truth, I’m going to miss it all a bit. But this coincidence has also led us to know all the levels of hell that the internet can offer. The casualness with which you meet random, witty people was also great enough to refresh videos of people being shot or bombed by cops in Ukraine. The sheer volume of snuff available on Twitter is indicative of poverty and as much a consequence of Twitter’s tabloid structure as anything else. The platform was a courageous experiment that gave us many beautiful, funny moments, political education and private benefits for many people. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that we would all have been better off without her.
I find myself I’m reflecting on something here that has been tragically forgotten small editorial comment 1987 by journalist Ron Powers about the then-recent suicide of Pennsylvania State Treasurer R. Budd Dwyer – committed live on camera after he was convicted of taking bribes. Powers briefly analyzed the different ways different news outlets reported the suicide, what they showed and what they withheld from viewers, and concluded that overall some decency had been maintained. Powers concluded, “If a suicide on camera was just another image in a visual medium, it would mean that … the culture has stopped believing that anything matters.” or trivial.”
When I first heard that line from Powers, my breath caught in my breath simply because I knew in my bones that this dark future was here. What better way to describe Twitter than an area where its users no longer believe anything is important or trivial? Despite all its joys The is the idiom of shitposting; Sincere belief must be mummified with irony, lest one come across as an uncool “moral fag,” in the parlance of the platform that spawned the form: 4chan.
Why should we commend attempts to replicate this in yet another online space? Ultimately, it feels like some people want to build on Bluesky. But if Bluesky’s AT protocol succeeds, it would be a very different experience, as the important and trivial would be narrowed down their respective lanes. And the boulevard would finally be dark.