I’ve probably spent too much time on Twitter the last few years — it’s the only social media account I still have, but even so. While the people on the platform have been invaluable, and I won’t abandon it altogether, I plan to post more of my thoughts and observations on my Substacks and personal sites. Part of the reason is to time-restrict my information diet, so to speak, but also because I don’t think Twitter has lived up to its promise as a public square.
The ideologically-driven censorship and preposterous “disinformation” prevention campaigns are bad enough, but I find myself self-censoring too. Am I using restraint because I don’t want to inundate people with 25 tweets per day, is it because I know many of the people follow me mostly for sports content or is it because I’m worried what my audience will think if I post something the corporate media has convinced them is “right wing” or a “conspiracy theory?”
Make no mistake, I have posted many, many things for which people have labeled me those things or worse, but that was also in the context of lockdowns and vaccine mandates where I felt more urgency to speak up. Now that things have calmed down slightly — at least until they justify new incursions on your civil rights due to climate change — I find myself vaguely reluctant to express certain sentiments for the reasons above.
To remedy that, I’ve decided to post tweets in my own private square of sorts, on my web site chrisliss.com. I chose my site instead of Substack because I very much doubt anyone wants four emails a day from me, each containing 50 words of text. And I can post to my heart’s content, without concern about inundating anyone’s feed or inbox. If you want to click over and see my “uncensored tweets” 10 times per day, you can. If you’re not interested, you won’t even know they exist.
It’s odd I feel the need to do this. Thirteen years on a micro-blogging platform has apparently trained my mind to think not only in long-form essays, but also short-form posts. Even as the platform that trained me no longer serves the purpose it did, the creative impetus is still there. Why squander a 180-character observation that’s compelling to you just because the venue or certain parts of your audience might be uninterested? Why work for free to build Twitter’s content offerings when the site seems captured by an ideology (censorship, pro-pharmaceutical conglomerates, anti-civil liberties) you find pernicious?
In any event, everyone receiving this Substack has already provided me with a way to reach them without a middleman, but I wanted to let you know how to find my shorter-form thoughts in case you’re interested.
Finally, a thought that occurred to me (and I’m probably not the only one thinking it) is it shouldn’t be that hard to disintermediate not only Twitter, but all the current third-party social media platforms. I realize there have been a lot of Twitter-type startups that have tried to compete and largely failed, some organically and some due to foul play (e.g., Apple removing Parler from its App store.) But I don’t think getting all the people who agree with your views to a parallel platform is a good solution for obvious reasons, and in any event, it’s hard to create the necessary network effect when you’re aiming for a particular ideological niche.
Instead, what if everyone hosted his own feed on a wholly owned URL and made his posts available to any platform (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) as well as via a generic (RSS?) feed to which anyone could subscribe at any time. That way every post you made would show up on every social media outlet to which you belonged as well as on your personal site. As more people used this particular software, sending their posts everywhere they wanted simultaneously, mining the existing network effects of every social media site, yet owning the content personally and offering a direct, middleman-free feed also, eventually, people who were fed up with Twitter or Facebook would just follow my chrisliss.com feed instead of my Twitter one. Because, in the end, it’s not Twitter you care about, but the people on Twitter. Once you have access to the same network directly, the middleman is largely superfluous.
Now, I am not doing that exactly — yet. I’m just taking the feed back to my site, and posting only small portions on Twitter. But it occurred to me you could solve the social media/big tech censorship problem by using their networks to route around them eventually.
This is a topic for another post, but it’s an example of how when we outsource something for convenience (connecting with the world via well-designed, user-friendly, third party social media platforms) we pay a cost. Sometimes that cost is worthwhile (paying an electrician to wire your home properly) and sometimes it’s not (relying on industrial food processing conglomerates to feed your family.) But the calculation we make changes with technological development too. It’s now easier to homeschool for example, if you prefer not to outsource education. It’s even possible to pay people, middleman-free, with bitcoin rather than writing a bank check (or relying on Paypal) if you’re willing to custody your own funds.
Communicating with the world is no different. In 2007, it was hard to run your own newsletter, to take payments, to transmit information over a wide network. But it’s easier now and will only get more so. The barrier to starting your own site or Substack is almost zero, the value proposition of the big tech social media sites is shrinking, and that would be so even if they were model citizens with respect to free speech and privacy which they are not.
I’m not a tech person, so it won’t be me who builds the disintermediating social media meta app. But it’s overdue, and I’m here for it.
Incidentally, one downside of the low barrier to building your own sites and media is I have too many in different places. To make it easier, I’ve complied a master list of links to everything I do. Note Real Man Sports is a pay Substack, and while I mentioned this on the podcast a few times, I should probably repeat it here: anyone who has contributed to realmanwould.com, chrisliss.com or chrisliss.substack.com can get free time on Real Man Sports if you’re interested. Please let me know if that’s the case.
Now you see why I need that master list of links.