Remembering. And Asking “What Next?”

Imagine if Capitalism was just switched off one day. If the government just decided to admit that money isn’t real and the whole thing was being called off. Debts written off, no more payday, Absolute Jubilee. Landlords wouldn’t need to suck the lifeblood out of tenants any more because their own upholstered lives wouldn’t be dependent on wealth. Supermarkets wouldn’t charge anymore and could just become food distribution centres, under the benign new management of community organisers. We could all escape our bullshit jobs and do nice things (valuable cultural things, important altruistic things) for no pay instead.

Obviously this will never ever happen and, if it did, all sorts of forgotten and ignored problems would scuttle out of the cracks. It was an idle fantasy arrived at today while thinking about… Twitter again. Sorry.

I don’t think Twitter is really going to disappear, though lots of people seem to. And if it does go, what will people do when they find that they’re finally free?

Freedom from social media as we know it could really be the consequence, I think. Twitter is probably the last of the true mega-platforms, isn’t it? TikTok has more users but it seems less infrastructurally important because, unlike Twitter, it’s just a bit of fun. Nobody’s pestering me to join TikTok and nobody thinks I’m eccentric or a Luddite for not being on it. Shops don’t tend to have TikTok emblems in their windows like they do for Facebook and Twitter. Nobody says “oh, you have to be on TikTok!” It doesn’t seem to have the “necessary evil” strongarm nudge power of Facebook and Twitter. With ease, you can ignore it.

It seems that, were Twitter to shut down or vanish behind a paywall, you could get away with having absolutely no social media in your life at all. Nobody would expect it.

So what will happen when the age of “necessary evil” social media, of Big Social to coin an obnoxious phrase, is over? To start with, journalists might have to re-learn some old tricks; to actually ask penetrating questions instead of scraping Twitter for secondhand hot takes.

Many will continue in their “pivot to video” by embracing TikTok and whatever comes (or has come, probably) after it. But it will be diminishing returns as these platforms become sillier and less essential.

Others will return to a period of Internet time before the algorithms took over: platforms called dreamwidth and cohost are being mentioned and they look just like Livejournal. That would be nice. I still believe that the Internet is not the problem, only that the mega-platforms are damaging free will.

And maybe we can regress en masse even further to pre-Internet ideas. I for one am hoping to set up a small publishing press (real paper!) with a friend next year. New Escapologist might be back in paper too. Move over bits, atoms are back!

The death of Twitter obviously wouldn’t be as big as the death of money but there would be a similar sense of walking out into freedom again (a freedom that was there all along, really), of squinting in the sunlight and feeling its warmth on your skin (but was it always so warm?), of remembering, and asking “what next?”

Get yer atoms here, missus: treat yourself to a copy of The Good Life for Wage Slaves.


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

13 Responses to “Remembering. And Asking “What Next?””

  1. Radhika says:

    I was banned from Twitter right before Covid (it’s an infamous event amongst my friends because I had a slightly significant number of followers) and all the feelings you describe happened to me. I hope it happens to everyone.

    I consider Instagram to still be that essential bit. LinkedIn definitely is. I’m definitely an odd one out for not being on Instagram, and I caved into LinkedIn but use it as an online resume.

  2. For what it’s worth, Jaron Lanier (whose arguments against social media as a Silicon Valley insider resonate very well to me) lets LinkedIn off the hook. If I remember correctly, he says LinedkIn doesn’t abuse or sell the data of its users and that, unlike other platforms, it’s actually useful in real life as it helps people looking for work to find it.

  3. Cat says:

    Musk’s most recently reported demand of his (remaining) employees to which they must confirm agreement or receive 3 months of severance pay…

    “Going forward, to build a breakthrough Twitter 2.0 and succeed in an increasingly competitive world, we will need to be extremely hardcore. This will mean working long hours at high intensity. Only exceptional performance will constitute a passing grade,” Musk wrote.

    It would be funny if it weren’t so appalling. I do hope it is just the latest (and not last) tarnishment of the brand that ultimately leads to its downfall.

  4. We’re through the looking glass when someone’s boss uses the phrase “extremely hardcore.” So embarrassing. But yeah, just another boss demanding unremunerated extra graft. And this is our Tony Stark? What a loser he is.

  5. Alastair says:

    Robert, Re. your take on LinkedIn and Jaron Lanier. I’m a big fan of his and also read his books but I think he’s wrong on LinkedIn. Sure it can help people find work, but it’s designed to make you feed it with lots of psychological tricks.

    Things like “x people have looked at your profile” which is trying to make you pay for Linkedin Plus or whatever it’s called. Trying to get you to “complete your profile” by nagging. And have you ever tried to find how to quit it?

    It also encourages shallow correspondance and lazy people connecting and spamming you with whatever service they think you should buy.

    All a bit “grind culture” shallow and non-human. Which the old web and blogs seemed to have, and why I hope they’ll have a resurgence.

  6. Murry says:

    I’m basically social media free, but Reddit has unfortunately snared me it is infinite scroll trap. I can defend it – there are some genuinely interesting and useful subreddits. I use r/UKpolitics to engage in political discussion with likeminded people, and there are lot of great guitar and music subs (A shout out to r/simpleliving too for those of us interesting in hearing about other people’s escapes).

    However there is a lot of rubbish there and, like other media platforms, it amplifies bad news. I had a weird bout of anxiety during Covid, something I’ve never had before, but I realise it started soon after I started scrolling Reddit for hours.

    I fear social media will evolve like Capitalism, to keep us enthralled in new and ingenious ways. Maybe we could design some rules for healthy social media engagement, so we don’t all go mad.

  7. Hey Alastair. My experience of LinkedIn is limited but even I see what you mean. I noticed a tendency to upsell (either service spam or upgrade to premium) at least and I take your word on the rest of it. I might reframe your comment as a letter to the editor or something in the main blog because it’s a useful addendum to what we’ve been talking about here and not many people actually see these comments.

  8. Ah, that’s a shame to hear. I’d kinda been hoping that Reddit was a better social media platform; it almost looks Livejournal-ish inasmuch as it allows for longer form blogging plus community. I’m not on Reddit and never have been but Google searches often lead me to useful information there. Maybe that should be an alarm bell inasmuch as it’s gobbling up information from the crowd and selling it back to the world through search engines? I still think forums, blogs and mailing lists are the future for intelligent online chat (or maybe that’s just dumb hope on my part). If Twitter in any way “goes” I do think that’ll be the end of it for a lot of people.

  9. Alastair says:

    Please do reframe my comment as a letter to the editor. I’d rather quite enjoy the bragging rights of being part of New Escapologist!

  10. Thanks! Will do. I’ve already copied the text over and I’ll post it sometime next week.

  11. Radhika says:

    Further re: LinkedIn. I think Alastair is right. I remember when I first joined the “feed” wasn’t too active, but it is now. I’m trying to stop randomly checking it and seeing weird hustle culture posts, job announcements, job leaving announcements, etc.. The site not only encourages you to fill out your profile and connect with random people, it also encourages you to post “viral” posts (Twitter-style) to get more views on your profile and therefore to get you more job opportunities. This is a good reminder to log out… I don’t like it.

    Re: Reddit. Reddit is definitely social media in my opinion. There’s an inevitability in it because most iterations of Web 2.0 forums started by random people have now moved to Reddit. The problem is, in Web 2.0 we were only active on a few forums with a couple thousand very active members. I barely use it and I’m subscribed to I think, 30… I log in once every few months because it’s the most active “forum” for a rare disease I have. I just logged in to check and in between posts about Epicureanism, my disease, and not buying stuff, it’s constantly encouraging me to subscribe to more and more and more subreddits.

  12. Yeah, okay, so LinkedIn sucks. I’m convinced. I don’t use Reddit myself but what exactly are you saying is the problem with it? Information overload/a will to keep you hooked?

  13. Radhika says:

    Yep, basically. It pushes infinite information overload via new subreddits and the itch to check your notifications for “karma” (upvotes) or new replies. Like Twitter, that itch inevitably encourages controversial content that gets more engagement.

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