When rage-quitting is not enough
Twitter-killers, tradwives, deranged YouTube squads, tech metaphors, MAGA trolls and Bitcoin bars
The Twitter replacements never really took off
Even though the act of tweeting now implicates you in Elon Musk’s “rat”-infested, under-permitted, buggy, bot-banning shitshow, the primary alternatives seem to have flopped since their viral zeniths three months ago.
Mastodon, which hit 2.5 million users in October, has since slumped to 1.4 million. Post.News saw less than half the visits in December than it did just after Musk came in. Even journalists, many of whom hued and cried at the site’s changes, have, in the past three months, only barely decreased their Twitter usage.
Does this mean the bird site will reign forever? At this point, I hope not. We have all seen the rise and fall of earlier platforms (… though that “rise” bit is getting far more difficult). Either way, it will take more than Twitter rage-quits to overthrow Musk. Perhaps there’s a change the site will still go bankrupt!
P.S.: Are you one of the 50 zillion people ~hacking your job~ with ChatGPT? Please reply to this email, I’d love to hear more! This will be the subject of a future Links.
If you read anything this weekend
"ChatGPT Is a Blurry JPEG of the Web," by Ted Chiang in The New Yorker. Perhaaaaps because I never took a science class after high school, I love a good explanatory metaphor: a light-up briefcase (for quantum mechanics), a digital zoo (for AI sentience), a crappy photocopy (for large language models). If you only read one take on ChatGPT, I suggest this one. Also: the aforementioned metaphors were all written by Chiang, so read his books if you like them!
“Crushed,” by Nile Cappello in The Atavist. Piper Rockelle, if you’re not familiar, is an over-dramatic, under-clothed 15-year-old YouTube kingmaker: Do some dumb prank as part of her “squad” and gain 10 million preteen fangirls. But behind the scenes, Piper’s mom is allegedly assaulting boys, offering liquor to nine-year-olds and tearing squad families apart. *Truly* wild to me that the squad abides, “TURNING [PIPER’S] HOUSE Into 3 FAST FOOD Restaurants.”
“Who Is @Catturd2, the Sh-tposting King of MAGA Twitter?," by Miles Klee in Rolling Stone. @Catturd2, who tweets often about farts and somehow still (lol) has the ears of both Musk and Donald Trump, is — surprise! — a one-time failed musician and three-time failed husband from a small town in Florida.
“Buy Nothing is Everything,” by Maura Judkis in The Washington Post. A delightful romp through the *very* weird shit that people post in Buy Nothing groups.
"The Agoraphobic Fantasy of TradLife," by Zoe Hu in Dissent Magazine. Not sure I buy into the theory that tradwives are just afraid of men (?). But I know you guys love any/all #tradwife content.
👉 ICYMI: The most-clicked link from last week’s newsletter was this Slate piece on the great TikTok trend of … making mistakes on purpose.
Thanks for being one of my 15,000 hypothetical Gchat friends.
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(Again, I love a metaphor)
“Sushi terrorism.” Googling grief. The Doomsday Alarm Clock. “I’m dating an AI chatbot” but “I’m fully aware” that this is pretty “odd.” Jason: Don’t even try it. (Even if detecting AI text is hard.) I guess Harrison Ford did not age quite that well. You’d *need* three beers at a Bitcoin bar.
This week, in fading internet stars: BeReal, Gawker and Zoom. Also this week, but in AI fails: transphobia, racism, sexism, medical misinformation, jailbreaks, bad math, mysteries, class bias AND defamation. Marcel the Shell could/should win an Oscar. Rebecca Black is also back again! Tik Tok gags are to Gen Z what Facebook memes are to their parents. Last and likely least, an image for which I don’t very much care: “You’ll start seeing those [virtual] fluids splatter everywhere.”
That’s it for this week! Until the next one. Warmest virtual regards.
This entire introduction was initially about network effects, which I find very interesting!, but in recognition of the value of your time/brain space, I instead chose to leave you just a single explanatory link.