On Elon Musk, Twitter, and Hate

On Elon Musk, Twitter, and Hate

I guess the time has come for me also to say my piece. That piece will be about Elon Musk and his acquisition of Twitter. His first acts as CEO, and more.

On October 28th, 2022 – the Twitter takeover was complete. And on the very same day, my Twitter feed suddenly started to look like World War 3 is about to break out.

Now, I’m not a Twitter guru or even care for the platform all that much, for me – Twitter is a newsfeed to stay up to date with news and trends in Web development and design. That’s it.

So, when I started seeing my fellow developers show signs of vitriol and hatred on this topic, I honestly couldn’t wrap my head around it. Either I have a complete lack of empathy, or I have missed the part where it’s said that Twitter is owned by its community.

What did Elon Musk do, and why is he getting so much flack?

Elon Musk’s Twitter layoffs are starting
thank you Elon for giving me a reason to be an asshole

On the first day at the new office as a CEO, Elon goes on a rampage to annihilate half of its workforce. Tough luck. The goal is to lay off as many people as possible to reduce costs and restructure the company with a focus on engineering. Probably a bit of a shady thing to do on the spot and would make anyone feel a bit overwhelmed with strong emotions. I get that.

That wasn’t the only thing. Elon also introduced things like the $8 verified badge (somewhat of a failure in its initial state), and in the latest attempt to restructure the company – he sent out an email asking people to commit to a much stricter/demanding work environment. In fact, he’s been doing so much; The Verge has written over 40 articles on it in the last month alone.

But is it my place to judge him for it? Not really. And neither is it anyone else’s place. The man spent $44 billion to buy Twitter. For all I care, he could fire everyone and recolor the platform in shades of pink and yellow. Money has that kind of power. Not only that, but Elon himself has that kind of power because he owns Twitter, and there is nothing you can do about it.

So I have to ask myself again, am I the bad guy for not showing empathy? I also have to ask myself, should I be on Twitter right now – outraged and filled with some form of anger and vent it out to everyone… to do what exactly? To show that I “stand” for something, to show that I “know” better and that I should be the new Twitter CEO?

Paul Graham Elon Musk tweet
fun fact: people actually tried to rebuke this tweet, saying pg has no idea what he is talking about

The point I am trying to make? If you dislike Twitter’s new direction, why don’t you quietly close your account and find a new home? And this also brings me to my next point.

Are people frustrated because they have nowhere else to go?

Twitter homepage logged out

The Web is a big place, yet so small you could weave a needle through it. Along with the frustrations I have seen people post about Elon’s choices and him as a person in general, I’m seeing many people “leaving” Twitter to go to Mastodon and other Fediverse networks. That’s fantastic, and right up there with the previous point, I was making!

The only problem is that your followers and your “social network” are not coming with you. This highlights the problem that people are generally invested in Twitter. Not only with their time, but also by having a platform where the word travels fast. Furthermore, this highlights the fact that Twitter isn’t just a social network in the literal sense of the term.

More than anything, Twitter is a social marketing platform. Whether you market yourself as a web developer, politician, or someone who loves attention, it doesn’t matter. Just like LinkedIn is known for its generic “viral” advice, Twitter is known to be a place where you can boast about just how great of a person you are (or not so great, for that matter), and quickly get one side to agree with you, while the other side fights tooth and nail to disagree.

― Social media has been “dead” for years.

When I first started browsing the Web and developing an interest in Tech, the only two social media outlets I knew about were IRC and Bulletin boards. And to this day, both of these outlets are what I consider to be my only true experiences of a digitally formed social network.

The rise of AI and curated feeds has completely killed social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and others) as far as any sense of community or personal interaction goes. And yet people have the nerve to clap back at Elon Musk for _attempting_ something different.

Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the meanest of them all?

Twitter’s users themselves have built a divided culture where it’s always about picking a side but never finding common ground. So if a famous person or someone with many followers starts saying mean things point blank, you can rest assured that it will encourage their followers to follow through and parrot the same thing because, “why not?”.

It’s spiteful, inconsiderate, and does no one any good. It cultivates a world (in this case, a platform) where people can say whatever and whenever without any consequences.

I look forward to seeing what will come from this transition for Twitter. It might turn out to be great, or equally terrible. What I know is that no matter what happens, I will not start blaming someone for a problem that originates from my self-interest.