The conservative and anti-woke world rejoiced when Twitter announced it would be sold to Elon Musk. Immediately following the announcement, Digital World Acquisition, Corp, the company tied to Donald Trump’s social media platform, Truth Social, fell 13% and brought its year to date losses to 30%. Let’s take a moment of silence for the death of another conservative social media platform.
Gab, Parler, Gettr, and Truth Social have all failed to catch on and provide any real lasting alternative to Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Parler experienced a surge due to early excitement, but it is like a bad ride at Disney World: a long wait on the surface of the sun (read blacktop in the Florida heat) followed by a 35 second ride which fails to meet expectations.
There are numerous obstacles that new competitors have to overcome to successfully compete with Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok—but none of them matter if the foundation on which these platforms are built is wrong. Don’t be mistaken; these insurgent platforms got off the ground because the big players mentioned above all have glaring fundamental inadequacies. The evidence is found in people desperate for alternatives and celebrating Elon Musk as a potential savior to Twitter.
The Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, exposed the core problem with social media in how they operate and view their users which is beneath the dignity and understanding of who people really are. To the legacy social media platforms, the users are the product and not the customer. The platforms are not there to serve the userbase but to use them. This is the cost of social media being “free” and proving the age old saying that “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” But when billions of users are viewed as commodities simply to be used, whether it was the original intent or not, you can understand how it becomes easy to justify censorship and manipulation.
Businesses are always seeking to tweak and improve their products. Why would Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram treat their products any differently? Except this time, human beings are the product they are trying to tweak.
Building a platform based on an incorrect understanding of who people intrinsically are is destined to go wrong. Everyone recognizes social media has real problems and hopes for a better solution. Unfortunately, these new conservative alternatives fail to understand the foundational problems, and then make them worse.
Just like the corporations they hoped to take out, they did not understand what a person truly is. So, what is the correct view of the person? There are three key aspects. First, the human person is a unique, autonomous individual endowed with dignity. We are not just another cog in some grand machine but complete on our own merits. Second, the human person is creative by nature. We all have an innate entrepreneurial spirit and desire to create and build in some capacity. Third, the human person is social by nature. We all have a deep desire to be intimately part of a genuine, authentic community.
Legacy social media violates this three-tiered understanding of who the human person truly is. If these companies’ understanding of people is reduced from unique individuals to just a product on the platform, they are building a solution which doesn’t serve but is expected to be served. The model is disordered to its core.
To avoid being completely doom and gloom and to give credit where due, social media has provided many benefits despite its glaring shortcomings. It provides an avenue to be entrepreneurial, creative, and for communities of people to find one another. People have used social media to create businesses and opportunity they could have never found elsewhere. Social media community is a cheap substitute for more authentic community but if the limits are recognized, it is an amazing tool for connecting people to one another.
So how did the conservative alternatives fail so epically fast? They took the same flawed model of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the others and then made it even worse. They reduced the best reason to join any of these new platforms, community, down to just politics. Politics suck.
On the legacy social media platforms, you have all walks of life joining and seeking to connect with people for all types of reasons. Seeking those with shared interests, hoping to learn new skills, or to connect over ideas and hobbies drive people to these platforms. You have bourbon collectors who sell and trade rare bottles of bourbon with other aficionados, crunchy folks sharing tips on how to live off the grid, and sports fans have communities based around their chosen team. As an avid Twitter user, my feed is full of my three favorite communities: Bills Mafia (Buffalo Bills), Econ Twitter, and Catholic Twitter.
There are a million reasons to participate on social media, but on the conservative alternatives you are left with only one, and it is the worst. Politics are a shallow excuse for a community and if that is all you have you are destined for the dreaded circular firing squad.
The American experiment is so unique to history because the genesis of our society is not a single institution like a monarchy or established religion, but a plurality of communal associations. Yes, we have historically shared a moral-cultural consensus laid out in our founding documents, but it is this plurality of associations people can voluntarily participate in which creates peaceful, civil society. I can attend Catholic Mass and share in worship with fellow Catholics who share very different political views and personal interests, but our shared religious beliefs supersede those inferior areas. Comradery over a Buffalo Bills game winning touchdown drive can help me recognize the goodness and humanity in my fellow Bills Mafia compatriot who is a raging democratic socialist on Twitter and has never spent time pondering downward sloping demand curves.
Conservative social media alternatives like Truth Social, where I have been number 275,502 on the waitlist for 4 months, took a failed model and reduced the redeeming part down to the worst aspect of it. It’s astonishing they all don’t fail faster.
Maybe Elon Musk can transform Twitter into a tool that serves the individual instead of using them, but if Twitter has been built off an incorrect foundation it is probably unsalvageable. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram need real competition. There is a demand and a real opportunity for an entrepreneur with a vision and who can create an alternative which takes a different approach from the beginning. A platform which serves as a tool that truly helps people live fuller lives as empowered, free individuals, enhances their creative potential, and helps build authentic community is the social media alternative that would send Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram the way of K-Mart and Blockbuster.