Grieving what has been lost
August 20, 2023
A little over a month ago, I celebrated my 15th anniversary of using Twitter. Unlike most years, I was not much in a celebratory mood. What I felt was grief. Grief over what Twitter has become over the past year. The anniversary was just a reminder of the loss of something that was once very meaningful to me. Not the service, but the people that the service connected me to.
I joined Twitter in the summer of 2008. Several of my colleagues at the time had joined and being part of a technology focused team, I thought that it would be good to try it out. At first, I really didn’t see a lot of value in it. Why would anyone care what I am doing or do I really care to peek over other people’s shoulders to know what they are doing. Most the people I followed at the beginning were people I knew, with a majority of them being on my team in an office.
But then I started to follow others in the Web industry. People whose blogs I had read. People whose talks I had listened to back in the day when conferences would post mp3 files of conference talks (@media, Future of Web Design, Webstock).
Following people through Twitter made me feel much more connected to the community of Web practitioners. And people would share about things they were doing throughout the day. And I would share what I was doing or pictures I took or check-ins on Gowalla.
Twitter facilitated connections with people and community.
- I found out about the first Front End Design Conference in St. Petersburg, FL through a tweet from Chris Coyier. FEDC became my favorite conferences to attend and helped me to develop real life connections within the Central Florida web community. Chris made his speaking debut at that conference.
- I got connected to some delicious chocolate chip cookies from New York
- I built an online friendship with a developer in Texas that led to us rooming together at the Front End Design Conference for two years. Attending the conference with a friend was an even better experience.
- I met up with Dan Denney because I found out he was in town through his tweet. We had a meaningful conversation that night that started me thinking about where I wanted to go next in my career (which leads into the next thing)
- I got connected to the job that moved me to Chattanooga through a tweet (read the full story)
- I was able to celebrate the championships of my favorite sports teams (Royals, Chiefs, and Jayhawks) on the platform.
- I was able to show my appreciation and honor many Web folks who had helped me out through a talk, a resource they authored, or just inspiring me.
- I met a lot of other people I would never have met otherwise because of my connection with somebody else.
- I bought a book after one of my Twitter connections posted about it
I still visit Twitter (now X). But it is not the same. It is almost like the slow death of a loved one. You still have that person around but they are not the same person. And you slowly watch them lose more and more of what made them the person you knew.
I miss the connections to the people I followed. I miss hearing about how a developer in England took his son to the latest blockbuster. I miss seeing references to Formula One or the English Premier League. I miss the seeds of thoughts about the industry. I miss the personal reflections that don’t always come through in a personal blog post. I miss seeing what someone is listening to why they work.
I miss having a connection to so many people now that they no longer use Twitter. It is something you don’t fully appreciate until it is gone.
I have struggled to decide what to do post-Twitter. I have an invite that is gathering dust to Blue Sky. I had considered Mastadon but not able to get on the server I would like to. I am not really sure I want to invest in a platform again. From what I have heard, none of those other platforms have replicated the experience.
I just recently realized that LinkedIn has become a place where I have been able to connect with people in the industry. I started posting links to my weeknote posts on LinkedIn about a year ago. And some of the people I had followed on Twitter are having more of a presence on LinkedIn.
Maybe I am just over social media. Maybe I will invest in another platform in the future. But for now, I continue to grieve the loss of what was. And I miss those connections with a wide variety of people in the Web industry. I am glad to see some are writing more on their personal sites. And I have read some interviews of others that I have throughly enjoyed finding out what they are up to today.
I originally had the idea to write this post about a month ago when I “celebrated” my Twitter anniversary. But then the weeks went by and I almost decided to not do it. But I was inspired by Ethan’s reflections and decided not to give up on the idea to share my own grief at the loss of this community.