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Deactivated my twitter account

When I first set up a twitter account sometime in 2007 I did it just because it was the new thing and I wanted to ensure that I secured my "twitter handle". I never posted anything on it, and then forgot about it. Sometime in 2011 I was having a discussion with my office mate about the service and what, if anything, it was good for. At the time it seemed to be not much more than a way to quickly post a picture of your dinner on the web. I had already been on the web and posting what I thought was more interesting content than that for many years so I had sort of dismissed twitter entirely. My ex-Marine office buddy brought up a couple interesting points though - it was a great way for companies to announce things to their customers, or for famous folks to announce they were going to be in town. It had an immediacy which "blogging" didn't have - and at the time facebook was just a way to post pictures of your friends doing embarrassing things - it wasn't a real time platform. Twitter was real time, we started to see its use at emergencies or uprisings to coordinate "flash mobs" or avoid police barricades. I started to think that maybe it was more useful than I originally thought and decided to start using the service.

Thats when I hit a snag. I had set up my account those years ago using an email address which I no longer controlled. I had set it up with an att.net email account I used to use for work and we had cancelled AT&T when we got cable. I had taken care of all the important accounts but this twitter account wasn't really something I even thought about. Sure, I could just create a new account - but I had taken care to sign up with my domain name and I was damned if I wasn't going to be able to use it now. I contacted twitter even though my quick research suggested they never released accounts unless you had control of the original email address and yep, they denied me saying there was no way for them to prove who I was. As it turned out, I have been using GPG since about 2003 and that old email address was one of the email addresses I had used with it. I had since revoked the att.net email address, but it was still listed in my current key and lived up on a bunch of key servers obviously signed and listed as one of the email addresses associated with my current email address. I decided to try again. This time I signed my email with GPG and asked them to have a higher level tech confirm that while I no longer had that email address, my GPG key was proof that I controlled it at the time the account was set up and to please change the email address to my current one. It took some time, but eventually I got an email from twitter that they had released the account to me under my current email address.

I think if there was one thing that made me continue using twitter it was that someone at twitter had taken the time to actually read what I wrote, understood it, saw that I controlled the domain name and was cool enough to release the account to me. I didn't use it all that much, but I did post stuff from time to time. Usually just text, occassionally a retweet of something cool I saw and rarely a picture. At first I used it as I did other social media platforms like Google+ to just post links back to my blog, as a sort of announcement email to a bunch of people who would probably not appreciate my spamming them in email but have no problem scrolling through hundreds of pages of crap looking for some image that will catch their temporary attention. Twitter obviously became a bigger deal very recently as Trump elevated it to political prominence, but before that it was just a very niche platform where some of the stranger people I know hang out.

The rise of bots changed everything on twitter for me. I could no longer tell if commenters were real people or just a really good automated system. I would read threads and see fights develop over comments that may not have been made by people at all, or people that were possibly being paid to pick fights. Then the nonsense - "Fake News" as it were. So much of what I liked about twitter disappeared as "promoted ads" appeared, and thousands of fake accounts caused mayhem. High profile people with thousands of followers conducting verbal warfare on competitors or the truth itself. But the final straw for twitter (for me) was when I realized that their "terms of service" were being used to shut down certain people while they gave others a total pass for even worse behavior. Twitter is not the public square - the right to free speech on someone else's servers is not among those enumerated in the Constitution, but conversely I do not owe Twitter my patronage or my time. I choose to stop using their platform and have deactivated my account.


I do want to mention that Twitter made it nice and easy to export all of my content and provided it in a nicely formatted archive which I can review easily enough in a browser and it seems to work just as well in Chrome and Firefox. I will miss seeing posts by interesting folks I followed on twitter, but the gems to junk ratio was just too low.