Twitter is going through big changes. For many loyal users of the 16-year-old site, Elon Musk’s recent takeover and subsequent management decisions are a sign it’s time to use Twitter less or leave it altogether.
The fast-moving feed of news, commentary and arguments has already experienced issues, including a rise in hate speech and a fumbled roll out of a new verification system. Massive job cuts and Musk’s own position on free speech could lead to more widespread harassment and misinformation. Musk also allowed former president Donald Trump back on the site along with other controversial banned accounts.
A number of companies are scrambling to fill the potential void. After the sale closed, a surge of people said they were moving to Mastodon, an open-source alternative that has tried to catch on as a less toxic Twitter for years. Mastodon gained 22,139 new accounts this past week and 10,801 in the day after Musk took over, said Mastodon chief executive Eugen Rochko. The site now says it has more than 2 million monthly active users, while Twitter most recently reported 237.8 million daily active users.
Other smaller start-ups are eager to push their own untested apps as the next alternative to Twitter, including Hive, CounterSocial, Post.News and Koo.
There is no one exact copy or one app that will hit all the same spots. Even if an option looks and acts similar to Twitter, it won’t take off unless it can replicate the same sprawling network of people that Twitter spent over a decade creating. As with Facebook, ditching Twitter can mean scattering your online presence across multiple other apps. Leaving Twitter could also mean cutting things out of your online life permanently, like late-night doomscrolling or arguing with strangers online for sport. And maybe, just maybe, that’s okay.
Here are the options you can consider.
Privacy Reset: A guide to the important settings you should change now
When choosing new social networks or apps to test out, don’t blindly trust smaller companies with your data or personal information. Remember that larger alternatives like Facebook and TikTok come with their own ethical and privacy issues. To stay safe, avoid giving apps access to sensitive information like your contacts (they will ask repeatedly). Check all of your privacy settings, both in the app on your smartphone’s settings. Sign up with an alias email address and use a strong password and multi-factor authentication when you can.
For many users, Twitter is the place they see the news happening in real time. Instead, put a news aggregation app on the homepage of your phone, like Apple’s News app or Google News. Both include a wide selection of outlets and local news sources, which can be the first to report on events in their areas like shootings or disasters. Switching to traditional news outlets has the added bonus of decreasing the risk of misinformation, which can spread on Twitter during breaking news events.
If you prefer to make your own list of outlets, like you do on Twitter, try an RSS reader. Use an app like Feedly, Newsify or Inoreader. If you specifically enjoy the messy arguments over news stories between regular Twitter patrons, any news publication’s comment section should fill that void.
One of the delights of Twitter is that you can read the thoughts of fascinating people free. Academics, law experts, reporters, comics, and people who have devoted their life to niche topics are all sharing their brilliance in an accessible way. Luckily, many are posting those same thoughts, in more depth, other places.
Sign up for newsletters. Many big Twitter personalities have longer-form offerings, published through their employers or independently on Substack or Medium. You can also support creators on sites like Patreon and Ko-fi, which let you pay different amounts for access to their content. Follow them on the other big social media sites, like Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and LinkedIn. Finally, subscribe to podcasts featuring the same kind of smart, funny and informative people you find on Twitter.
People have found lasting friendships, even fallen in love and gotten married, over Twitter. If you already established relationships with other Twitter users, make sure you have another way to reach them, like WhatsApp, Signal or Instagram. If you have a group of friends, it was probably time to fire up a group chat anyway.
As for making more of these connections, that’s harder. Send emails or direct messages to people whose posts you like on other sites. When you join other sites like Reddit, look for communities of people with similar interests and use direct messages or replies to strike up friendly conversations. Some dating sites have launched platonic versions of their apps specifically for meeting friends, including Bumble BFF, Meetup and Friender.
To find larger groups of people with similar interests, check out Facebook groups, join subreddits about the topics you’re most interested in, find relevant Discord groups or see if there’s a similar group on Mastodon. If you were active on Tumblr, you could try revisiting the site. You can test out one of the smaller apps like CounterSocial that have a similar feel to Twitter, but be careful with your data and security. There’s a high chance all of your interests already have a thriving community on TikTok and YouTube, where you can participate in comments if you’re not into posting videos yourself. If you are trying to find a specific community, look at their last tweets and see if prominent members have said where they’ll be next. If you don’t see the group you want thriving anywhere yet, go ahead and start it yourself.
Federal and local agencies use Twitter to post updates about emergencies, like road closings from floods, shelter-in-place orders during shootings and evacuation updates for wildfires. You can follow the agencies on Facebook instead, but your best bet is to make sure you are getting alerts pushed directly to you on your phone.
How to never miss an emergency alert from shootings to wildfires
Check your phone settings to see what wireless emergency alerts you’re getting, like Amber Alerts. Subscribe to your school or workplace alert systems, and find local alerts by looking up your state, city or county agencies. A number of them use text-based emergency alert system Nixle (to sign up, text your Zip code to 888777).
Finally, you can dive into the controversial world of neighborhood crime apps, like Citizen and Amazon’s Neighbors app. They let you follow events as they happen in your area with updates from people on the scene, and many local agencies are already on them. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
It seems that for as long as job hunting and corporate jargon exist, LinkedIn will thrive. You’re probably already on LinkedIn, so just give your profile a polish and start posting or sharing what you’re working on there.
An exodus from Twitter could be the best thing to happen to Clubhouse, the audio chatroom app that had a moment during the pandemic. Twitter copied Clubhouse with its Twitter Spaces feature, which has been a hit with many users. If you’re leaving Twitter, Clubhouse is still around and hosting round-the-clock chatrooms.
TikTok has elevated mindless scrolling to an art form. If you use Twitter as a way to kill time or unwind, TikTok is the best replacement. You can see similar addictive video content on Instagram Reels, albeit a couple days or weeks later. If your Twitter scrolling is more of a problem than an enjoyable way to pass time, consider checking out e-books from your local library to read on your phone instead. You get the same feel of flipping through nonstop text on your screen free, but with less anxiety.
If you want to wait and see what happens, you can do it while minimizing any potential privacy risks posed by new management or a drop in moderation. You can even make yourself a ghost on the app without having to fully leave it.
How to lock down your Twitter data, or leave, as Musk takes over
If you use Twitter anonymously to communicate sensitive information, or worry about online harassment, do these things immediately: Back up all your tweets and follow lists, delete sensitive DMs (both sides have to delete it), delete old tweets, and lock down privacy and anti-harassment settings.
We walk you through each of these steps in this guide. Even if you aren’t worried about your Twitter presence, you should export a copy of your Twitter data now so you have a list of people you follow, before they leave.
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