Twitter is dying. Last week, The Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer and Adrienne LaFrance delivered the prognosis, arguing “the platform’s place in Internet culture is changing in a way that feels irreversible and echoes the tradition of AIM and pre-2005 blogging.”

The Atlantic is prone to seeing death in all manner of things, from monogamy to Syria to American shopping malls, but the Twitter pronouncement came across as unexpectedly honest. Rather than making an argument the story presents a mostly emotional case about the feelings of alienation a certain class of Twitter user has come to feel from the increasingly hostile and untrustworthy crowd that has come to share in the micro-blogging spectacle.

Twitter’s early years helped inflate the importance of the analyst, like Klein or the master predictor Nate Silver, and helped develop the careers of those invested in making predictions about the future interchangeable with prescriptions for the present. But it has become too untrustworthy, and the values underlying the sorts of information circulated through it too inflammatory for those not wanting to be drawn into its chaos. Even the genteel Ezra Klein, who earned his reputation in the inelegant days of macro-blogging, has declared the signal-to-noise ratio on Twitter too low and only posts to promote the news products from his new explainer site Vox.com.

Twitter no longer feels good to people who wanted it to make them feel productive and regularly edified, dutifully progressing down a path of merit-driven self-improvement. But now, factions have emerged on Twitter, roaming flocks of people organized around their own particular interests, which very often include antagonizing those who’ve adopted poses of objectivity, spreading fake images and stories, and emoting over an exhausting array of different subjects. 

Twitter’s greatest flaw is ultimately shared by magazines and newspapers, which is a dependence on representational language that is self-evidently incomplete. One finishes reading an erroneous Twitter post with the same question they should have at the end of a story in The Atlantic or the New York Times: what now?

One firm in Qatar has sought to quell the chaos on Twitter by devising an algorithm that tests posts against “real-time, web-based” information to determine the credibility. Reporting for the New Yorker, Adrian Chen recounts the development of the Chrome plug-in, which appends a credibility ranking to all posts when logging into Twitter through the browser. The algorithm uses 45 different measures to determine credibility, scanning for smear words, favoring longer tweets with included URLs, and attaching greater reliability to those made by an account with a high number of followers.

Like The Atlantic’s visions of social media mortality, TweetCred is a sort of attack against the openness that Twitter was once promoted as its main virtue. It was inevitable that Twitter’s ascendence would bring with it new layers of contention, not just about the opinions we form, but the foundations of knowledge that help transform subjective wants into objective facts.

Twitter is proof that everyone is wrong at all times and about all things. If you accept this fact, there is a great pleasure in social media, a reminder that most of our cultural authorities are engaged in a process of make-believe not so different from people distributing fake pictures of whales exploding on a beach, though their methods and desired audience may vary.

Perhaps, the most damning truth about the growing discomfort with Twitter’s is the realization that there aren’t often negative consequences for misinformation being circulated. The Twitter audience has always been a mostly passive one, fixated on digital symbols but almost never willing to act on opinion. What draws us to Twitter is not the desire to be driven by truth into action, but to play within all the imaginable poses and postures of one who presumes to know what truth is.

Twitter is not dying, but it is becoming an increasingly scary place for those who think empirical data is interchangeable with ethical valor. No ethical claim requires empirical support. You cannot prove the virtue of what is or could be by aggregating data about what has been, but much of the media in the last century has been obsessed with creating the illusion of certainty in our present, which may be broken but remains irrefutably real. Twitter has become a space where reality can be refuted by anyone and on any terms.

Twitter’s greatest flaw is ultimately shared by magazines and newspapers, which is a dependence on representational language that is self-evidently incomplete. One finishes reading an erroneous Twitter post with the same question they should have at the end of a story in The Atlantic or the New York Times: what now?

For morticians in-the-wings like The Atlantic, the answer is the same as it always has been, to validate platforms that make their version of make-believe seem inherently better than all the others, whose lifespan is self-servingly measured only by the length of time they can be used to ensure that commercial media remains the most authoritative reference point in our lives.

Michael Thomsen is Complex's tech columnist. He has written for Slate, The Atlantic, Billboard, and is author of Levitate the Primate: Handjobs, Internet Dating, and Other Issues for Men. He tweets often at @mike_thomsen.