So it’s actually happening. This is the year that the tech billionaires destroy the world they built, like Tezcatlipoca and Quetzelcoatl flooding the earth to snuff out the Fourth Sun. This first sentence has a Boris Johnson vibe to it– pompous, a little glib, a decent analogy but with details I googled five minutes previous. We might feign surprise, but tell people they are gods for long enough and they will behave like gods- petty, horny, possessed of unlimited destructive power, and above all, bored. The Gods must be Bored. I watched Devs once and thought it was pretty good. If I solemnly inform you that ‘we’ feel a certain way, who the fuck are you to tell me I’m wrong?
I have never actually used Twitter. I have- I joined briefly when I was nineteen, got bored and quit very quickly, but it makes the story less interesting. And yet I felt a compulsion to join the platform as it flickered out of life- to swim amid the phantasmagoria of a recently submerged world. Actually I joined because I needed it for work- although somehow I don’t think I’ll be needing it anymore. You might wonder what pulled me in. You don’t though. The truth is I have developed a strange kind of bond with Twitter- one which I will here describe as a para-parasocial relationship. Literally anybody can invent pop psychology on the internet. It’s that easy.
What do I mean by this, you ask? Somebody.please.look.at.me. Twitter is unique among social media platforms because even those who are have never joined are constantly aware of its presence. In reporting and opinion every day, it crawls into our consciousness. Without ever having ‘been there’, I can tell tales of the Twitter wars. I can catalogue the public meltdowns of celebrities whose careers never interested me. I have screenshots of posts saved on my desktop. Like all good pop psychology, there’s a kernel of truth to this- it’s legit weird how much of a relationship we can form with a community we’ve only watched from a distance. Like children of the diaspora, we obsess over the health of the motherland we know only from stories. If you think about this simile too much, it collapses like a dying star. Please move along.
We must of course show solidarity with those fired by the capricious gods of big tech. In all workplaces, people deserve better than threatening late-night emails, sudden access revocations, gruelling work hours and gaslighting from corporate overlords. If I write this with an affect of social conscience, maybe it’ll get picked up by The Guardian. And yet, in a way, we are all being gaslighted- gaslit? – by Elon Musk. Here I am trying to equate ‘losing income and health insurance’ with ‘reading contradictory news stories about a platform I never use’. Platforms like Twitter become part of our social milieu- their lies bleed into our lives, and their collapse touches us all. With extreme dexterity and grace, I’ve somehow managed to make this story about me.
There will be new platforms, of course- new places to laugh, and rage, and grieve. The 280-character format may have given form to some of our worst impulses, but human nature doesn’t change. You can tell this is the last paragraph because I’m making airy generalisations about human nature and the future. My para-parasocial relationship with Twitter is quite unique- but its collapse offers scope to create more meaningful communities, without this pithy demon of distraction. Plz add me on Instagram. Maybe the best honour which we can bestow upon Twitter is to go out into the world- (!) – leaving behind the feedback loop of outrage and suspicion, and build the new realm of the Fifth Sun, together. And what brave new world, that has such people in’t. Please can I have my Guardian column now?