Warning – this is a long article – and it is my 100% unvarnished take on Twitter and why I am leaving – if you aren’t interested in that – you may want to stop reading now…
Also note this article has two halves. The first half discusses my leaving Twitter and the second half discusses where you can find me…
What a wild ride it’s been. 15 years! It hardly seems possible to me that much time has passed so quickly. I guess time really does fly.
I distinctly remember when Twitter was born. I was a regular on Leo Laporte’s TWIT – This Week In Tech – podcast network. We had some of the most successful podcasts in the world and dominated the iTunes top 10 week after week.
There was some talk of Twitter possibly infringing on Leo’s TWIT Trademark, etc. In the end, we all made a decision to stay off Twitter the first six to 12 months and given the size of our audience, they needed us more than we needed them.
Then I got on Twitter in September of 2007. It’s been so long ago that I simply don’t remember what it was that drove it. I just vaguely remember that Leo sort of gave the go ahead to get on Twitter if we wanted to (not that he was forcing us or anything – we were friends so my personal decision was based on loyalty not fear.)
I started the same way everyone else does – with no followers and at one time had more than 250,000 followers.
Over the initial years I felt Twitter was a good place to share what I was doing and meet some of the people who had been following my various photography publishing endeavors – like This Week In Photo (the first photography podcast I co-founded with Alex Lindsey and Ron Brinkman) or Photofocus.com.
However, it didn’t take long before Twitter became a haven for trolls. It got worse every year and in the last five years, it’s become a cesspool of nonsense.
In the old days, I was stupid enough not to realize how futile it was to argue with trolls. I eventually learned to just block them and hence, my audience has dwindled – not grown. I am down to around 199,000 followers now. On average, I block 125 to 150 accounts each day. It’s tedious and frankly, not worth the effort.
To make matters worse, Twitter’s business model became heavily dependent on advertising. So in order for me to reach that large audience of hundreds of thousands of people, I had to PAY! That’s right; Twitter wanted to charge me to access my own audience.
I decided to pass on that.
So now, the world’s biggest troll – and allegedly richest man – Elon Musk, has bought Twitter to make it his personal plaything and vendetta machine.
I figured it wouldn’t go well. It hasn’t. In the first few days of his stint as Chief TWIT (the title he gave himself – look up the word TWIT in the dictionary. In my opinion it is a spot on definition of Elon Musk…) he re-tweeted disgraceful and utterly false lies about the assassination attempt on Speaker Pelosi. Use of the N-word on Twitter is up 500%. Musk ridiculed his own staff and his own followers. He threatened and cajoled his employees and his advertisers. And he did what he seems to like to do most – trolled people. So now we not only have to contend with troll farms – we have to contend with an owner who is a troll.
Musk also decided to ruin the verification system. I’ve been Twitter verified for nearly 14 years. I didn’t ever ask for it. I never paid for it. It just showed up one day. Many new users don’t know the origin of the blue checkmark – it does seem to trigger a subset of users (Q-Anon, Proud Boys, etc.) So I’ll share the history for those who don’t know.
An account that has been Twitter verified is one that has been authenticated as to the actual identity of the person using the account. This helps ward off fake profiles and those that may mimic you or your company in an attempt to fool other users, defame, etc. It came about because someone tried to pass themselves off as Tony La Russa – the ex-manager of the St Louis Cardinals baseball team. (Yes the Cardinals used to be in St. Louis.) Twitter started verifying people who had a big audience or who might be famous. That’s how I got the checkmark. I was “Internet famous” and had a big audience.
The Twitter verified blue check mark was the way Twitter helped users distinguish between a real Twitter presence and some imposters attempt to steal a person’s social media identity. It also required people to own up to what they say. This is why it has always upset and scared the trolls. Most of them are only 10 feet tall so long as they are hiding in their mom’s basement. They are only brave if they can hide their true identity. They don’t stand behind what they say. I do. And there’s a point of conflict.
The point I am making is that the check mark is NOT for vanity (as those who cannot get one like to claim.) It stands for authentication. I know nuance is hard for some but that’s the deal.
Now Musk wants to charge everyone for that mark and while details are scarce, I am pretty sure Elon (being the megalomaniac that he is) will see the checkmark system as a way to make money and destroy the only real value it offered which is to authenticate user identity. He overpaid for Twitter (making him a true TWIT) and now he has to figure out how to recover some of that money.
Lastly, (and also in the realm of trying to cover the money he lost by overpaying for Twitter) Musk has fired half the staff and cut operating budgets in half. That means that Twitter will most certainly do an even worse job of moderation (if there is any) and that performance on the site will worsen. It’s a shitty way to treat his employees whom he locked out of the building and fired by email. I don’t want to do business with people who operate in that fashion.
In short, in my opinion – Elon Musk is nothing but a bully. I have no intention of helping him make money off content that I generate so I am taking my content somewhere else. I want nothing to do with him. I know some of you feel differently and that is your right. But this is my blog and I am sharing my opinion. Like it or not.
At the end of the day – I am mostly retired. I have no business case for being on Twitter and even if I did – I don’t need any of this!
So – after 15 years, it’s time for me to move on.
If you see any Tweets under my name after Monday, November 7, 2022 – they are from an imposter. I will leave my account in place with a pinned Tweet explaining how to find me – at least until Elon takes it down. But I won’t be monitoring the site or posting to it after November 7.
To those of you who still value Twitter, I make no judgment as to your decision. I am speaking for myself and sharing my personal feelings. To each their own. If you want to hang with Twitter, I say go for it.
So where will I go?
There aren’t many options for a guy like me. I have a face built for radio so that eliminates YouTube or TikTok. Facebook and Instagram have some of the same problems as Twitter. They are flooded with trolls and spam. You also have to pay to access your own audience. I have closed my Instagram account. I will leave my Facebook account active (for now) but I won’t spend much time there unless things change drastically at FB and I don’t expect they will.
I have used Flickr for years and like the product but unfortunately, it’s become expensive and I just don’t get any traction there. As much as I like it and have rooted for it, I just don’t think there’s a reason for me to keep anything but a basic free account there that I will rarely monitor. If something changes with Flickr I will get busy there again. It is a great place to show photography. It just hasn’t been great for me.
That leaves two places that I do enjoy – and where I am getting traction – even if it’s limited. Those two places are VERO and MEDIUM.
Both have robust content moderation. I have never seen spam or trolling on either one. Both are easy to self-moderate as well. I see no political posts on either. (But if you want that – you can get it on both.)
Lastly, in the case of VERO – it’s free and there are no ads. All your followers can see all your posts.
I have written two articles about VERO.
I think VERO is fantastic. I don’t know if they will make it or if enough photographers will join to make it a viable alternative to Instagram, etc., but I am sticking with it for at least a year to see what happens. If you follow me there – I will follow you back – vero.co/scottbourne
I am also enjoying MEDIUM. Medium is a place for writers, but there are lots of photographers on MEDIUM and you can post pictures there too. It’s absolutely free to post.
It’s free to read those posts – up to a certain point. If you want to see ALL the stories there you have to pay. I think it is a very reasonable price. It’s $5 per month. You can enjoy a lot of the content for free if you don’t want to pay.
I pay the $5.00 per month as a contributor because I want the platform to survive and thrive. I want them to prosper so for $60 a year I am happy to help. I get plenty of value for that money both as a content creator and consumer.
If you follow me on MEDIUM – I will follow you back.
My MEDIUM page is https://toyphotographs.medium.com
NOTE: I have retired from bird photography due to my old age and poor health. However, I have to photograph SOMETHING to stay sane and have fallen in love with toy photography. This might not interest you but many of the articles I write aren’t genre focused – meaning no matter what kind of photography you practice, you might find value in my content. Here are a few examples of articles I’ve written that are not specific to toy photography:
I almost forgot to mention – one cool feature of Medium is that you can listen to the article and have it read to you. So if you’re driving or working on something and want background info, just click the little LISTEN icon on the top of the page and it’s sort of like a very short podcast.
I am conflicted about leaving Twitter. It’s been a big part of my career. It’s not been all good or all bad but either way, it’s time to go.
I know I will say goodbye to a large chunk of my audience. I am okay with that. I figure it’s better to have a few people who were willing to go to the trouble of finding me on VERO and MEDIUM as real connections than it is to have hundreds of thousands of people who don’t engage with me.
I am writing this article to mostly just share the news that I am leaving Twitter and where I am going. Please note that nowhere have I advised anyone else what to do or expressed any opinion on what’s best for anyone other than myself.
I do think Twitter is a cesspool and unhealthy. I do think it will become irrelevant – if it hasn’t already. And I do think it’s an environment where negativity is the product. I am not a buyer. Your mileage may vary. Good luck to us all – and I hope to see you on MEDIUM or VERO.
P.S. If some new site comes around that might be good for me and which gains traction with my audience, I will be open to trying it. But for now, I am sticking with MEDIUM and VERO. Thanks.