Twitter is being destroyed by one of its worst main characters

In late 2019, as a seer atop a mountain engulfed in mist, a Twitter user named @maplecocaine Spread This: “Every day on Twitter there is one main character. The goal is that it never be.”

A tweet refers to a social network dynamic where a user posts something that stimulates widespread conversation, outrage, and discussion. Someone whose yard was overrun by “30-50 feral pigs.” A father forbids his daughter to eat a can of beans in the name of solving a problem. A man says he found shrimp tails in cinnamon toast. A woman enjoying coffee with her husband. Regardless of whether the original tweet was casual or off-kilter, the next cycle tends to be the same: the post is chewed up by the masses and spit out like a highly polarized trending topic, leaving a trail of hilarious and thermonuclear memes in its wake.

Particularly over the past few years, this phenomenon has come to define the experience of using the platform. These main character episodes have grown increasingly divisive. While Twitter remains an excellent place to get breaking news, find communities ranging from media types to medical professionals to furriers, and facilitate important movements, it’s these main characters who have kept the platform’s most loyal users entertained, terrified, and most importantly, logged in at all hours of the day. . Watching the rhetoric surrounding a major figure on Twitter is as amazing as watching hundreds of pigeons descend on a half-eaten hot dog in Times Square. It’s the kind of thing that makes you stare blankly at the chaos and goggle reflexively.

That is, at least for those who aren’t the piece of meat at the center of the digital herd. Which brings us to Elon Musk. The richest man on the planet, CEO of two other major tech companies (SpaceX and Tesla), and father of 10, made a $44 billion deal to acquire Twitter in late October. Since then, he has not relinquished the role of the main character, forcing a conversation on the platform where he simultaneously dismantles it.

Musk has always been consumed by Twitter. Although he was never original enough to qualify as a true “poster,” he has tweeted more than 19,000 times since joining the platform in 2009, according to a recent report. Washington Post Analytics. Parts of his feed are similar to those of many a power Twitter user: he hatches opinions on how to improve the app and pushes for an edit button; He resolved to take a break from the podium, to make a quick comeback; He declared his love for Twitter and called it a “hater as hell” in just over a year.

However, much of his synopsis feels like a bare-bones attempt to become the platform’s central character, a quest played out in increasingly pernicious ways. In 2018, Musk called the baseless British diver a “charlatan”. In 2020, he tweeted, “Take the red pill.” (This is both a reference to matrix and the acronym used by the online men’s and human rights communities to describe the right-wing political awakening). adopted A catchphrase that’s kind of a bad mess from Occam’s razor: “The most pleasing outcome is the most likely.” Like a certain former president, his positions have grown too pernicious to be briefly chronicled.

And when Musk reluctantly bought the platform, the aforementioned “main character” tweet took on new meaning. It became the kind of saying a witch mourns after selling you a monkey’s paw; The engraving inside the ring is all powerful. More fittingly, it has become something a bored billionaire would dare. Look no further than the musk holding a physical sink In the Twitter office lobby for weak puns and some pretty empty retweets.

Since Musk took over as CEO, his frenzied tweets have escalated. The The New York Times musk whispered Ryan Mack reports that in the month of November alone he’s on his way to posting more than 750 times, which works out to more than 25 times a day. Those posts included vulgar humour, links to anti-LGBTQ conspiracy theories about the Paul Pelosi attack, advice on how to vote in the midterm elections (“Republican”), and a joke about Mastodon’s Twitter rival, which he referred to as “Masterbatedone”. After Donald Trump’s account was reinstated this weekend, Musk posted a sexually explicit cartoon while inviting the former president back on Twitter. Hours later, he Call Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor “crybaby”.

His decision-making within the company was even more reckless and destructive. Shortly after closing the acquisition on Oct. 28, Musk set up Group C for the company. In the first week of his tenure, hate speech on the platform escalated and advertisers backed out, threatening the source of 89 percent of the company’s revenue. Musk announced a product where anyone could pay $8 per month to be verified on the platform, and pressured a team of engineers to work 24/7 to ship said product. Almost from the moment it was launched, this feature has been used to impersonate public figures and brands. When someone imitates pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company Tweet Nov 10We’re excited to announce that insulin is now free,” the company’s stock immediately fell 4.3 percent. In response, the company pulled its ads from the platform, losing “millions” from Twitter. Within a week of rolling out the pay-for-checkmark system, Musk put it on hold.

Meanwhile, Musk has casually set fire to the company’s workforce and the complex systems it has created. On November 3, it cut 7,500 employees after sending public messages signed by Twitter that promised details of severance packages “within a week.” Once the suspended employees took to the platform and internal Slack channels to criticize Musk, he fired several of them as well. He held meetings in which they both mentioned the possibility of bankruptcy and described how much he liked buying “tools”. He sent out an internal memo titled “A Fork in the Road” announcing the need for employees to stay “extremely hardcore” and work “long hours at high intensity,” and offered workers the choice of accepting these terms or resigning. An additional 1,200 people have left the company, leaving the teams needed to run the platform severely understaffed.

On Saturday, it became clear that Twitter’s copyright strike system was up does not work. On Sunday, Musk brought Trump back to the podium, citing the results of a poll he posted on Twitter, as if he was somehow “vox populi.” And on Monday, the number of employees increased laid off – laid off temporarilyleaving the current size of the Twitter workforce around 2,700. It can be said that this situation, uh, is developing.

In less than a month, Musk has demolished more than a decade of efforts to create moderation systems—however imperfect—that work to prevent harmful speech and promote healthy discourse on the platform. He replaced it with a torrent of ill-conceived ideas coming from his own account. He put together an absolute master of mismanagement, tweeting about it the whole time. Add it all up, and you’ll almost have it very On the nose: The embodiment of Twitter’s worst qualities right now is the face of Twitter itself.

Virtually everyone has a pet theory to explain Musk’s motivations here. Some say he is doing all this to gain support in China. Some say it is the hunt To help the far right politically. Some say he is actually an eight-step genius Before than anyone else. But the answer may be more direct: The billionaire who has spent a large part of his life trying to become the main character of Twitter has done everything he can to get the social network, put himself at its center, and bring it inside out. Just because he can. It’s an ironic fate for a platform whose legacy includes opening up a new level of obsession in the minds of its users, and perhaps even in society at large.

How this story ends is anyone’s guess. It seems pretty neat for the world to wake up one morning and try to log into Twitter only to find out it’s no longer there. What’s more likely is a slow, sad death, as all the twisted geniuses who once made the platform great trickle down to TikTok (where culture was already trending), Substack, Mastodon, and other communities. All that remains of Twitter is one man’s massive ego and the sycophants who stumble upon themselves to back it up.

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