I tweeted for the first time ten years ago today.
Using twitter for the first time.
— Ricky Mondello (@rmondello) March 11, 2007
That’s not very interesting, but it is an excuse to write a little bit about what Twitter means to me personally.
Lots of people are down on Twitter these days, and there are legitimate reasons to be. The open API that allowed third-party clients to flourish has been locked down in a way that’s discouraged the kind of innovation we used to see on the platform. Unchecked harassment that started on Twitter during GamerGate has fueled a movement of hatred that arguably contributed to the toxic atmosphere surrounding the 2016 US election. At different points, it hasn’t been clear whether the company takes harassment seriously, and if it does, whether it’s capable of addressing it. And recently, Twitter shut down Vine, a service that was source of joy for many people, including me.
Moving beyond issues that are within Twitter’s direct control, friends of mine have been talking about or actually leaving Twitter solely due to increased non-harassment negativity leading up to and persisting beyond the 2016 US election. Twitter reflects and amplifies our anxieties; it’s hard to escape news of Donald Trump, a resurgence of fascist tendencies, and a political movement that rejects empathy and science.
These are real problems, and if someone wants to stop using Twitter, that’s their decision to make. I still use it daily, because I love the people that Twitter has helped me meet or stay in touch with, and they’re an important part of my life.
When I was in high school in a small town in upstate New York, I didn’t really have anyone around to help develop or even share my interest in technology with. Twitter was my connection to the world I wanted to live in. Although I’d been a member of several forums in the past, I liked Twitter more than any forum because there was no pretense of being limited to any particular topic. In 2008, Twitter was accessible on my iPod touch in a way that other communities weren’t. From that iPod, I followed people who talked about Mac software, making web pages, podcasting, and politics, and that stream of information helped me figure out what I wanted to do with my future.
What started as a way for me to fill a void in the types of people I knew in “real life” changed as I left that small town. Today, Twitter is how I get my news. It’s helped me see different perspectives, particularly around gender-related issues both in and outside of the technology industry. It’s how I tell the world about the cool stuff I’ve worked on. And recently, I count on it as the first place I’ll find out where important protests are taking place.
I can find humor and entertainment in all sorts of places, but Twitter is the online community where I can check in with friends I care about. Friends who share common interests, like Apple, web development, certain music, or a narrow interest in video games. Friends who are sincere, thoughtful, and willing to change their minds. Friends who share their jokes, their hopes, their fears, their good days, and their bad days. Friends who cheer each other up, push each other forward, and celebrate each other’s accomplishments.
From what I can tell, the cloud of anxiety that has surrounded everything since the 2016 US election is real, and it’s affected a lot of us. As a society, we’ve moving backwards, and many of us are directly under attack by the new administration. While attempting to cope with this new reality, my Twitter friends have been a bright spot. If you are one of these people, I hope you know that I think you’re great.