A few years ago, I was a Twitter obsessive, using the platform to build both my career and sense of self-worth. Then I inevitably fell victim to the wrath of the masses. I didn’t get Justine Sacco–ed or anything, but like many vaguely public people suffering from social-media illness, I expressed an opinion deemed unacceptable according to draconian Twitter statutes and paid the price (i.e., people stopped liking me). My decision to step back from frequent posting a few years ago radically improved my life. Sure, I still lurk on Twitter occasionally and post links to my work, but I no longer live and die by the amount of online attention I get every day. So when Elon Musk took over and the site began to fall apart, I didn’t initially take heed of acquaintances imploring their followers to keep up with them on alternative platforms. I’d been online for long enough to remember Twitter knockoffs like Mastodon and Ello that failed to catch on. I figured Bluesky, which was developed by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey as a decentralized, open-source version of the platform, would follow a similar arc.
But as more and more people I knew got a coveted, invite-only code to join, I wanted in. (Bluesky isn’t totally open to the public because it’s still in beta and also probably to make it seem alluringly exclusive.) I admitted to myself that there were some things I missed from the days when I could share stupid jokes and deeply unserious observations with my (real) friends online and not worry about strangers willfully misinterpreting me or all the other bullshit that comes along with posting nowadays.
I’m not alone in my decision to step away from social — the majority of my friends have cut back on tweeting or left the platform entirely and post less frequently on Instagram. This is partly owed to getting older and realizing that the drawbacks of compulsively tweeting vastly outweigh any perceived benefits. Partly it’s that once-appealing platforms are overrun with trolls, spam, and ads (though they always were to some extent). But it’s also that as the internet has further subsumed our lives, the noise and endless churn of big social-media platforms hold less and less appeal. For me, at least, excessive online attention, even if it’s positive, now feels more exhausting than affirming. I want some harmless, low-stakes fun instead.
So when I finally got a Bluesky invite, I knew exactly what my first post would be. Something irrelevant and unprofound. A sentiment that would and should be totally ignored by the general public but was nevertheless quietly amusing to me: “feel like i used to hear a lot more about canadian quarters. now, not so much.”
While I have about 70,000 followers on Twitter, I have a mere 47 on Bluesky. I follow 13 people, most of whom I know and like in real life. And while my Twitter timeline is cluttered with people writing about how fucked up our fucked up world is (another reason the place feels like less of an escape than it used to), my sparse Bluesky feed is full of refreshingly pedestrian thoughts; “more like WHACK mirror — a thing i say to myself every three years when there are new, disappointing episodes of black mirror,” my friend Kevin posted the other day. My pal Robyn opined that coffee shops should be open earlier than 7am. I have yet to see any brands on my timeline, and while I have heard at least one vague anecdote about someone getting canceled on Bluesky, the place seems to be mostly free of people gleefully punishing each other.
Using Bluesky is like stepping back to a better, more primitive version of Twitter. The websites look almost identical (users embarrassingly call posts “skeets” instead of tweets), but Bluesky lacks some key components. There is no quote-tweet function, a feature that arguably made Twitter a meaner website overnight. Users are unable to post videos, which is refreshing in an era when seemingly every social network, from Instagram to Reddit to YouTube, is emphasizing short-form vertical videos in an explicit and tiresome effort to be more like TikTok.
Bluesky’s low-key, friend-centric atmosphere reminds me of my other favorite social network: Letterboxd, which centers on writing movie reviews. As a space solely dedicated to movies, Letterboxd is bereft of the relentless noise and conflict that guide Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. The most controversial thing that’s ever popped up in my feed is my friend Olivia rating The Birds one star because it had “too many birds.” The dearth of antagonism on these platforms dictate the tenor of content that users create. Twitter rewards hostility because hostility drives engagement. On Bluesky and Letterboxd, at least in my experience, levity holds a similar power.
Given the positives, I don’t particularly mind the clunkier aspects of Bluesky — for instance, the way my handle has to be @evepeyser.bsky.social instead of simply @evepeyser. After all, I remember the days when my life was simpler, but the URL of my Facebook profile was a string of 80,000 random characters.
It’s hard to say if Bluesky’s good vibes will disappear once it’s out of beta and more people start using the app, or if people will even continue to use it at all. But for now, it’s nice, even therapeutic, to once again share a virtual trash can with a few friends, a place where we can convene to discard all our silliest thoughts. And it’s good to remember that there are still corners of the internet where nothing matters.