Sorry about the lack of content this week – I’ve been doing a lot of thinking in preparation for Inkican in a post-Twitter universe. I had to do some real soul-searching about what I wanted to do, and now that my mind’s made up I think it’s fair to tell you what my reasoning is and prepare for some post-Elon-Musk-bought-Twitter scenarios.
You’ve heard enough screeching about Twitter and Musk, and I won’t add to it. This is something bigger, and it crosses the line between ‘professional social media management’ and ‘personal sense of integrity.’ We’re in the crows nest of the Titanic and the iceberg is right ahead – do we try to steer out of the way or do we way ‘nah, this won’t hurt?’
Take a step back, first. This moment started back in April when Elon Musk announced his intention to buy Twitter. You know the rest of the story. When I first learned of Twitter’s potential sale, something occurred to me and the last few months of ‘Will Musk buy Twitter or won’t he?’ hasn’t changed that thought: Elon Musk purchasing Twitter means the death of the platform. With the exit of Twitter’s top execs and Musk’s stated intention to reduce Twitter’s headcount by 75%, my fear and his intentions seem to be the same thing. This purchase will kill the platform.
Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter will kill the platform
Of course I’m not a social media expert, I’m just a guy who writes scifi. I’ve spent a lot of time and treasure investing in my Twitter presence and I’ve written some ‘best practice’ articles about it, too. My vision when it comes from audience building comes from a lot of bad examples. One thing I’ve learned along the way is ‘your platform matters.’ Facebook, for example, is a terrible platform for authors. Each social media platform has a distinct personality that mirrors the way your customers want to be spoken to. Musk’s purchase of Twitter and his stated intentions with Twitter indicate that it will soon have a new distinct personality. Between buzzwords like warm and welcoming to all live a lot of room for interpretation. What Elon Musk’s track record when it comes to words and actions?
- There’s the myth about Musk being a visionary founder of amazing tech companies which has been repeatedly debunked
- Musk has made it clear his feelings on the coronavirus, defying orders by reopening Tesla’s Fremont Factory in Alameda County, California, despite a statewide lockdown during the pandemic
- That Thai Cave Rescue-linked Defamation Lawsuit (Musk eventually won, but like, not a good look for him …)
- The time the SEC sued Elon Musk for Tweets about taking Tesla private
I could go on but I think you get the picture. Although I want to believe that Elon Musk is capable of doing good things, I can’t ignore the fact that, as another person clearly stated: ““It gets harder to see [Musk] as somebody that I can look up to.” If Elon Musk’s skills and experience give him valuable insight when it comes to inventing the future, why should it surprise him to learn that we’ve gained insight about Musk that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to trust his intentions?
Who is more important to me – Twitter or my readers?
I always felt like Twitter, despite the risk, was a relatively neutral place for my readers. Like Usenet of old, it’s a perfectly safe place provided you stay out of the bad areas. Not any more. Two days into it and the bad actors are coming out of the woodwork. Do you realize what that means? It means all of my readers – the different, the othered, the weird, the beautiful people you are – are at risk. Who’s more important to me, Twitter or my readers? I think you know the answer.
So no, I don’t trust that Twitter will be a safe, smart place for me to talk with readers. Could I justify staying on Twitter if it turns into Parler? Also no. Your platform choice says a lot about you, in the same way a @hotmail.com address says something about you. There’s a reason I stay off of social platforms like TikTok or Parler. On Parler, different or othered people are threatened and abused. TikTok is a data collection service that is thinly-veiled as a social network. I stay off those platforms because my readers aren’t taken care of, there.
You can see it coming. A Kanye-style meltdown of tech’s biggest demagogue? A takeover by bad actors previously throttled by content policies and moderation? A data breach from poor infrastructure as the result of canning 75% of the staff? Who knows. Point is, everything that’s happening with Twitter is outside of my personal social media risk-tolerance policy. I’m not the only one with concerns – GM has ‘paused’ their Twitter advertising while they ‘evaluate Twitter’s new direction.’ Maybe this will be the end of Twitter, or maybe this will be the end of Elon Musk’s arbitrary and ego-driven behavior. We’ll have to wait and see.
Twitter has every chance to prove to us that it can be a safe, responsible place for us to interact with our readers if they want to. In the meantime, it’s getting too weird around here. I’m mustering at the life boat station now, in case we must abandon ship. My readers are important to me, and if it ever comes down to choosing my readers over my platform, I’ll pick my readers 100% of the time.
I don’t have all the answers, and I want to practice mindful care when it comes to anything I do. If anyone has a better idea on how to handle this, I’m all ears – Mastodon account is already up and running.