After all, as the Network Contagion Research Institute, which tracks online trends, pointed out, there was 500 % increase in racial slurs in tweets in the hours after Musk took over (and fired half of Twitter’s workforce). Bot Sentinel, which uses machine learning to analyse trends, indicated that 1 million users deactivated their Twitter accounts between October 27 and November 1. Among those who’ve flown the nest are supermodel Gigi Hadid, Oscar-winning actor Whoopi Goldberg, comic-book creator Erik Larsen, and retired wrestler Mick Foley.
Most users have been spooked by Twitter’s swift drop in content moderation, the spike in aggressive tweets, and the reinstating of the handles of Donald Trump and Kanye West , and for anti-Semitism. Twitter has also lost 100 of its top advertisers.
But where does one roost?
For now, nothing comes close to Twitter’s real-time buzz. Instagram is more about visual posts. Reddit is more of a modern-day discussion forum. LinkedIn is for professional connections (and showcasing epiphanies achieved while peeling a soft-boiled egg, for instance). Facebook is more about…well, who knows what Facebook is trying to do these days?
Those who leave have several decisions to make. Do they delete all their tweets before exiting? Or download account data, including all tweets, in an HTML format file and fly off with their archive? Twitter has now made the latter a bit trickier. People will need to punch in several verification codes before proceeding.
For those who choose to purge, automated tweet deletion services, such as Semiphemeral, Tweet Delete and TweetEraser can help. Sign in with your Twitter account, and multiple options await: you can delete tweets older than 30 days, manually select tweets, delete old direct messages and more. Choose what works best for you. You may have to pay a premium subscription fee if you want more than these basic free services. Tweet Delete, for instance, charges $14.99 for unlimited tweet deletes.
Meta might seem like it has alternatives. But none that can directly replace Twitter. You’d be scattering your online presence across Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. None offer real-time updates. But it can be a useful way to keep up with friends and family despite the barrage of advertising and curated content.
Google? Nothing to see there. The company shuttered its last social media product, Google+, in early 2019 and there is no word if it is contemplating another attempt in this space.
If enough of your friends are willing to make the switch, Hive Social could provide familiar surroundings. Think of the three-year-old platform as a mix of the Twitter timeline, a bit of Instagram’s Discover feature, with a dollop of Facebook Messenger. It has a long way to go, in terms of reach. And the momentum seems to be slow building. On November 18, Hive Social reported a server issue due to the sudden rush from new sign-ups – 110,000 new users in just one day.
With Post, you’ll need patience. Founder Noam Bardin is trying to replicate the Twitter experience, with a few tweaks. Post will not limit characters per update. And in addition to regular social media posts, micro-paywalls will allow access to premium articles and content by publishers on the platform. You can pay for individual articles from different news providers, and for larger subscriptions too. The catch: Users get activated in batches; app updates happen in parallel too. The waitlist is currently 1,25,000 and counting.
Heard of Mastodon? Of course, who hasn’t. It’s the decentralised answer to Twitter. So instead of a single platform, you choose to join topic- and interest-based servers (a more evolved version of chatrooms from all those years ago). What you post on Mastodon is called a “toot”. And that’s up to 500 characters per toot. Venture capitalist Benedict Evans sums up the experience in a tweet, “Suggesting Mastodon as an alternative to Twitter is like suggesting Linux as an alternative to Windows.” He’s referencing the idea that Linux software lacks the critical elements and ease of use that made Windows popular outside the tech community. But that hasn’t stopped people from stopping by. Mastodon chief executive Eugen Rochko confirms the platform has crossed 1.6 million monthly active users. That’s three times what it was around October 27, when Musk took over.
Discord, another social media platform, has no concept of “follow”. Instead, users must join theme- and subject-based servers. It can be quite handy if you have enough interest to painstakingly navigate your way around them all. There are more than 150 million monthly active users, according to data by Cloudwards research. Beyond the social network features, there are the options for voice, video, and text chat too.
Which brings us to the Thatcherian truth: There is no alternative. Or, to be exact, there are alternatives, but none seem quite right – at least, not yet. Post and Hive Social are well placed, as they try to keep it simple – real-time social media posts, with fun stuff such as premium content, as a bonus. It will take the better part of the next 12 months for any of these up-and-coming platforms to scale up to Twitter’s size. It may become easier, as more users join. And Meta or Google might just spring a surprise in the meantime.