How Many People Are Leaving Twitter?

File 770 usually has a tiny uptick of Twitter followers every month, and I happened to notice that what was tracking +19 a few days ago is now +6. Since I don’t think I did anything new to make people irate during the week I am going to guess it’s not about me and instead reflects the followers who have terminated their Twitter accounts because Elon Musk took over the service.

I’ve seen many Twitter users in the sff community discuss what course they should take once Musk assumed control because at times he has signaled there will be a radical change (for the worse) in content moderation and a weakening of rules enforcement. Some wrote they were thinking about leaving. I read a few announcements by others just before they did terminate their accounts. Their decisions are to some degree a protest, and an obviously more quantifiable one than the subtle changes that will be registered in other users who, although unhappy with developments, keep their accounts but filter more severely what they post, or simply post less.

I wondered if there was data that could be used to infer how many people have taken the step of actually quitting the service.

I laid the subject before John Scalzi and asked if he’d experienced a fluctuation in his large Twitter following this week. He had:

I was at 204.2K this time last week; I’m down to 202k today, so I’ve seen a drop of about 1%. When I noted that, other people also anecdotally noted similar percentage drops. My expectation is that the drops may be skewed by general political affiliation and/or antipathy to Musk, either as a person or with regard to his stated aims for the service. 1% is not a large number overall — I’ve had larger drops before when Twitter cleared out some bot accounts — but the question is whether these drops will stabilize, as they’ve done in the past, or continue as Musk continues to bumble along. If I drop below 200k, and especially if that happens by the end of this month, I will consider that not great news for Twitter’s general direction.

(Thanks to John for permission to quote his reply.)

That people are actually terminating their accounts speaks to their determination to separate themselves from the future of Twitter. Because there are easier alternatives, like just abandoning the account. Think how common that phenomenon is anywhere in social media where accounts are free. Therefore, the wave of departures from Twitter this week indicates an intentional message, and we will watch to see whether it is the start of a trend.

61 thoughts on “How Many People Are Leaving Twitter?

  1. I’m mostly waiting for an alternative to crystalize before I quit (or more like abandon my account). We’ll se if it’ll be Mastodon, Cohost or something else.

  2. Ive found Mastadon to be quite clunky, but will move if necessary. Right now, Ill continue to use twitter, because its the best for my needs – plus, using tweetdeck (without ads) I probably cost Musk money.
    I think he will sooner or later give up and leave twitter be,what remains to be seen howevber, is the stae he leaves twitter in, when he abandons it.

  3. Apparently, I qualify as a heavy Twitter user, which is alarming in many respects.

    I have a feeling, though, that I’m going to have to use something else heavily, sooner or later.

    Sooner, if Must goes through with his idea of monetizing the “blue tick” verification symbol. Musk quite wrongly supposes this is some sort of status thing, for which users will pay a premium. It isn’t, of course, it’s just a sign saying that you can be reasonably confident that the person tweeting is who they say they are. Musk’s plan to sell blue ticks as a subscription service will just be a charter for bad actors; I’m sure there are lots of nitwits out there who’d happily pay $8 a month for the privilege of posting QAnon gibberish under the name of “Barack Obama” or “George Soros”.

    This whole thing is a terrible idea, and people have explained why it’s a terrible idea in simple words and excruciating detail. So I’m worried Musk might implement it anyway, just to show them, because he has all the money and therefore he must be right. In wihich case Twitter is likely to implode pretty quickly.

    But even if Musk avoids this particular piece of stupidity, I think Twitter is still doomed, though it will take longer to shrivel up and die. Musk’s started out by firing a whole raft of Twitter staff, including many of those involved in the tiresome job of content moderation, and this sort of loss will impact the service. Advertisers are already wary of Musk’s Freeze Peach pronouncements, for perfectly sensible reasons – most of them simply don’t want their products associated with a community of bigots yelling racist slurs at each other. With the revenue drying up and half the technical expertise working elsewhere, Twitter is going to look increasingly unappealing to the average user, or the average investor.

    I intend to stick around until the lights go out – it’s quite fascinating to watch a man destroy a $44 billion investment in real time. I mean, the UK government managed to lose £37 billion on the botched track-and-trace system, but that took the combined corruption and incompetence of several government ministers. For Musk to match that, all on his own, is no mean feat.

  4. Heck, I am pretty sure the trolls that harass Patrick Tomlinson, Cat Rambo, and myself will happily pay $8 a month to impersonate us and spew hatred thereby in “our names”

  5. Steven Colbert pointed out this week that the Blue ticks even if implemented will never make Twitter profitable, not will a reasonable subscription price. I forget what year he figured it would be before it turned a profit but it was almost quantum.

    (I also ran online across a comment that Musk had now run afoul of anti-monopoly law. Errrr, really not. Twitter has ten percent of the social market numbers and Meta around seventy percent. Twitter is hugely (sic) among the Right Wing, not among the more sane crowd.)

  6. My wife and I are keeping ours. She wants to keep someone else from taking her account ID and pretending to be her, and I just want to watch a good dumpster fire. I suspect Musk will sell twitter within a year to cut his losses. Otherwise, I’m going to enjoy watching his empire crumble as he has to pay for twitter, and I’m hopeful he’ll have to sell enough of his Tesla stock that he won’t be majority owner anymore.

  7. I’m waiting to see where people seem to be going. Musk is taking a wrecking ball to Twitter, so I’m sure it’s going to become the hellscape he says he doesn’t want.

  8. One of the founders of Dreamwidth had quite a cautionary thread about Cohost, just so folks know.

    https://twitter.com/rahaeli/status/1588764577650692096

    I am getting very annoyed by all the evangelical tweets about how easy Mastodon is.

    It isn’t. It’s a time suck to figure out. I’m not a coder. I do have writing to get done. My attitude is that I shouldn’t need to read 50 different screenshots and beginner’s guides to make a social media platform work without agony. I was up and running on Counter.Social within ten minutes earlier this year. It works well, in spite of massive DDOS attacks that keep happening.

    I don’t have half the columns that the Masto evangelists say I should have. And considering I’ve been online for over thirty years, the fact that even after half an hour of increasing frustration, I still can’t get things rolling and follow people effectively. I can’t afford to dedicate this much time to getting stuff set up.

    One Masto evangelist coyly said “what else do you have to do this weekend?” Um. Let’s see. I still have four short stories to write. Virtual panels to participate on. An elderly horse to manage in the middle of the sort of weather that could still end up with an emergency farm visit call to the vet–when I have to travel to deal with some of my own medical stuff.

    I have never, ever experienced the same degree of difficulty with a social media platform that I’m having with Masto. And I’m an old Usenet hand. The raging evangelical tone of too many people about Masto is also putting me off. It may be a wonderful experience for some, but frankly, I get the same thing with Counter.Social, and with much less work.

    So yes, I’m as grumpy as my old mare is in this weather.

  9. I never understood the allure of Twitter anyway. I can post short messages on Facebook or whoever.

    Terse? I can be terse. Once, on Usenet, I was laconic.

  10. I had a Twitter account for about 2 weeks. Found it a boring waste of time. (No offense meant to those who follow (or used to follow) it enthusiastically. So I stopped following it — Twitter did not appear to notice my defection.

    Now that Musk is in charge, I am not just disinclined, but actively opposed, to renewing it. (We should send Musk to be GOH at Chengdu.)

    For those who are (or were) users — my sympathies. Change is always a pain in the brain. But hang in there. In this age of obsessive media involvement, many alternatives will arise. You’ll find a new and better home.

  11. I’m keeping my Twitter account for now. I rarely post on it, but I do follow a number of people, some of whom have left already. I’m guessing that I will leave soon, too.

    I’ve already set up an account on Tribel, but I’m not that happy with the interface.

  12. Count me as another who is also annoyed by the Mastodon fans telling me how easy it is.

    I was able to figure out Usenet. I managed to figure out how to use eBooks back when you had to download a file and send it to your computer and then put it on your Palm. I got an eBookwise to work. I wrote entire chapters on an AlphaSmart.

    But Mastodon?… Aaaaa!

    On Mastodon, I think I accidentally stumbled into a writer and started to follow her, but I’m not sure how. And I’m not sure if I’ll manage to find her again. Because was she on this server or on that server?

  13. For what it’s worth, I have logged out of my Twitter account and I will not log back in unless I become confident that Twitter has a future. So far, confidence is low.

    (But I’m not deleting my account either, because I can be wrong about the future.)

    Mastodon is clunky and honestly it’s one of the things I like about it. It’s hard to say this without sounding like a elitist snot, but… I’d rather be on a small network with a high concentration of people I’m strongly connected to. Twitter and Facebook and etc aspire to be a universal network that just shows me people I’m strongly connected to — and that plan just doesn’t seem to work out in practice. Time to try something different.

    But I feel the pain of folks who try Mastodon and find it awful. I would like all my friends to join, but so far only some of them have.

    (For what it’s worth, “I don’t have half the columns…” is probably window size. If you run Mastodon in a narrow window, it rearranges into a tabbed format.) (Unless you tried that and it wasn’t the problem, in which case ignore me.)

  14. Staying on Twitter for now. A lot of the appeal is the serendipity of the timeline, and the cross-fertilization of conversations because of how easy it is to retweet and quote-tweet.

    When GEnie closed down, the loss was definitely felt. But that was back when blogging was The Thing To Do, and I was able to sort of replace the socializing on GEnie by following about a dozen blogs daily and several dozen more on a less frequent basis. If Twitter burns, will there be a renaissance in blogging? Dunno.

    (I keep intending to start writing longer pieces on my old Undulant Fever blog again, but… it rarely gets done.) (Also, I think the largest number of views of any blog post on UF was about 1300; on Twitter, while most of my tweets and replies barely hit triple digits, an occasional tweet takes off and gets tens of thousands of views.)

    Hopefully, Twitter survives in reasonably acceptable form and features. But, goddamn, will someone please do an intervention on Musk?

  15. I’m smart, capable, I was generally the person explaining how to use new software to coworkers, because the IT people didn’t speak End User. I’ve been on Genie, Usenet, Fidonet, something that had City in its name…I can learn new systems.

    At least if they’re not intentionally opaque and treating opacity as a virtue.

    I have no use for a space whose users like it because it’s only readily usable by tech geeks.

    Twitter is, or was, easy to use, and easy to find interesting new people to follow.

    I’m a research librarian (retired), not a programming geek. If the price of admission being a programmer, I won’t be there. If the necessity of being a programmer is regarded as a virtue because those are the only people those already on it consider worth talking to, I’m not going to regret it, at all.

  16. I tried Mastodon a while ago and found it unappealing. I’ll give Cohost a go, the stuff about the ToS is pretty weak (i.e. the worst interpretations would be unenforceable).

    Prior to the Musk takeover, there had already been a slower, less visible shift towards Discord as a venue for online interaction. I suspect, that will be winner when the dust has settled even though it is a more fractured experience.

  17. I signed up for Counter Social and like it so far, but I’m not going to do Mastodon, Tribel or any of those others because I don’t have time to fool with them.

    It would be nice if Twitter’s implosion (if that’s what happens) sparks a renewed interest in old-time blogging.

  18. Camestros Felapton: What you say about Discord makes sense. Various fans like to set things up on it, and a number of pros are building communities there. What I don’t like about it would, if I explained, sound like a criticism that applies just as much to Twitter and Facebook. It may be the difference with the latter two is I’m already more networked there to have items of interest pushed to my attention by fellow users. Whether that happens on Discord with sufficient work I don’t know.

  19. Fandom had vibrant social networks decades before the internet. I’m sure we will figure something out. Along that line, I’d like to make a modest proposal:

    A startup, currently in dark mode, offers to combine the engagement and charm of traditional fanzines with the low cost and ease of modern social networking. It’s simple, upload your zine to their secure servers* and they will print and mail your zine for free! In exchange, they will insert ads into your zine, and send you junk mail from shady businesses, conspiracy theorists, and extremist hate groups curated content of interest to you. Think of it as like an APA, only with an algorithm for the OE. Or it’s like Facebook or Twitter, only on paper. It is sure to be a smashing success, so get in early!

    *Servers are in North Korea, home of some of the most advanced hackers in the world, so they are very secure indeed.

  20. Mike Glyer on November 5, 2022 at 2:05 pm said:

    Camestros Felapton: What you say about Discord makes sense. Various fans like to set things up on it, and a number of pros are building communities there. What I don’t like about it would, if I explained, sound like a criticism that applies just as much to Twitter and Facebook.

    It’s much more a world of semi-private groups (although, that’s true of a lot of Facebook) without a way of things being escalated to a more broad venue.

  21. I plan to retain my Twitter account for the foreseeable future, but I’m enough into the Mastodon concept that I am currently the main tech admin for an SF/F focused instance (https://wandering.shop).

    I think that the current implementations of Mastodon are definitely a bit iffy — cross-server follows are a pain in the ass — but they’re getting better all the time, and they have a nice “neighborhood” feel to them that feels like what Twitter used to before it became a mainstream news outlet too.

  22. There’s a really excellent paper by Clay Shirky, based on a keynote address he gave in 2003 called “A Group is Its Own Worst Enemy”, that notes that people keep running into the same problems over and over again and writing them up, never noticing that this has all been done and described before. It seems a safe bet that Musk has not read it.

  23. I set up a Mastodon account back in, oh dear, 2018. Couldn’t grok it, didn’t seem to be anything going on, so I let it alone.
    Brushed it off this morning and, well, it’s suddenly a lot, lot nicer and easier than I remember it being.

    (which, I’ll note, is not the same as being nice. definitely not the same as being easy. But way easier than I’d thought from my last time round!)

    I’m over on wandering.shop , which is where a lot of SFF Twitter seems to be congregating. The eye-opener for me was finding the “local” button, which just shows you a bunch of twoots from everybody on the server — it’s active enough already that there’s a good spread of great people, so I’ve got a fair number of new follows.

    Also handy: Debirdify will also seek out Twitter follows who’ve posted a Mastodon address.

  24. That said, I’m beginning to see a groundswell of opinion amongst other writer sorts that Mastodon is simply not worth the effort it is taking to make it work for them.
    Friday, there was a lot of giddy, pro-Masto tweeting happening. Saturday, however…I kept hearing more and more folks echoing my sentiment–which is, simply:
    “I’m a reasonably experienced social media user and the difficulty it’s taking to get this platform set up is not worth it.”

    It’s somewhat like the difference between those who think the Open/Libre Office programs are wonderful, and those who prefer Word. Some of us don’t want to mess around tinkering under the hood of software, others like nothing better.

  25. Joyce Reynolds-Ward: “That said, I’m beginning to see a groundswell of opinion amongst other writer sorts that Mastodon is simply not worth the effort it is taking to make it work for them.”

    Rather than comparing it to LibreOffice (which I didn’t have much trouble switching over to, and have gotten passably proficient at), perhaps getting things set up on Mastodon might be compared to Scrivener, which I’ve seen quite a few people give up on because of the rather steep learning curve.

  26. Reposted comment from Camestros’ blog:

    Been keeping an eye on the Elon Musk/Twitter (Elwitter?) shenanigans and ¯\_(?)_/¯

    I’m not planning on leaving Twitter (for now) mainly because Twitter works for me in a way none of the alternatives do. Because the other platforms are all (semi-)siloed in some way (by interest, location etc.) & therefore lack Twitter’s quality of serendipitous discovery across diverse interests. The other reason is that the New Zealand Twitter experience is unusual; as a country it behaves more like a community within a community, I suspect because of its small size. Much like the way Twitter works for e.g. SFF people.

    I am currently also on (but not really active as Twitter is my place for now):
    mastadon.nz (because that’s where many New Zealanders are going)
    mastodon.social (had started an account in 2017)
    plurk (on a whim)
    tribel (not sure if it is a viable option having recently seen concerns about privacy)
    Instagram (mainly for food posts)

    I’m either “SoonLeeNZ” or “Soon Lee” but in general, use the same avatar. It started off as an obscure pictorial joke, and I liked it so much I kept it. I’ll provide an explanation on request but be warned: it’s only funny to a very small number of people, maybe as small as one.

  27. @Orange Mike: I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me what Twitter provided, which none of the current options really do, is discoverability. In my professional life, the fact that everyone is on the same network makes it really easy to find people who are doing work in my field(s) whom I might not have known about and then follow them so I know when they have new research published (or just have well-informed opinions.) Discoverability also works the other way for creative types as it makes it easy for audiences of Creator A to find Creator B who does similar work.

    Of course these are all the same features that enable trolling and harassment. Mastodon, from what I can tell, mostly aims to solve the trolling problem by reducing discoverability and downloading content moderation to operators of local instances – not a great compromise in my view, but given that the current management of Twitter seems to have basically said they won’t do content moderation anymore (unless you’re impersonating the owner) I can understand how it would look attractive.

  28. I’m not leaving. I’m not seeing a huge difference in what comes across my feed. Periodically there are some nice surprises.

    I’m not sure if Elon can manage to establish an equitably applied TOS, but it’s nice to see some interest in such a thing.

    The predictions of an unfolding “hellscape” are tiring.

    @Andrew Plotkin

    Mastodon is clunky and honestly it’s one of the things I like about it. It’s hard to say this without sounding like a elitist snot, but… I’d rather be on a small network with a high concentration of people I’m strongly connected to.

    Indeed. That was the attraction of groups via BBS and eventually Usenet back in the day.

    Regards,
    Dann
    “You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.” – Frank Zappa

  29. I have little faith currently, contra your hopes, Dann, that Musk is going to “equitably apply” any TOS, given the events of his ownership to date. There simply is no evidence or history of Musk being actively interested in that.

    Can he break twitter enough that one of the alternatives crystallizes and takes off? That’s the real question. A partially broken cesspool twitter that techies and journalists still use will still dominate, but for me will be like facebook…only engaged with at need and necessity rather than desire.

  30. @Paul Weimer

    It might be a bit of an overstatement to suggest that I have hopes for Elon and Twitter. I think Twitter will be different. Whether those differences are good or bad is yet to be seen.

    He seems to be all over the board when it comes to his desires. A site where every user is treated the same regardless of status, where statements bereft of fact are either properly classified (i.e. satire) or justly contextualized in a way everyone can support, and where no one can threaten violence seems to be a bit of a unicorn.

    IMO, there were elements of Twitter that did need “breaking” as they were overtly partisan. I doubt that Elon has sufficient nuance to only remove the counterproductive elements. I don’t think anyone is that nuanced.

    But the “new Twitter” isn’t a smoking pit of a disaster, IMO. At least, not yet. I’m willing to wait for the impact of any changes to unfold before making any decisions.

    Regards,
    Dann
    M. de Lamartine wrote me one day: “Your doctrine is only the half of my program; you have stopped at liberty; I go on to fraternity.” I answered him: “The second half of your program will destroy the first half.” And, in fact, it is quite impossible for me to separate the word “fraternity” from the word “voluntary.” It is quite impossible for me to conceive of fraternity as legally enforced, without liberty being legally destroyed, and justice being legally trampled underfoot.” – Frederic Bastiat

  31. @Dann–Musk is taking the position that accounts that keep @originalaccountname but temporarily change the display name to “Elon Musk” without explicitly calling themselves parody, are abusive and will be subject to permanent termination without warning.

    Meanwhile, deliberately deceptive accounts like the ones that impersonate Patrick Tomlinson, or John Scalzi, or @muellershewrote, with easily missed misspellings, such as substituting capital i’s for lowercase Ls, in order to post things that will blacken their reputations (Tomlinson) or trade on their reputations to sell crypto (Scalzi), are exciting no such response. Indeed, no response at all. Or denials that there’s a problem with those intentionally deceptive fakes, when they get reported.

    And yes, it’s not a new problem, but it’s gotten noticeably worse in just the past few days. I’m not bailing yet, but I’m far from being as sanguine as you.

  32. @Lis Carey

    I agree. Edgelords come in all persuasions.

    There are other examples. Some account uses a bit of dog whistlage and gets banned while Kanye is still around. Some politician is moderately (on a larger scale) problematic while the President of Iran continues to use his personal account to spew a steady stream of antisemitism.

    If Twitter has standards, then I prefer they be applied equally without respect to station, status, or follower count.

    Respectfully, it may only seem to be getting worse because the people on the receiving end of this behavior (both the bans and the victims of identity theft) are people you like. I’ve noted the trend in the past.

    Regards,
    Dann
    The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom. – Isaac Asimov

  33. @Dann–I’d be fascinated to know in what way John Scalzi, Patrick Tomlinson, and the journalist behind @muellershewrote are “people like me.” Seriously.

    And if you don’t see the raging hypocrisy in Elon dropping the hammer on anyone who criticizes or mocks him, while people who are being actively harassed and threatened can’t get any action at all, not even an admission that there’s a problem I just don’t know what to say.

  34. @Lis Carey

    I said “people you like” rather than “people like you”. (i.e., the frozen Babylon Bee is an account I like, but they are not like me – not at all)

    I also said that I have pointed out precisely this sort of hypocrisy in the past. The people on the short end of the stick at that point were (I am grossly assuming) people/accounts that you probably would not like. The primary difference is that the faceless Twitterati staff were taking those enforcement actions rather than the owner of the company. IMO, it is bad policy, either way.

    (also – @scaIzi – with a capital ‘i’ in lieu of an “l” is suspended)

    Regards,
    Dann
    Coolidge is dead – “How could they tell? – Dorothy Parker

  35. @Lis: He said “people you like” not people like you. But I think you are clearly complaining about the abuse directed at people independent of who they are, so I think Dann’s accusation falls short..

    But at any rate, Elon seems strictly devoted to protecting the reputation of the one person he likes (himself) without any care towards any other user of Twitter at all. It’s not a good look for someone pretending to be evenhanded.

  36. I don’t think getting started with Mastodon needs to be difficult if you go in with the right expectations:

    there is no algorithm to push stuff at you
    you cannot instantly import everyone you followed on Twitter
    you don’t need to master everything at once (or, indeed, ever)
    building your network will be slow at first
    it will never be a 1-to-1 replacement to Twitter

    Mastodon has (IMO) may advantages Twitter never had, such as much better moderation tools to weed out trolls and harassment, and a nicer culture (support for posting different languages, content warnings etc. are an embraced part of posting). But it is more of a place where you chat with people with similar interests rather than a newsfeed that will just push content for you to read and watch.

    Expecting it to just instantly replace Twitter will certainly disappoint you. It is not for everyone, so if you try it and it doesn’t appeal to you, that is not a failure.
    And many Mastodon advocates seem not to understand what people are expecting and are making things worse with their well-meaning but bad advice to newcomers.

    (If anyone is genuinely interested in getting started and seeing what it is about, I’m happy to chat more about it.)

  37. I bet if people wanted, the File770 regulars are a large enough bunch to have a server of their own to chat with each other (and the rest of the world) in a much nicer way than in blog comments, and also be able to find lots of cool content to follow that way. (Of course, “nicer” is up to personal taste, YMMV.)

  38. Early this morning on Twitter, Brian Keene announced that he is bringing back his old forum as an alternative to Twitter for the horror community. The content will all be new (as the old content was sadly lost a while ago). But message boards (moderated ones!) worked well for a reason. 🙂

    People are already kicking the tires. There are one-on-one subforums for many established and rising horror authors and publishers — so everything from a Joe Lansdale and John Langan forums to forums for Cynthia Pelayo, Gabino Iglesias, Gemma Amor, and Hailey Piper.

    Here is a direct link to the forums.

  39. I’m given to understand that the Filer place to be on Mastodon is wandering.shop, but I am utterly failing at the “figuring out how to join it” thing. Anyone got tips?

    I could really have done without Things Happening during the seasonal change, I have no spoons for this moving social media thing.

  40. I didn’t get the word about wandering.shop being The Place for Filers, but I’m also told it doesn’t matter. We can all follow each other anyway. On Mastodon, I’m [email protected]

    I guess Elon is feeling insecure; he posted on Mastodon, in a #TwitterRefugees thread, “Shall I buy this one, too?” Such an insecure spoiled brat.

  41. There are questions being asked about his background: his education claims aren’t adding up, and (though it’s not as serious an issue) he wasn’t working legally when he started work (came in on an F-1 visa, didn’t leave).
    (link goes to Internet Archive, though it’s a Twitter thread)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.