I’m sitting alone in my bedroom, looking down into the glow of my phone. I do a long tap on the home screen and the icons begin their little dance. I dive into my app drawer, searching for the target. Moving it off the home screen wasn’t enough, and now I’m looking at the familiar blue square with a white bird. It dances on my screen for a moment. I hit the X button, confirm my choice, and step outside with my dog. The air has a fading warmth to it, as the last bits of sunlight paint the undersides of the clouds. My brain is as quiet as the breeze rustling the palm trees.

Over the past month, the internet has been ablaze with news about Twitter. At the time of writing, this will have been a month with the new ownership. The layoffs and resignations keep rolling in, as the company recedes to a shell of its former self. It’s like the slow implosion of a star, as it prepares to disappear into the inky void of space.

This decline leaves many Magic: The Gathering fans asking themselves, “If this place goes, where do we go?” Twitter has been a popular gathering point for Magic fans. It’s the flag that stands above the crowded convention center of the internet; the one you congregate at while waiting to go 1-2 in a draft. But turmoil has also put a spotlight on the limitations of Twitter, as well as the many flaws in its design. It changes how we talk to each other, and how we watch the world around us. As we ponder what the future holds, we can take this as an opportunity to demand something different for ourselves. We deserve something better.

An illustration of three people in matching wizard clothes, standing around metal contraptions on a table. The person in the middle is excited to show that their device sparking electricity

Windfall by Pete Venters

What Twitter Got Right

When talking about the future, we can’t ignore the past which led to this point. In Twitter’s case, there have been plenty of things it got right. This doesn’t erase the shortcomings, but it can provide a blueprint on what to look for in a new social network.

One of Twitter’s shining achievements has been its ability to connect people over the internet. Pretty much anyone can reply to anyone else. This leads to many people giving unsolicited advice to the New York Jets, but it also does some good for the world. Twitter has long been utilized as a place where people of marginalized groups can find support and community. This is especially relevant for small towns, where someone might use Twitter to battle feelings of isolation faced in the day-to-day. Online interaction can’t fully erase those challenges, but it can help.

This connectivity has lent itself to the world of hobby communities like ours. If you want to have a conversation about the Modern metagame, you can walk right into the proverbial room and listen to top Magic minds discussing it. The level of accessibility is unparalleled.

For someone looking to create content for Magic, Twitter has been an effective platform for growing their following. Writers, cosplayers, streamers, podcasters, craftspeople, vloggers and more can broadcast their work online, linked on the content highway of #mtg. Twitter has given them a chance to grow their professional networks, as well as attract sponsors to support their creative journey.

But despite the benefits Twitter brings, it comes at a cost.

A person wearing robes is standing in front of a large crowd, gesturing with their arms as they make a speech.

Mass Appeal by Christopher Moeller

Whatever You Want to Say, It’s Too Much

Think of one of your favorite things; whether it’s a dish your grandmother made, or an album in which you found yourself, a memory of scoring the game-winning goal, or the way the sun catches the face of someone you love. How would you describe it in your own words? How would you articulate the feelings it stirs in you? These passions, the things which ignite the fire in us, are what wake us up in the morning and what keep us up at night. It’s likely you’d have no shortage of things to say, because we love bringing others into the joy we’ve had ourselves. 

By the time you’ve reached this line break, we’ll have surpassed two whole tweets. 561 characters, to be exact. 

Movie monologues have a way of highlighting this disparity, between how we listen to the spoken word and how we read on Twitter. If Kenneth Branagh were to deliver Shakespeare’s St. Crispin’s Day speech through a Twitter thread, he’d need seven and a half tweets to say the same. Denzel Washington’s famous lines in Remember the Titans, spoken on a foggy meadow in Gettysburg, would need nearly three tweets of space. Even the last line of The Breakfast Club, ringing in the hearts of countless Gen X’ers, steamrolls over the 280-character limit. 

Twitter forces us to take a hammer and chisel to communication. We take our thoughts and continually chip away at them, until they can be packaged up into neat little zingers to be tossed across the internet. It’s survival of the most clever; a never ending race to say more with less. 

A large dinner party has erupted into violence. One diner is stabbing another with a fork. One person is swinging a candelabra. People are crawling over the floor, fighting underneath tables and swinging chairs in the air

Disrupt Decorum by Sidharth Chaturvedi

But First, Let Me Clarify

When we boil our thoughts down to the very core, we lose nuance along the way. It allows people to exploit apparent gaps in what we say. Because we didn’t take time to recognize every single piece of context, it must mean we were being thoughtless towards others, right? This leads to situations like the person who received hate for tweeting about the nice mornings they spend with their husband. Open replies allow just about anyone to center themselves in a thought which wasn’t previously about them. 

This behavior leads some to provide excessive clarification in things they say online. We can see this behavior manifest itself in all forms of communication, whether it be spoken or written. But despite our best intentions to make ourselves clear, it’s never airtight. Someone can always find something to pluck out and magnify.

Personally, I’ve caught myself following these habits when writing. I’ll be mid-paragraph in a draft, making a point about something Magic-related, and a vision of Twitter will pop into my head. It’ll be the one person who comes after me for not correctly explaining something the way they like it. It’ll be the snappy reply used to generalize my 1,500-word piece. The weight hangs over my head, waiting to come down and land on a mistake I made. Instead of someone pointing out an aspect they like, my brain will fixate on the dread of someone highlighting the first thing my article missed. There are never enough clarifications to please everyone, and it’s time to stop trying.

A wizard carefully studies a vase in front of them. There’s a floating ring around the vase, causing it to transform into a misty version of itself

Paradoxical Outcome by Nils Hamm

We Don’t Have A Twitter Replacement Yet, But What Might It Look Like?

As the curtains appear to close around Twitter, Magic fans scramble to look at other options. Some mentioned Instagram, a former photo app now grappling with an identity crisis as it tries to mimic TikTok. Some brought up Mastadon, a clunky alternative which spawned articles on how to even navigate it. Hive is an apparent successor, but is held up by a team smaller than even the tiniest Twitter night shift. Discord is accessible, but has splintered users across countless servers and disorganized conversations.

When we look at what could replace Twitter, it begs the question, “Do we need to fill Twitter’s shoes? Or, can we do better than this?” For the Magic community, we can do better, and we should ask for it.

Magic is a rich, complex game filled with compelling narratives and mechanics. It’s far too intricate, too beautiful, to be compartmentalized inside Twitter. But not only is the game too broad for 280 characters, the people deserve more freedom too. We should be able to interact online with more creative latitude, similar to the ways in which Magic allows. 

My ideal replacement would be a blend of things that build upon the success of Twitter, while addressing the limitations. It would have easily searchable pages like Reddit, but have more natural structure to how people communicate. More flowing conversation, less email-like posts tied together. It would be a place where someone could share a longer thought, while allowing others to collapse the text if they’re not interested. Finally, it would protect its users more than Twitter does. Twitter users can be easily targeted by mobs of people, often through a quote tweet, which can cause harassment to happen in an instant. This is especially dangerous for members of marginalized groups online. If users feel safer, they’re more likely to engage with a social media platform. We as a community can shout down hatred and bigotry, but it helps to have assistance from managers of the platforms we use.

A person sits on rocks beneath a massive tree, looking up into the branches. Their gaze traces the trunk of the tree up into the sky, and the leaves are in the full bloom of summer.

Moment’s Peace by Rebecca Guay

Is it Twitter, or Social Media as a Whole?

It’s worth recognizing some of my criticisms can be applied to social media itself. Negativity can be found anywhere on the internet, especially when done behind the veil of anonymity. Twitter was never going to solve this human behavior. It would be unrealistic to expect a replacement to do so. But, what we can do is demand more out of what we use to interact online. We’ll never be able to fully erase hatred, but with the right steps in a platform’s philosophy, we can further diminish it.

If Twitter were to shrivel up and disappear, it would undoubtedly hurt a lot of people. Countless creatives and freelancers have built careers off the platform. It’s an indispensable tool for large events, providing attendees with updates on the fly. It’s been a gathering point for communities large and small, giving people some human connection in a time of isolation. The past few weeks highlight just how quickly it all can be thrown away. Yet, the departure of Twitter could bring something better, healthier for us to use with each other. It can more closely mirror how we interact with other humans, instead of creating an economy of undercooked, bite-sized thoughts to binge. 

We’ve done so much work to build the Magic community into something better than how we found it. It has blossomed into something far more complex, far more beautiful than Twitter can display. It’s time for a social media platform which celebrates the people on it, instead of limiting them. We deserve it.

Travis Norman (he/him) is a writer and photographer from the wooded foothills of New York, currently living in South Carolina. He plays nearly every Magic format, but has a special love for Legacy, Premodern, and Canadian Highlander. He has loved Magic since Starter 1999, but he champions having a healthy mental and financial relationship with the game. When not playing games, he enjoys cycling, tea, and dog parks. You can follow his exploits here on Instagram.

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