Enough has been said about the supposed imminent demise of Twitter — which likely isn't imminent at all — but regardless of Twitter the company's slowing growth and questionable financial future, Twitter the communication tool and social network remains a hugely popular forum for political and pop-cultural exchanges. Devoted users of Twitter, however, have complained in the last year that people on there seem to have lost that loving feeling for the network in some ineffable way — and a few years into its zeitgeist moment, some loss of rabid enthusiasm is probably natural.

A new piece in The Atlantic, written by one of the same writers who wrote this "eulogy" for Twitter back in 2014, Robinson Meyer, takes on the ongoing "decay" of the platform, noting that the capital N Network itself may be the company's biggest obstacle to growth. (He also refers to a recent dissertation completed by Canadian academic Bonnie Stewart dealing with how Twitter has recently been used in academic circles.)

He tries to explain, at a basic level, why Instagram seems right now "so much more fun than Twitter," and to get there he ends up analyzing how Twitter has become a victim of its own undue influence.

If Twitter has, to borrow from the structures of 20th century media philosopher Walter J. Ong, caused us to meld and conflate what once were two very different parts of our culture, the spoken word and the written word, maybe more and more people are becoming aware of the problem inherent in that, and are thus censoring their chatter more and more.

In other words, on Twitter, people say things that they think of as ephemeral and chatty. Their utterances are then treated as unequivocal political statements by people outside the conversation. Because there’s a kind of sensationalistic value in interpreting someone’s chattiness in partisan terms, tweets “are taken up as magnum opi to be leapt upon and eviscerated, not only by ideological opponents or threatened employers but by in-network peers.”

Thus after so many off-hand remarks have been taken as well considered statements of unmovable opinion, and then argued over, endlessly retweeted, figuratively spat upon, and retracted, maybe the Twitter populace is just having comment fatigue.

This could be seen as a good thing, a mark of a more mature epoch for Twitter. Maybe it means that people are learning to take a deep breath and not turn everything into a flame war — to reuse a term that was used in the early days of internet chat. But on the other hand, for avid users of Twitter, it means that some spark is gone, the immediacy and excitement of it lately more diminished.

In 2014, Meyer observed that fewer cool people seemed to be "hanging out" on Twitter anymore. They'd moved on. And the way people were interacting had simply become way more chaotic than it once was, in the earlier eras of Twitter (2009-2011). He wrote, along with cowriter Adrienne LaFrance:

Sometimes it helps to picture Twitter as a network of overlapping concentric circles — made bigger by retweets, modified tweets, interactions, faving, hate-faving, subtweeting, snarking, trolling, etc., etc., until they get so big and the network gets so crowded that you can't see the circles themselves anymore.

This gets back to the issue, oft cited alongside Twitter's anemic growth figures, of how some newer users see Twitter as simply too chaotic — a place to get some up-to-the-minute news, maybe, but trying to follow threads and figure out where conversations began can take hours that no one really has, except shut-ins and bored students.

As Twitter adds features in an effort to become more user-friendly, one wonders whether the network's own DNA will ever allow such mutations to thrive. There are still millions of people using Twitter however the hell they want to use it, sharing links, chatting with friends, starfucking, chatting with strangers, fighting with strangers, or just floating thoughts out there for a faceless horde to validate, or respond to, out of loneliness or boredom.

But now I'm waxing a bit too lyrically on the topic, probably. The fact remains that Twitter has changed the way many of us communicate, and consume news. Will something else come along to replace it? Probably. But we're still likely to be talking about the many ways it has changed us for decades to come.

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