I went away this week. Arguably it was the most interesting week for communications technology history in a long time. I missed most of it. That’s fine.
The sale of Twitter, a company that owns a successful micro-blogging platform, to a man who has tortured monkeys in search of brain chip technology is fascinating. The world’s richest ‘ideas guy’ with the lowest hit rate took control of another technology. He seized the means of production. Production of what however?
What does Twitter make?
It’s a mythical place. A vast field that doesn’t exist, which people call the bird site, for its iconography, rather than any connection to actual aviary concerns. It is called Hell by some, yet not those who do not go there. What it makes, mostly, is money and noise. It operates its own economy, and by allowing economies and communities of noise, to develop within itself, creates a parasitism. It is functionally the same as its competitor, Facebook, while having been designed to capitalise on relationships that are yet to occur, rather than those which exist already.
In Spiderman: Miles Morales, Spiderman (Miles Morales) has a social media account on a platform very similar to Twitter, but for the residents of Manhattan Island. You can, in the menu which navigates between map, skills and missions, also view Spidey’s feed.
I spent so long fascinated by this that my friends, who had let me crash after travelling back to the UK, got comically annoyed with it. I had the same problem that I have with Twitter, I could just keep going, keep looking at the funny and perplexing things that the people of Manhattan had to say (a lot of them with reference to things to do with Spiderman).
People on this feed talk about podcasts, and share photos, and shout conspiracy theories, and ask questions which Spiderman might even reply to. Like, ‘study first or chill first’ to which Spidey knowingly says to study, so you don’t have to worry while chilling. Nerd.
As a design decision, giving Spiderman Twitter is bizarre. It’s a mean spirited site. It’s that way because it’s the mode that is most profitable. Everyone knows that the first thing that anyone with any fame online who starts posting becomes is vulnerable. Vulnerable to a shift in their public perception entirely controlled by the whims of their fingers. Vulnerable then after that to reacting to that shift. And doubling down, further and further, digging a hole until they dig themselves to death.
Spiderman isn’t cool, he’d be so easy to bully on a site that encourages bullying. Why would you want to introduce that to your character’s life? Who wants Spiderman to be a Millenial micro-blogger? Is that a way that local community, the spider’s whole deal, is envisioned in the game’s development?
I was on Twitter for several years as a teenager, then left it as it was clearly something that was wasting my time and energy. I came back in 2019 to share my work and up to the end of 2021 spent 33% of the time there having fun, 33% on clownish game industry issues, and 33% being victimised by, getting involved with online ‘resistance’ to, and then retreating from the transphobic hate movement created on Twitter and effective in the UK.
WWSD? What would Spiderman do if that had kicked off on the Manhattan site. Well, spread love of course, he’s Spiderman, a friendly guy, well meaning, face of a global brand, lots of money riding on what he says in his made up world.
For all the friendship and kind words and learning experienced via Twitter, there are all of those that are vulnerable to violence, who have been needlessly exposed to it, ensnared into it, and addicted to ‘debating’ it.
Your ‘community’ is being exploited for profits generated by lonely searching for individual validity, by a company also hosting those running for real political office on the basis of extremist genocidal conspiracies, about those in your community that rely most on your support.
While in reality, as in with effective disruptive action, you can protest this, Twitter’s ‘debate’ is a generator of revenue and conflict. It’s ouroboros, it eats where it shits. This was all true before a guy so unlikable it’s embarrassing owned it.
Who cares though? It’s a “free” site and the road to neoliberalism has been paved in the expansion of the ability to express yourself while owning nothing and having no real support networks.
I saw enough hate and had it turned upon me enough on Twitter to ward me off of public transition or queer expression. Twitter made money from that. For all the opportunity I’ve encountered there, there were ways to have done that without having been done such specific violence to.
I just spent the week with people who didn’t know who Morbius was, and maybe they didn’t know that, but they also didn’t have the vicarious trauma of being called a sexual predator, one you can now easily experience from a computer, instead of having it yelled at you from a car on the way to a pride rally.
Is Spiderman a transphobe? Is Elon Musk a feminist? Is this website my friend?