Parler, the right-wing conservative public Slack channel, saw a surge in users last week after Twitter banned popular meme-maker Carpe Donktum. It’s all the rage in social media world, especially among free speech enthusiasts and the political right.
It’s managed to not just pick up Twitter exiles like Laura Loomer, Milo Yiannopoulos, Jacob Wohl and Twitter’s most famous Resistance Reply Guys, Ed and Brian Krassenstein, but more mainstream conservatives such as Megyn Kelly or Fox strongman Dan Bongino. It also has attracted politicians — Ted Cruz has endorsed the platform multiple times. The hope is that Parler might replace Twitter and, to a certain extent Reddit, or at least cause enough of a ‘Twexit’ to pressure Twitter to start applying their Terms of Service fairly across ideological lines.
But to suggest Parler will be anything but a gathering spot for group think on the right would be a severe miscalculation of how social media works and what keeps Twitter alive and undefeated. At its heart, Twitter is a driver of news and events. Twitter is a user-driven platform where you can find out what’s happening in your neighborhood, your city, your country, or the world at any given moment. This past weekend, for instance, when free agent quarterback and former MVP Cam Newton signed a one-year deal with the New England Patriots, the story didn’t break on television or cable news or even ESPN. It broke on Twitter. As the Boston Marathon bombing and the subsequent manhunt unfolded, it did so in real time over the course of several hours on Twitter. No social media platform has been able to replicate that paradigm while also serving as a hub for celebrities to engage directly with fans and media. All of the different and wild personalities that stem from that are secondary.
Without that core aspect of what Twitter is, what you’re left with is a bunch of people standing around a water-cooler searching for something to talk about. Some might promote their own media ventures and YouTube shows, but they don’t really need a fledgling social-media platform for that. If Milo Yiannopoulos’s fans want to find him, they know where to go. But ever since Milo was expelled from Twitter, his public profile has diminished.
When left-wing resistance and tech personality William LeGate joined Parler, his first tweet/not tweet was ‘Is anyone here?’ Apparently not. His next tweet/not tweet was challenging right-wing grifter provocateur Jacob Wohl to a boxing match. Riveting stuff.
The rest of Parler is a gathering of social media personalities simply talking about what’s happening on Twitter. What is missing of course is the core of the conversation. The problem with Parler is not that it is, as the progressive bloggers at the professionally funded troll site the Bulwark calls it, a safe space and autonomous zone for snowflakes — which is, in fact, a pretty good description of the Bulwark. The problem with Parler is that there is ultimately nothing to keep people engaged in conversations that are generated by events on the platform. Without enough opposition to engage with, or a steady stream of current events, people will only listen to Laura Loomer screaming about the onset of Sharia law for so long.
Twitter will remain the heartbeat of news media until another social media platform can compete with its rich mixture of events, celebrities, personalities, politics and culture. Parler is not it. Facebook will still dominate the social sphere, especially with its groups feature, but still remains a reactionary message board as far as current events go. Parler, meanwhile, will eventually devolve into one giant monkey knife fight of people climbing over each other and that will at the very least be entertaining. But it won’t last.