Emilia Jarochowska, once an avid user of the platform formerly known as Twitter, closed her account due to the unsettling rise in trolls and misinformation. Her departure represents a growing trend among academics who have found the recent changes to the platform, now simply known as “X,” unusable. Since Elon Musk took over Twitter, he has implemented numerous unpopular changes. Content moderation has been reduced, and a new verification system favoring paid members has been established. Limited access to data for research and changes to the platform’s name and logo have left many in the scientific community reassessing their use of the platform.
Nature’s survey reached out to over 170,000 scientists and found that more than half have reduced their time on X, while roughly 7% have abandoned it altogether. Around 46% have sought refuge in alternative social media platforms such as Mastodon, Bluesky, Threads, and TikTok.
The shifting social media landscape has raised concerns about the fragmentation of scientific communication. As researchers move from platform to platform, following specific communities and individuals, the ease of access to targeted information is lost. Academic discussions that were once vibrant on X are now dispersed across multiple platforms, making it harder to engage with colleagues and stay up-to-date with the latest research.
Some, like Žiga Malek, an environmental scientist, will continue using X, despite the chaos, to promote his work. Others lament what’s being lost, particularly the sense of community and open access to data that Twitter once offered. These changes have impacted collaborative efforts and hindered the dissemination of knowledge within the academic community.
Whether X will regain its appeal or if another platform will take its place is uncertain. The social media landscape is constantly evolving, and academics may have to adapt to new platforms that better cater to their needs. Platforms like Mastodon, known for its focus on privacy and controlled communities, have gained traction as alternatives to X.
Meanwhile, experts like Mark Carrigan, a digital sociologist, urge conventional networking organizations to take this opportunity to curate and support their networks. They believe that the demise of Twitter, as we once knew it, creates an opportunity for academia to reclaim ownership over their scholarly networks, fostering a more inclusive and collaborative environment. The dynamics of social media continue to shape the way academics connect, collaborate, and disseminate knowledge, and it is necessary to adapt to new platforms that can better serve the needs of the academic community.