Strong Black Tea: On Exodus

Strong Black Tea: On Exodus
Photo by Alex Hawthorne / Unsplash

This is going to be a strong and maybe bitter one, so maybe we'll get right to the cup as soon as we can—but thank you all again for joining me here! I hope that you'll consider sharing this newsletter with folks so I can reach more people and continue to offer you this content for free! I also hope you'll consider supporting my content in other ways!

Thank you!

And The People of Twitter Journeyed

I am sending you this missive, as many of your other newsletters may be, from a lifeboat.

For the last few weeks, all social media could dedicate its breath to is the slow shambling zombie-walk of Twitter as a platform. This is not the first time that Twitter, or our faith in it, has deteriorated, or the first time that we sought new homes for our communities (any of my SFF family remember Ello? it seems to be doing well since we continued our exile...), and it already won't be our last.

As we speak, several new platforms have gathered many creative communities' interest. Cohost seems a pretty decent place if you're into returning to long-form blogging, but is currently struggling to draft a trustworthy Terms of Use. Mastodon has returned in the public consciousness just in time for its in-house mobile app to take primetime, and people seem to be at least interested if not outright excited by the anti-virality of it all, but federated timeline overload, privacy issues, and massive moderation problems in larger instances are souring the experience for most—not to mention that the aforementioned anti-virality is challenging for creators who relied on social media to promote work to outside their industry professional circles. New social media app Hive has gotten some traction after apparently flying under the radar for a few years, and has a suite of features that make it palatable to folks who want the best of Twitter, Instagram, and question-and-answer social media platforms like ASKfm, but is also in the midst of its own Terms of Use issues, and for many users is just not offering an entertaining experience. There's even Project Mushroom, which is offering a more radical alternative to the Mastodon experience but hasn't shown any proofs of concept so far beyond their intentions. Hell, in this free-for-all, folks are turning back to Tumblr after just under a month of speculation about whether they would re-permit NSFW content on the site.

It's like our lifeboats are stranded in the Atlantic, and each of the islands nearby look big enough to house and feed us all,

but each of those islands also look like they're on fire.

But we'd also like to not drown or catch frostbite. (Or, well, given how much hell social media can be already, especially if you're marginalised, maybe not going back is preferred.)

Everyone keeps trying to be poetic about this experience—what we're witnessing is an 'exodus' from Twitter. And, I mean, I'm a poet, so I am in love with the sentiment—it was home, and now it isn't, and that makes us digital nomads in search of a new place we can put down roots.

Some of us need social media in order to fulfill our purpose, find joy in a digital world, or even survive—if you're an educator, journalist, or social activist, a solid and well-populated social media platform is how you gain and disseminate public information in real time. If you're a freelance artist, social media is how you get jobs and sell your wares—and especially if you're, for instance, an early-career fiction writer or illustrator, without the ability to do so you run the risk of starving, even. The combination of social media sharing and the crowdfunding economy has made it possible for people in dire financial straits to make it through, such that without the ability to proliferate a campaign for debt or health concerns, many people will go broke, or worse. Twitter may have been a very bumpy highway (with some evil tollbooths and some weird roadside attractions), but it was a highway; right now, we're kinda hoping the side streets will tide us over until we get home.

In the midst of the poetry of it all, I can't help but think of exodus—I mean the capital-E Book of Exodus, to be sure.

I am no Biblical scholar (nor a believer, to be frank), so I am loathe to make spiritual pronouncements, but one of the most poignant things about the Book of Exodus is that it is the beginning of the story of why and how the Israelites flee slavery in Egypt and venture out into the desert to find the land they have been promised by God... but they don't get there in Exodus. Moses, the ostensible hero of the story, doesn't even get to see his people get there before he passes.

Exodus is, as the jokes go, a story about the journey, not the destination.

Maybe this is really our exodus—that is, that right now is the period through which we are actually supposed to venture into the desert. Maybe all of this—Cohost, Mastodon, Hive, our newsletters and Discord servers and more—is actually more desert. Maybe, as the Israelites have to swear their faithfulness to God, we have to swear what we actually want out of social media—not just the bells and whistles, but what kinds of safety and community and utility we actually want and need from a social media platform, and that we will only swear perfect fealty to the team that can actually offer it and not just the handful of startup leaders who will pay lip service to those ideals.

I don't know what that means yet. Maybe one of these platforms will clean up its act in time to be a revolutionary new social media experience, and then we never have to go out from the land of wherever we settle next. Hell, maybe this new place will be one where Black women and trans people don't get harassed with death threats ever at all? ... One can dream, right?

But hopefully the journey is teaching us something. Anything at all.

Tasting Notes

If you're in the mood to consume an entire 14-minute video about social media and the pharaoh responsible for our exile in the first place, there is a particularly good video by Wisecrack from six months ago that has a lot of decent things to say about media control and their inherent politics (including the fact that before this point, Twitter's shareholders weren't exactly our allies either):

A reminder that this newsletter, as well as the rest of my writing and game design work, thrives with your support. My Patreon is where you can find snippets of new TTRPG projects, exclusive writing drafts, and more:

An Aside

Just as an aside, I want to geek out about the fact that the Privy Council has ruled that ex-FIFA executive Jack Warner can indeed be extradited to the US to face corruption charges, and I just think it's hilarious that it was so decided the Thursday before the World Cup (which is still evil) began in earnest in Qatar (which is still problematic). Despite all the latter things still existing, there is some minor schadenfreude still to be milked from the scene. I share this cup with you all.

You can watch the coverage of the judgment via TV6 News here.

Also, do you remember this gem from back in 2015 when Warner was first indicted? (Here's hoping John Oliver never does that accent again, for all of our sakes.)

Today's Tunes

I don't have much to say about tonight's tunes other than simply, "I totally missed that ATARASHI GAKKO dropped a Halloween tune and I hate that I missed it, because this goes hard".

The Leaves

So that’s all for today.

A reminder that you can help keep this newsletter and the rest of my work afloat by supporting me on Patreon, buying me a coffee on Ko-fi or sending a donation via PayPal, or by buying one of my small game projects over on Itch!

Also, I wrote an essay in Interstellar Flight Magazine last weekend. It's about the beloved NBC primetime sci-fi series Timeless, but also about gun violence, racism, and whether altering the future is something we can do in the real world. I won't spoil any of it, but if you haven't read it, I hope that you will, and consider sharing it as well.

No questions this time, but I will let you know that I am in fact in the desert—that is, that I am on Cohost, on Mastodon, on Tumblr, and on Hive Social @therisingtithes—so if you're still walking like we all are, feel free to join me at any of these places you also are. Here's hoping we see the promised land sooner rather than later.

Until next time, I hope you enjoyed the tea!