To my surprise (or just dread), news came Monday that Tesla CEO and billionaire Elon Musk will buy Twitter for $44 billion. This comes after recent events involving Musk buying some share of Twitter stock.
Needless to say, my Twitter feed’s been lit up like a Christmas tree since Monday morning. Absolutely nobody I follow, or myself, is excited about the idea of Musk buying Twitter. As I wrote in my post on Twitter alternatives, Musk embodies much of what’s wrong with modern American business, the tech industry, and the wealthy. He’s currently the world’s richest person, with a net worth of $240 billion as of April 27. To put it bluntly, I see no good coming from Musk’s purchase of Twitter.
The fact Musk is talking up “free speech” and “censorship” might mean trouble for Twitter’s already-lackluster moderation against trolls. Slate ran an article about how Black women are disproportionately attacked on Twitter. The Los Angeles Times put out a column about how this purchase affects Black Twitter users (aka “Black Twitter”). Somehow, I doubt a “free speech” advocate whose car company was recently sued by California for racial discrimination is going to do a great job tackling racist trolls.
Some note the deal could still fall apart, for multiple (complicated) reasons. However, as of this writing, I’m assuming it’ll go through.
What’s Twitter’s future like?
The only question at this point is what Twitter’s future looks like. At this point, the worst case scenario is a mass exodus of users that makes it end up like MySpace, i.e. the end of Twitter. A less drastic scenario sees Twitter end up looking like Tumblr: a pale shadow of its former self. Despite what some are hoping, I don’t see Twitter looking like racist/sexist-filled sites like 4chan, or failed conservative Twitter clones like Parler or Gab. Advertisers and large businesses don’t want to be associated with sites like those for a reason.
Twitter had a lot of talk this week about whether or not users will leave en masse for a different site. (Mastodon and Tumblr were trending.) But as I wrote before, there aren’t many alternatives to Twitter that have similar features. Most other social networks are either: harder to use for the average person (see: Mastodon and the “fediverse”); lack one’s family/friends/famous figures; or aren’t geared toward text based usage (Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, etc.).
My future with Twitter
As for myself, I’ve been using Twitter since 2009, even longer than Facebook. It lets me meet others with similar interests, promote my own blog, and have some fun. For now, I’m not going anywhere. However, one of my biggest concerns is Trump might be allowed back on Twitter, under looser moderation rules. I’ve put up with a lot on Twitter over the years; however, the Donald allowed back on would be the last straw, and enough to make me leave. And no, just blocking his name isn’t enough.
All this also points to a reason to have more than one spot online to call “home,” I still have this blog (and its RSS feeds), which won’t be affected by the whims of some billionaire. There’s also: my newsletter; my Facebook page (yes, it’s Facebook, I know); and my Mastodon account. (I also still have infrequently-used Instagram and LinkedIn pages.) And, of course, I can be reached via good old-fashioned email. None of this is the same as Twitter, however. While I hope for the best regarding Twitter, I’m not optimistic.