The slow collapse of Twitter has inspired a host of would-be successors. Millions of people are trying out new social-media platforms such as Meta’s Threads in a textbook triumph of enthusiasm over experience. I’m sure that creating free content for a social-media platform run by an unaccountable billionaire will turn out differently this time, we tell ourselves, as though we were all born yesterday.
We know how this story ends. We know that platforms such as Facebook and Twitter begin as delightful places of connection and conversation before fracturing into hyperpolarized subcultures dominated by dubious viral content, where partisans scream at one another from their opposing echo chambers. So it was, and so it shall be.