A Firm Prophesy for 2024
On Old Twitter, and what isn't coming next
I don’t like firm predictions. I will make them, but I will usually hedge, and offer an alternative possibility. Divining the future is a fool’s errand. After the 2016 election, when my gut told me Donald Trump could win but professional expediency demanded I never say this too loudly, I decided it was a mistake to ever operate with too much certainty. Sure, that could happen, but also this. The future is muddy.
Here’s one new year’s prediction I will make, one that is a hard echo of what I wrote last year: nothing, absolutely nothing, will replace what 2010s Twitter used to be. That world is gone and is never coming back. Threads, Bluesky, and Mastodon can curate communities, but they cannot be the great gathering ground for celebrities, media elites, political pundits, academics, and various professional class strivers, the sort who could genuinely use the platform to determine the discourse in the flesh-and-blood world. Twitter, for a time, was real life because enough people believed what happened there could matter everywhere else. It was no accident that the true great political celebrities of the age, Donald Trump and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, were Twitter warriors, or that various moral panics that began there could actually ruin careers. Twitter was fun; Twitter was hellish. For people like me, it paid professional dividends, even as it took a toll on my personal life. I use Twitter (or X) much less today and I’m better for it.
The internet is shifting. We are slowly exiting the social media age. What comes next is entirely unclear. All that can be divined, for now, is that every attempt to replicate what Twitter used to be will fail.