Elon Musk now owns Twitter, but will users stay?

Twitter on smartphone in front of map

After much melodrama spawned by Elon Musk waffling over whether or not to go through with his buyout of Twitter, it finally went through as of late last week. So far (as of this writing), Musk so far has:

  • Fired several top executives.
  • Claimed he won’t go through with laying off 75% of the staff (though layoffs are still coming)
  • Retweeted an unfounded conspiracy theory.
  • Announced account verification (i.e. those blue check marks) will cost $20 a month, via a revamped version of Twitter Blue. (And Twitter’s employees have until November 7 to make it happen or they’re fired. Since apparently, Elon Musk is the type of bad boss seen in cartoons?)
  • Dissolved Twitter’s board of directors to make himself the sole director.

There’s also been a spike in hate speech and trolls since Musk became in charge.

So far, longtime Twitter users are divided on what to do. Some are trying to find an alternative to Twitter, which (as I’ve written before) isn’t easy; nothing else matches Twitter’s ease of use, popularity, and text-oriented features. Others are vowing to stick around, and won’t leave unless all but forced to do so.

Some Twitter users are already fleeing?

Twitter app on screen
“Twitter App” by Brett Jordan is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Flickr / cropped from original)

That said, Reuters reports that according to an internal Twitter report, even before Musk came on board, Twitter has seen a decline in its most active users. The “heavy users” make up less than 10% of all Twitter users, but account for 90% of all tweets. Admittedly, their definition of a “heavy user” seems anything but: someone who logs into Twitter six or seven days a week, and tweets three or four times a week. Still, since Twitter has a smaller user base than rivals like Facebook or Instagram, any decline in usage is a concern.

On an anecdotal basis, I’m already seeing some longtime Twitter users fleeing for elsewhere. Again, since there’s no agreed-upon or obvious Twitter alternative, where they’re going varies greatly:

  • Some are going to Mastodon or similar new services like CoHost or Tribel.
  • Discord is one alternative some are using, even though it’s more of an IRC/Slack replacement.
  • Others have gone back to old standbys like Tumblr, Instagram, or even Facebook.
  • And of course, some are also promoting blogs or newsletters, as well as RSS newsreaders like Feedly or NetNewsWire (I use the latter).

Twitter’s growth areas: Crypto and NSFW content?

Also interesting is what categories are seeing a rise in tweets: cryptocurrency and “not safe for work” (NSFW) content, the latter of which includes adult content. The former is depressing, and probably partially driven by bots/spammers.

The latter, however, is more interesting. Twitter reports that adult content makes up 13% of all Twitter content. As one of the few major social networks that still allow adult content (including nudity), Twitter’s a popular spot for such creators. That’s especially been the case since Tumblr’s purge of adult content several years ago.

This is one reason the Elon Musk buyout of Twitter has some adult content creators worried about a repeat of Tumblr’s fate. There aren’t many other mainstream spots left online for such content. If Musk pulls a Tumblr and cracks down on such, a lot of adult material creators are left with few options.

My future with Twitter (and where else online to follow me)

Twitter welcome screen
Photo from Pixabay.

In my case, I’ll be sticking with Twitter for now. I don’t plan to leave unless Trump’s allowed back on Twitter, or things clearly get bad enough otherwise. Twitter’s my favorite social network, and I’d miss the people I follow or chat with who don’t have a presence anywhere else online.

That said, Trump coming back hits my tolerance limit, even for Twitter. Even if I muted or blocked Trump’s name, there’d still be nonstop complaining or chatter about his latest inane tweet. (Plus there’s his base of supporters being encouraged by the return of their “hero.”) While some suggest “stick around to fight for our space, no matter what,” I’m there to enjoy myself (and, admittedly, do some self-promotion), not engage in endless fighting with or blocking of trolls.

Fortunately, I have other online outlets besides Twitter, just in case the worst does happen. If you’re reading this, then you already know where to find me online. Still, to summarize ways to follow me outside of Twitter:

  • Instagram. Instagram, despite its flaws, is still a popular social network, so keeping at least one mainstream social network around is important. Also, while Meta owns it, at least it’s not Facebook-proper. Expect mostly graphics highlighting new blog posts, as well as the occasional photos I might take.
  • Tumblr. I recently launched a new Tumblr page (after trying it once years ago). I mostly plan on using it as a stand-in for a Facebook page, with links to new/classic blog posts and occasional reposts of others’ content.
  • Mastodon. My Mastodon account is seeing some uptick in followers, mostly those fleeing Twitter. I’m not sure how much my account will get used, but I’ll try to use it a bit more. For those looking for Mastodon tutorials, these two articles seem decent.
  • My blog. Of course, my blog is the core of my online presence, and free of whatever happens to Twitter, Facebook, etc. My blog also has RSS feeds, which makes following the blog even easier for those who still use newsreaders.
  • My newsletter. Similarly, my newsletter is also free of whatever happens with Twitter, Facebook, etc.

I do still have a personal Facebook profile, but I just use it for family and online friends who don’t use anything else. (My old Facebook page is now dormant/shuttered.) I also have a LinkedIn profile, but given it’s for job searching and professional purposes, it’s not a social network I use as anything besides a career-related Rolodex. Of course, there’s also email, for those that want to reach me that way.

The above services don’t quite replicate the Twitter experience, but for now, they seem like the best options available. I’ll also consider signing up for whatever new service I see most of my Twitter followers using.

If you’re a Twitter user, do you plan to keep using Twitter? Are there any other social networks you like?

Image by Edar from Pixabay

Anthony Dean

Anthony Dean is the owner of Diverse Tech Geek and Diverse Media Notes.

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