So, about 14 years ago, I started a Web service called Identi.ca. It was and is running Open Source software that lets you set up your own social network site and connect to others across the web.
I started a company, StatusNet, that ran the site and supported the software. It was pretty great, and I got to work with amazing people, but we had a hard time making it work. The original software is now GNU Social.
After I shut down StatusNet, I created a new program, pump.io, which is what Identi.ca runs on now. I created a new protocol that pump.io sites use to talk to each other. I then co-led the standards group at the W3C that turned this protocol into ActivityPub.
But since we published it, I lost my way. I knew I needed to get pump.io to use the updated version, but it was going to be hard. Mastodon, a great project, had taken off, and it was using and evolving the protocol. Also great! I didn’t want to give up on porting identi.ca to the new protocol, so I didn’t want to set up a Mastodon account.
Meanwhile, I was living my life. I post on Instagram, Facebook, and also Twitter. The last one has been kind of hard; people called Identi.ca “the Open Source Twitter” when it launched, and people have often framed me as a Twitter detractor. So participating there felt funny.
But I was doing it anyway. I have a lot of friends that I only talk to there — people from the Web 2.0 world, or from Montreal startups. I especially like to make polls, get people to think about hard things, ask people questions, and try to understand people and myself through their answers.
I’ve also kind of told myself that I’ve put in my time on social network decentralization. It’s hard work. It’s lonely. It’s gruelling. There are a lot of new, enthusiastic people working on the problem, and I can sit back and give occasional advice. And I’ve been doing a lot of other work.
I have been , but… It’s not easy. In particular, pushing text and images from a private blog on WordPress to private accounts on IG, FB and Twitter doesn’t work very well. And I’ve gotten kind of lazy.
Most of all, I’ve been seeing in myself the self-destructive, addictive behaviour we all know comes from social media use. The apps are optimized for excessive use and ad clicks rather than healthy relationships and good information. I’ve been feeling myself drawn to open Twitter or IG tabs 3, 5, 10 times a day.
But this week, Elon Musk completed his purchase of Twitter. I realized what a shitshow that was going to be, and how little I wanted to be a part of it. I didn’t want to keep doing something I know is bad for myself and for society.
So, I’ve deleted the Twitter app from my phone. I haven’t deleted my account, but I’m going to back it up and start considering what to do with it. I’m pushing these blog posts to the service still, but maybe not forever.
I know that quitting Twitter is a humorous catchphrase, because it’s so difficult. I feel like I’ve got a lot wrapped up in it, though.
With Facebook stock down 2/3 of its value this year, this might be the best opportunity we have for shaking off the drug haze of social media and starting to build the web and society we want. I want to be part of trying.