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Libraries, it’s time to quit Twitter. For real.

I never imagined that I would be writing that headline. I have been on Twitter/X since 2007. I have used it not only regularly, but heavily. It has been instrumental for professional connections and communication for me. I’ve maintained accounts not just for myself, but for several other institutions, businesses and organizations. While parts of Twitter/X have always been less than ideal, I had the luxury of living inside significant filter bubbles.

Let me be honest: I am thoroughly grieving the loss of this platform. I hung on until very recently, in the desperate hope of something better. Clinging to a one-sided relationship is toxic and it was time for me to get out. For libraries, this is probably even more important. Here’s why.

  • Twitter/X is just one example of the trend to start monetizing social media. All the major platforms are looking at this and/or testing it already. The question you need to be asking is: “Is our reach/potential reach large enough to warrant paying for it?” Spoiler alert: probably not. NPR left Twitter and lost only 1% of its traffic. Libraries need to be looking at the ROI of Twitter as a viable channel. There are going to be very few instances where it’s worth a library’s time at this point.
  • So many other people, organizations and businesses have already left, taking much of the Twitter population with them. Anecdotally, I have subscribed to a free service for years which tells me who has stopped following me. The number of deactivated accounts has easily tripled in the past few months. If your library already has difficulties capturing attention there, think about how much harder it’s going to be going forward.
  • As libraries, we think a great deal about how our communities perceive us. Do you want your organization to be associated with what Twitter/X is now? Think hard about this. Libraries exist, in part, to help fight misinformation. Twitter/X is only adding fuel to this fire that we work so hard to put out. And that doesn’t even address the other types of problematic content.
  • Just because your library has had an account for ages doesn’t mean it has to keep maintaining it. Social media has always been ephemeral. It’s time to let go. (That doesn’t mean to delete, just deactivate. Don’t let someone grab your library’s namespace.)

All of this likely begs the question of “If we leave, where do we go?”  You’re not going to like my answer.

The current reality is that there is no centralized platform that takes the place of Twitter. Yes, there are other services: Mastadon, Blue Sky, Threads, and probably a few others. One of the things Twitter did so well was pull communities together, in one place. There is no new “one place.” We’re all scattered now, with no promising single, digital location. We keep hoping; many of us jumping on each new service as it comes out, only to discover it’s not really Twitter-As-It-Used-To-Be.

Maybe the dust will settle, and something promising will emerge from the fray. Meanwhile, it’s time to focus on other social media channels and to say goodbye to what was once a great platform, for the sake of our libraries