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Does a Social Media Network Deserve a Eulogy?

John’s back just in time for the holiday

Twitter Headquarters in San Francisco Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

By the time this publishes, Twitter may already be a memory – or more likely in today’s culture, a slew of memes being passed around whatever site the larger gaggle of “very online” people migrate to next.

Many writers smarter than I am have already spilled millions of words about Twitter’s eventual demise, why it once mattered a great deal, and how that descending relevance was sped up by Elon Musk’s recent acquisition. The guy who ran this place before me wrote a particularly interesting one a couple weeks back if you missed it, with regard to once-vaunted “sports Twitter.”

So this isn’t that. Rather, it’s something of a retrospective around my own relationship with Twitter, the importance it once had for me, and really, how it served as a big part of my connection to many of you readers both past and present.

When I first moved out to California (May 2010), the feeling of detachment from what I always knew came swiftly. I wasn’t seeing the people I’d long associated with very often. Talking to them was tough due to work and time zone shifts. In many ways, I felt like I was on an island.

That became even more true when it came to sports. I went from living on campus with my closest friends, following our favorite team and going to every game, to living 3,000 miles away with minimal ability to feel connected to Syracuse.

Twitter served as an early lifeline, as I quickly found a vibrant Syracuse Orange community on the site, largely centered around, well… TNIAAM. I was in the deep end within a year, when conference realignment meant the Orange were heading to the ACC. The ongoing rumor mill enthralled me, and Twitter felt like the easiest place to keep up with the news (and lack thereof), while also learning more about our new conference-mates.

My old blog, Atlantic Coast Convos, was born, as a way for me to integrate Syracuse into the ACC for my own psyche – but also for others. The main way to get eyeballs on the work I was doing over there? Twitter, of course.

Back then, there were clear levels to “sports Twitter,” and I’d used the site to make some real inroads into the larger college sports ecosystem (orbiting around SB Nation’s content), the subsection of #goacc tweeters who were happy to welcome me into the fold, and of course, SU’s dedicated corner.

For those around Twitter – and the internet overall – a decade ago, you’ll probably remember things were a little less siloed. You had your audience and your interests, sure. But content was created for both the many and few. While you may have tweeted or written a blog post for the Syracuse community, it was also highly likely to get on the radar of other fans in your conference, who’d then come to interact with fans about it.

That dynamic introduced me to a ton of people across college sports and Syracuse fandom, in ways that were fun, rewarding and educational, even. No, not everything was positive, and I don’t want to paint it all with this delusionally positive brush. But the experience altered the trajectory of my professional life, helping me wind up at TNIAAM, driving a specialization in content creation and forging the relationships that allowed me to pivot my career on a dime in my late 20s.

In the time since, a lot has changed around Twitter, content and the internet as a whole.

Many conversations now happen in echo chambers. It’s harder to break through the noise. And Twitter itself doesn’t matter as much as it used to in terms of media distribution. The ecosystem I spoke fairly glowingly about above doesn’t necessarily exist anymore, even if the people that created it are all (mostly) still present. They – like me – are just not as online anymore because the value isn’t what it used to be.

It’s why I’m so torn now about how I feel about Twitter’s eventual downfall, whether it comes tomorrow or in two years.

On the one hand, it previously had some semblance of societal value and an outsized importance for me personally. On the other hand, once returns were diminishing – for society and myself – was it worth “pouring one out” for what’s essentially a hellsite at this point?

The fact that Twitter lacks the same importance now doesn’t remove its previous benefits, but the previous benefits don’t just wipe away the downfall. For me, the site was a utility in the most cynical sense, but the relationships and community developed there were very real and had very lasting impacts. It may sound strange but for a time, the site was a happy accident that I was glad to be a part of. And one that I’ll miss when it’s gone.

So for that, I’m thankful. I know I’m not “around” much anymore as it is, but I hope Twitter’s eventual disappearance doesn’t completely cut me off from the reason I wandered in the door to begin with: Human connections with people that share common interests. So, many of you.

It’s unlikely that I make the pivot to Mastodon or whatever else people plan to use next. But for those that are interested in what I’m up to, I’ll still be writing infrequently about comic book stuff on Medium, and TV advertising-related topics on TVREV. Even if not on Twitter, hopefully we’re all still chatting about Syracuse in real time somewhere on these interwebs.