My week off Twitter...

And why Farcaster earned permanent status in my browser tabs

It all started with a seemingly impossible challenge...

As you can see from the metrics above, the internet, including a personal tweet from Vitalik Buterin helped meet and massively exceed the clearly unambitious threshold I proposed to initiate a one-week self-imposed hiatus from Twitter.

But first, let me back up...

The Bored Origin Story

This digital identity that many know to be @BoredElonMusk started on Twitter over 10 years ago. It was largely created in jest as a creative exercise for "real me" to have an outlet to test out my love for comedic writing. At the time, Twitter was still very much in its growth stage compared to other larger social networks. But it became a destination for comedy due to the short-form nature of the content, in particular, parody and satire.

Elon Musk was already quite famous at the time, and I needed some kind of constraint for my writing because every creative knows there's nothing scarier than trying to produce something with no parameters. So I chose to spin up a caricature of Elon, one who was a bit more mad scientist, brash, and silly (over time it does seem like my character and real Elon have scarily come much closer together). I found a good character, I create a solid repeatable template for content, and over the course of 4-5 years I grew my following to nearly 1.7 million followers. And then...the growth stopped.

The combination of me tearing myself away from playing a character and just being a more dramatic version of "me" as well as nearly-constant changes to Twitter's algorithm have led to a relative plateau in my growth. While I have continued to benefit from the large following via incredible connections in my DMs, as well as a lot of assumed credibility, my reach on Twitter has felt quite limited relative to the number of real people who currently or once did follow me. I don't want to belabor that topic too much though, the point is that I have for a long-time sought to diversify my distribution outside of the bird app.

The answer was not another social was a protocol.

The fundamental problem with Twitter and any other centralized network is that the bulk of my digital existence can be destroyed in a snap tomorrow if I get booted from a platform. If you are Joe Rogan in the real world, even if lose your Twitter account tomorrow, you are still Joe Rogan (which is unfortunate because you're really short) and you can start a new channel somewhere else. Bored doesn't exist in the "meat space" like most of you reading this. Sure I have a good number of private chats across various platform, but basically 98% of my digital existence resides on Twitter's servers. I don't like that.

Because of this dynamic being the norm with basically all social networks, I didn't feel compelled to start over and try to build a following elsewhere. The only real solution that could justify me trying to fork my identity was to ensure it was the last time I'd ever have to do so. As Danny Glover said in Lethal Weapon...

The answer of course was decentralized social media. A method for building an audience and taking it with you where-ever you go. The simple analogy is email. If you build a newsletter subscriber base of 200,000 people and Mailchimp kicks you off their platform, you can always go port that list of subscribers over to hundreds of other and probably cheaper options. Decentralized social networks are designed to give you ownership of your following, and the ability to move them with you as you leave.

A lot of networks have sprung up trying to accomplish this mission and have in my humble opinion failed. This includes Bluesky, Bitclout, and the absolute trash fire that was Friendtech. There are generally three things I've observed that have led to the demise of such networks:

  1. Overly-financialized. The best way to build a decentralized social network is to use blockchain technology. With blockchain, often comes the perverse incentive to turn everything into a game of speculation which means the social network quickly becomes a financial network until people quickly realize they can make more money flipping jpegs and memecoins than...people.

  2. It's primarily a place to just bitch about Twitter. This has less to do with decentralized social networks and is moreso the reason people quickly get bored (in the bad way, not bored in the good way like me) of using a new platform. Trash talking how much Twitter now sucks because Elon is a doo-doo head gets old fast. And if the platform is basically just a clone of Twitter, but with way less people, you have very little reason to stick around for long.

  3. The user experience is too clunky and forces users, especially non technical users, to directly interface too closely with a protocol instead of a nice front-end client. Imagine the average internet user having to open up their terminal (they probably have no idea what that is) in order to send an email to someone. No...this person just uses gmail and is comfortable with Google scanning through all the baby photos they sent to grammy.

Bla bla bla. Get to the part about Farcaster already.

Enter Farcaster. The one that hasn't failed, and the one I think has the least likely chance of failing. Farcaster itself is not a social network, it's a protocol. Here's how they position themselves:

Decentralized Social Media: Farcaster and Warpcast : Social Media Examiner

In other words, and without getting into the technical mumbo jumbo, I am the owner of content and identity on the Farcaster protocol. People can build applications that show the front end to that protocol, and if one front-end shuts down or kicks me out because I post too many pictures of naked Bill Murray, I can just move on to the next application without restarting the process of building my following.

So why isn't Farcaster f***ing up like other networks?

  1. While Farcaster does have a simple economy built into it for buying services and rewarding peers, it's a lot more like a video game. There's money involved, but the money is used to do other cool stuff. The money isn't the reason you're there, nor does it try to quantify your worth as a human or content creator with a monetary value (yuck).

  2. Farcaster quickly conditioned its users to not fall into the trap of complaining about Twitter by giving them lots of other stuff to do that is way more interesting than complaining about Twitter. Namely awesome developer tools that let you build interesting applications on top of it, and more recently, Frames, a simple widget that lets users create nearly infinite mini-apps that reside within your content. The reason many Twitter clones have failed is because they try to be Twitter clones. Farcaster continues to roll out features that differentiate the product and attract developers who want to make it more awesome.

  3. The applications built to display Farcaster protocol messages are sexy! If you want to onboard millions of people, especially non-technical dum dums like me, you need the clunky but awesome protocol technology to be hidden behind a very clean consumer-like application. Farcaster's most popular client, Warpcast, has successful built something that runs as smoothly as Twitter or Instagram. It's fast. And it doesn't force the developer tools down your throat unless you want them.

So...I think Farcaster is a reciple for success, and based on the last few weeks of growth I think it has a real shot at taking over as the number two social app for a lot of people. I don't think it's going to replace Twitter for me or many others, but it absolutely does have a chance at being my secondary network instead of Discord, Telegram, or Reddit.

My feelings after a week off from Twitter

I have spent the last 10 years using Twitter daily. To be honest...I still used it every day even during this hiatus, but I didn't post under my account. So I gave up a few million impressions that I normally would earn (which would also translate to like... $5 in ad revenue from Uncle Elon). Here are some general observations coming out of my break from the bird app that I'll leave you with.

  1. It's really easy to break the habit of not using a social media app. Skipping a day is hard, skipping a day after you've skipped 5 days...easy. I experienced a really similar feeling when leaving Facebook. It's one of those things that feels essential to your daily life, until you stop doing it and you realize how little you got out of it.

  2. Posting on Twitter aside, it's hard to feel connected to real-time news and events outside of Twitter. Farcaster is a microcosm of the internet and one that doesn't reflect the true firehose of global events. I felt compelled to lurk on Twitter, despite my posting hiatus because I did feel like I was missing so much stuff. Hence my strategy around using Twitter/Farcaster as my number 1 and 2 social networks.

  3. It's refreshing to have a social network that promotes content based on merit not on vague algorithmic choices made by a handful of developers. The Twitter's algo is a black hole that punishes people who like to vary the content they share. The machine wants to categorize you easily and it pushes you to repeat your topics and formats. Which is very boring (again in a bad way) and I will not yield to it. It was refreshing to go from 500 to 5000 followers on Farcaster in less than a week. Apparently your boy still has some content mojo in him!

  4. It's clear to me that networks like Farcaster believe in protecting privacy. Twitter has created a situation where you have to reach a minimum spend level just to maintain your visibility in the timeline. They claim they do this to prevent botting, but Farcaster is proof that you can fight bots without having to resort to "proof of credit card" and subsequently be forced to share private details with companies you don't want to.

  5. Related, Farcaster doesn't go even further in this direction and reward people who spend more money. Any gamer knows that pay-to-win is a recipe for disaster. The reality of Twitter today is that I can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on the platform to "verify" myself and in turn beat you at capturing eyeballs.

  6. The experience you have on a social network and the population of said network feels like a bell-curve. If it's too small, people are friendly, but there's less excitement and stuff to talk about. If there are more people, there's lot to consume and more inspiration to share, but you encounter way more dicks. I call this the "Dicks Paradox of Social Networking." I think Farcaster has found a happy medium and can tolerate getting to about 10 to 20% the size of Twitter before too many dicks show up. The beautiful thing though is that's ok! Because of how the network makes money...

  7. Twitter, like most massive social networks, makes money from impressions, and those impressions being sold to advertisers. This incentivizes people to move towards the extremes of opinions and stupidity to get as many eyeballs as possible. It also means you need a LOT of people using the network to command big brand money. Farcaster, like any good blockchain, is creating a flywheel that shares value back with users. Meaning, people spend money in and building on Farcaster, and that value flows back to users. That's not to say advertising will never enter the equation, but the important thing is that it won't rely on that.

I can quit Twitter now.

I'm not quitting Twitter. That was a lie. But the point here is that Farcaster has presented me with a future where I'm far less afraid of that happening. Whether Elon steals my account, or I just move on from Twitter because it makes me sad, my ability to generate a high quality following on a decentralized platform has given me real hope for spreading the Bored identity across the internet in many places beyond the bird app. I hope you join me on my mission of getting to 100,000 followers by the end of the year.


P.S. I'm very much a publish first and edit later kind of writer. I welcome anyone to rip this post apart, point out typos, and add important information I missed. I'm not going to be a boomer like Vitalik (he's younger than me) who has people peer review his articles before sending them out into the ether.

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