“We’re a generation of wine people raised by Twitter. I’m wondering if another Twitter is really the answer we need.” –(Not) Fight Club
As I’ve recounted but a few short weeks back, the social media network Twitter, is dying a slow and very public death. Sure, there’s talk of a bold, “hardcore” Twitter 2.0, but whether that comes to be or not, this is now Elon Musk’s company and his ownership of it forms the core of the problem to its success.
There have been too many facepalm moments over the past six months of “Twelon” to count. Any one of which could give any regular user to turn off the lights, shut the door, and not be worried if you ever get your deposit back.
I’ve massively reduced my use since Elon took over, but what’s put me over the top, is the throttling of tweets about Ukraine while at the same time, now removing limits on Russia government accounts. This is simply unimaginable, even when not taken against the backdrop of a “Free Speech Absolutist” committing this sham. As has been my guiding principle since February 24, 2022: if you’re not on Ukraine’s side, then you’re on Russia’s and I refuse to so anything with anyone who believes in “Putinstan” more than the right to exist of the Ukrainian people.
On top of this is the fact that Twitter’s algorithm has been jiggered to silo people off. All this time we were blaming ourselves for getting more and more close-minded, when it fact the devil was in the cogs of the machine.
If you’re not aware of this, take as an example that I tweet a lot about wine so I’d be a “wine Twitter” person. If I was to tweet about say, web development, Twitter would quash that tweet from amplification. A tweet by me about Ukraine, would be ever more quashed which goes to show why it’s so hard to really get conversations outside of the silos we’ve been dropped in to. Beyond the Ukraine issue, this proves the worthlessness of the system in terms of fostering discussion and being, well, “interesting”.
My issue with Twitter is different from stopping to use Facebook wherein the reasons there were their being bad holders of data and doing nothing to stop the ills their platform causes. I’ll still send out new article tweets for the time being, but will wind that down over the coming months and suggest that if you haven’t subscribed to my newsletter, now would be a good time. Or perhaps you’re thinking, “Thank god, Miquel is shutting up.” in which case, congratulations, you won the Twitter which is much akin to winning a fight in a grocery store parking lot.
I realize there are a lot of people on wine Twitter and, minus a few badly-formed apples, there exists a fun crowd who enjoy the immediacy of Twitter and its streaming discussion. These people are probably asking, “But I’d like another Twitter, just without the, you know, white supremacist, Nazi, and Elon bits to it.”
I would posit that there really isn’t anything else like Twitter. It’s engaging and it keeps pulling you back to it. When Russia invade Ukraine, I was up researching the Châteauneuf report and despite that taking up my very long days, I’d pause every 15 minutes to doomscroll like the rest of us. That’s what Twitter manages to do.
It’s easy to think that this is a key part of existence and the addictive element of it I understand well, but, once you uninstall the app and just glance at it in a browser from time to time, it quickly fades away. Heroin it is not.
I mention this as I’ve tried many of the alternatives out there and found that they’re not the same as Twitter. Here are some suggestions to try if looking to swap Twitter out of your wine social media life.
- Mastodon is simply a shoddy user experience and I say that being very web-minded. While this “decentralized” aspect to it is billed as its strength, it’s also its weakness as getting the critical mass of Twitter just isn’t happening and while some have taken to it, they still pop back over to Twitter often or are “dual-posting” which is a lot like having, “le cul entre deux chaises” (your ass on two chairs) to coin a great French phrase.
- Post.News is another that I initially signed up for, but have been let down by as it reminds me of a very, very early version of Twitter with weird splashed of Tumblr. There’s just a firehose of info with little order nor pleasure in reading it although they’re trying to have people collate digests which goes against the principle of social media and again, why Twitter is/was great because you control that yourself.
- Spoutible is another site I’ve recently tried and it’s probably the most Twitter-like of all the new sites that come along, but, much like Mastodon, there’s no critical mass and I can’t really find anyone there I want to interact with. Also, it seems to be awash in exceedingly left-wing posts which, despite being exceedingly left-wing, I really don’t want to swim through to find anything interesting.
So, suffice to say, if you’re looking for wine Twitter alternative, I don’t think that it’s out there and those still on Twitter, tweeting profusely are talking to a smaller and smaller group as I’ve seen a lot of people have given up on it. I know this, as many friends and I are doing our Twitter shitposting on WhatsApp now ;)
A lot of wine people have taken to creating Substacks in a big way. It’s no shock really as writing for wine publications is scant work that, if a freelancer, pays quite awful when you can get it. It’s easy to see how with Subtack, the possibility to be your own publisher, editor, and executioner would be quite appealing to any writer that’s on the ropes in terms of paid work.
I don’t need to list individual Substacks here as they sprout faster that mushrooms in fall, but throughout all of them is a growing social component. For someone who’s a definite Gen Xer, this all looks a tremendous amount like the Blog Era of the mid-aughts, but people do seem to be taken with it as they find that social media (and its dictatorial algorithms) has failed them.
I’m curious where the Substack trend is going to go as during another WhatsApp chat ;) with a friend we were wondering just how many people will shell out for more and more subscriptions. There have been a great many wine/drink websites that have come to be in the last six months and this will continue to boom for the next six I reckon.
Also, it’s an open question as to whether this social component is really a great direction. Substack seems hell-bent and building up a “community” which when digital, always means that some folk will get left behind as the community doesn’t read them as much. My assumption here is that group Substacks which profit share will become quite standard which then begs the question as to why people don’t just start their own, collective wine websites?
Substack, despite being around officially since 2017, is definitely a work in progress so we’ll see where it all heads especially with the additional of the “Notes” function (again, the social component) which ironically launched the same time this article was published.
While they may not be as sexy as a Substack, newsletters are in fact the original Substack. Many have been with us this whole time and every individual site out there that’s not a Substack pretty much has one. Again, you can subscribe to this site’s newsletter as well, wink wink, nudge nudge.
While Tinyletter is still around, it’s just a part of MailChimp now, which is unfortunate as people though it would be like SubStack before SubStack even existed. It should also be noted that while MailChimp is a dominant newsletter force, a lot of people are in fact leaving as it’s gotten too expensive now that Intuit (yeah, the TurboTax people) bought it for some reason. There’s also Beehiiv which some are saying is better than SubStack.
But the key aspect to any of these systems is that you need to actively seek them out. This perhaps is what makes them a good deal better than Twitter or social media in general as they’re not a passive endeavor. You have to want to read them, not just have them come to you.
While we’re on this theme, what about email? Yeah, that thing that so many people declare email bankruptcy on is something to revisit for staying in contact with wine people.
Amidst the growth of social media and 500 different messaging services (491 of which Google “launched” and then killed), I’ve found that all my real, serious communication in wine happens via email. It serves as a repository I can go back to with every email I’ve sent over the last 17 years right there as well as my contacts. Not sexy, yes, but very, very practical.
Hear ye ole forum, hear ye
The forum sounds like an exceedingly retro way to meet and interact with other wine people, but in many ways, it’s the saner option out there as it’s always been. Many people who flocked to the social media hills over the last 15 years may be shocked to know that many of the wine forums have been alive and kicking all this time with quite civilized chatter by people who do something shocking: enjoy drinking wine. There’s no hot-take analysis of wine trends or chest-pounding bottle shots as everyone finds this boring and those posts sink.
These have not shock and awe nor pure viral energy of Twitter, but they won’t take over your life and your partner will undoubtedly be very happy about that.
- Free forums take the shape of those on wine-pages.com as well wineberserkers.com. Both have been around for a long time and have an active audience. There’s also reddit.com/r/wine/ which has a wider audience in it for sure and you can get some riffraff, but if you want a true free speech forum for wine, that’s better than what Twitter is giving these days. There are undoubtedly others I’ve left off as well.
- Publication forums are tied into a paid subscription with a publication. These too are quite active and as if to echo each side of “The Pond”, that of Vinous.com as well as JancisRobinson.com both have their very active users.
Pick your flavor
Ages ago I received a mountain of flack in saying that social media doesn’t sell wine. Admittedly the people coming after me were those invested in selling wine via social media, but the core argument is that meeting in person and talking to people, especially after all these lockdowns from the pandemic is a fine, fine thing. So how about we come up for daylight and try that as well?
Despite all these changes in technology, the only thing that remains the same is us and the fact that wine is something you drink, ideally with other people. Do keep that in mind if looking to move beyond Twitter and its Elon-induced death spiral.
Drink, tweet less, and be well.
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Thanks Miquel for running through the options. I am proud to say that I have absolutely no social media. By subscribing to your blog and other excellent sources of quality information I free myself of constant daily interruption of blither! There is great freedom in that! Thanks for doing what you do!
You’ve missed very, very little in not being on social media.