Chad Blair: Why I’m Sticking With Twitter — For Now - Honolulu Civil Beat


About the Author

Chad Blair

Chad Blair is the politics and opinion editor for Civil Beat. You can reach him by email at cblair@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @chadblairCB.

My Twitter feed informed me Monday afternoon that actress Kirstie Alley had died.

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Then I heard a colleague in the newsroom say, “Oh my God! Kirstie Alley died.” Someone else said, “Really?”

And that’s when it occurred to me: Am I such a news junkie that I need Twitter to keep me informed of every manini (small, insignificant) thing in the metaverse? Is it in fact time for me to become a Twitter quitter?

My response is that I will stay with the social media platform in order to keep abreast of the news. But I am very close to bailing.

I totally understand why so many celebrities — e.g., Trent Reznor, Whoopi Goldberg, Shonda Rhimes — have left Twitter since Elon Musk broke the site … sorry, I mean “bought” the site … in late October.

But I am not a celebrity, and the same day that the Kirstie Alley news broke I also received updates on the Jan. 6 commission, the Mar-a-Lago investigation, the Georgia Senate runoff, the status of Mauna Loa, a traffic accident on H-1 and much more. Twitter is a drug and I am tethered to its IV.

That said, my Twitter feed has also been cluttered with a whole lot of crap since the Tesla meister took over, most of it coming from Twitter itself. “You might like …” Twitter tells me before sharing links to confused cats and docile dogs, unflattering photos of aging movie stars and “The Craziest Moments on ‘The Price Is Right’ That Would Never Be Aired On TV Today.”

“Gettin’ real bored with tweets in my feed from people I don’t follow,” George Hahn recently tweeted. I don’t actually know who George Hahn is, but local journalist Yunji de Nies follows him, and I follow Yunji de Nies.

I joined Twitter in April 2010, one month after I started working at Civil Beat. It was a job requirement, and that’s why my handle is @chadblairCB.

But I am no Twitter star. I have only 3,899 followers — the darkly handsome George Hahn has more than 284,000 — and I follow only 230 people.

I rarely get “likes” and retweets, and my retweets are often pretty lame. When Alex Jones loses lawsuits over lies about school shootings, for example, I tend to say pithy things like “Thoughts and prayers.” Soooo clever.

But I have tweeted over 10,000 times — according to Twitter — and that suggests that I spend an inordinate amount of my day tweeting and scrolling and clicking on bait.

Meanwhile, I have friends and colleagues who have quit Twitter and said they feel less anxious and don’t miss a thing.

Pros And Cons

I sought input from two people very familiar with Twitter and its trappings.

Brett Oppegaard, program director of the University of Hawaii’s journalism program, began using Twitter in 2006 when he was working at a new medium program at Washington State University. But with the rise of Donald Trump beginning in 2015 he began to lose interest.

“I just couldn’t tolerate any more Trump tweets,” he said.

Oppegaard said he’s never looked back and tells me that his students hardly use Twitter, preferring Instagram and TikTok. As for Facebook, it’s “an older generation thing.”

Oppegaard, a former journalist, believes that journalists have been “one of the groups in the country that have embraced Twitter more than any other subset.” That’s because Twitter “mirrors a headline sharing service” similar to articles coming from wire services, especially breaking news, he says.

“Journalists like the idea that when something’s happening, they can jump on to some information, say, and find people who are talking about it who maybe were there, and they can easily contact those people and get sources that they might not otherwise be able to find,” he said. “And I think that it definitely was an extremely powerful, useful tool for journalists for a long time.”

But Twitter, in Oppegaard’s view, has become so extreme that’s it no longer useful and — in the case of users who troll journalists — toxic and destructive.

“I just think it opens up a vulnerability to journalists that they don’t deserve or should have to deal with,” he said. “They’re just trying to do their job.”

Oppegaard teaches classes on news literacy and journalism history, and he makes the point that “social media” has always been around in one form or another. It includes the work of Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Adams during the Revolutionary period, and the newspaper wars between Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst that led to fomenting an actual war in 1898.

“I’m not saying they’re perfect examples, but what I say is there are parts of these aspects of journalism that we’ve dealt with before,” he explained.

The problem with Twitter is that Musk claims to be such a “free speech absolutist” but instead comes off as somebody who “apparently doesn’t have any understanding or concept of how the First Amendment has been restricted over the years in dozens of ways about obscenity, inciting violence, libel, slander, blackmail.”

Oppegaard said journalists don’t need Twitter to get the news. Indeed, not long after our interview Tuesday, I got word that the Trump Organization was found guilty on multiple counts of criminal tax fraud. The source? News alerts on both my iPhone and work email.

Viable Alternatives

I also called Ryan Ozawa, Pacific News Editor for @DecryptMedia, who still uses Twitter — he follows more than 12,000 users, is followed by more than 26,000 and has tweeted nearly 54,000 times since 2006. His handle is actually @hawaii.

Ozawa thinks Musk erred in thinking he was buying a platform rather than a community or a series of communities, something Ozawa says Musk doesn’t give a rip about.

There are also viable alternatives to Twitter such as Mastodon: “It does require a slightly higher technical lift and it has a terrible name. So there are a lot of barriers in place for it. But in terms of the concept of Mastodon, I’m very excited by it. It’s about decentralization. It’s about one person per platform that everybody has to be on.”

I had heard about Mastodon, but I was surprised about what Ozawa also mentioned.

“I have a controversial view that I think the closest platform — if everybody were to move (to it) it would work — would probably be Tumblr, which was the other microblogging platform that came up with Twitter,” he said. “Nobody really remembers Tumblr, but it works in much a similar way.”

Ozawa mentioned another platform that was new to me: Post News, which he described as a journalism-focused Twitter alternative being built by the person who founded Waze, the driving directions app that Google acquired.

“It’s got a very long waiting list, but I got in early and it’s kind of a publishing platform where you post your articles,” he said. “You could get tips in micropayments. It’s kind of a neat experiment.”

As for Twitter, I’ll end with this trenchant observation from Ozawa:

“I always used to say to people, Twitter is a cesspool, but it’s my cesspool, a cesspool of my people. There’s sort of a ‘We’re going to go down with the ship, this is all going to hell’ (attitude), but this is still where I find gems, right? I can still find the breaking news piece. I can still hear directly from a newsmaker. I can still engage in witty banter. So the question is, I wouldn’t quit Twitter because the crap hasn’t yet clouded the view of what I like about it.”


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About the Author

Chad Blair

Chad Blair is the politics and opinion editor for Civil Beat. You can reach him by email at cblair@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @chadblairCB.


Latest Comments (0)

Twitter originated in dispatch programming. Think taxis and cops. Promptness/urgency and a short description are important. (not discussion, but notification) I can understand twitters utility to a journalist. You journalists need time to research/background an event. The sooner you know, the better your report. I would like you to keep using twitter if you cannot find a satisfactory substitute.

trouble_ahead · 1 month ago

Haven't we been told a gazillion times over the past 10-15 years that Twitter, Facebook, etc., are private forums, and therefore are free to set pretty much whatever conduct rules they please?

Chiquita · 1 month ago

As I recall, most people were not forced to join the Twitter "cesspool" as this article so says. Everyone can walk away from Twitter, cancel their account or just leave it dormant. To those very few of you who are "required" to be on Twitter through your employer, you have the option to defy your employer by quitting Twitter or even simpler, quit your employer.I have over the years tried several social media accounts, many of which I joined and just let stagnate or ultimately quit. Each one had some kind of value when I joined, but over time, some of them just became irrelevant to me. Twitter is an OK platform for me. I follow several entities from which I get notifications, not only in straight news, but also tech, art, music, politics, communities, retail sales, and more. Surely like many platforms there is spam, but for the most part, I have chosen to follow certain entities and individuals including you Chad, just to keep up with stuff. If I like the tweet it may be likely that will "click through" and follow the link from it. Happy Tweeting!

macprohawaii · 1 month ago

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