I joined Twitter in April 2007, a year after it was founded as a “microblogging platform”. I didn’t think much about my username. At first glance, Twitter seemed like a place I shouldn’t see, like a strip club, so I chose an anonymous handle combining my middle name and my birthdate: @page88. I wasn’t expecting that I would be stuck with it for 15 years and it’s still growing.
When I learned that contacts on Twitter are called followers, I found the idea of a cult Y and troubling. My first tweet, “If they follow, will I lead?” Didn’t get likes.
For two years, I mostly ignored Twitter. Then, in 2009, at the South by Southwest Tech conference, in Austin, I thought I saw its purpose. Conference insiders compulsively used it, especially for planning get-togethers at the bar. When in Rome. I rushed forward, looking for a companion to go with me to watch Metallica at the 6th Street Club. Again: nothing.
Then I gave a talk at a conference — and I got what Twitter was really about.
The crowd in the room applauded generously at my presentation, but I later found out that they were sending it live. Sometimes brutally. I was pondering when I met David Carr, the late media critic who was then my fellow New York Times colleague, and he told me to laugh about it: “People who use Twitter are idiots.”
However, none of us left her. I loved Twitter, even if it could have been clipped. Oftentimes, he was perceptive and funny. It seemed clear early on that people weren’t actually tweeting about “what they had for lunch,” as reported in the eye-catching articles. Instead, they were to cut the banter and learn a new way not to make Violet shrink.
I’ve been screaming for two years, tweeting aimlessly – I don’t really remember. TV Shows? Children? I might have tweeted about lunch. When Dick Costolo became the CEO of Twitter in 2010, he admitted to the public that he didn’t know what Twitter was. I did not do.
It’s 11:11pm on Monday Costolo, who quit Twitter in 2015 tweeted: “Shout to the writer’s room in Silicon Valley for tonight’s wild episode.”
Costolo was referring to the spree of Twitter’s surprise sale to Elon Musk, dubbed “Tesla’s technic,” for $44 billion.
Referring to the date as if it was a TV series dreamed up in the writer’s room is a familiar thing to Twitter. The meme captures the impression that world events are just as fast and dramatic now as they just did I got to be written.
Indeed, in one day, Musk, a corrupt industry icon who — well, controversies are too many to mention but includes widespread allegations of horrific racism — pounced like a corporate raider in the 1980s and snatched the company away. .
On Monday, Erica D. Smith confidently noted in this paper what many Twitter fears most about Musk’s takeover: In the name of “free speech” for right-wingers and trolls, Musk will silence the marginalized voices that represent the soul of Twitter.
Smith wrote: “Consider this the beginning of the end of #BlackTwitter, the community of millions who have discovered how to turn an emerging social media platform into an indispensable tool for real-world activism, political power and change.”
Smith Smith it. In the past six or seven years, Twitter has created an indispensable cause of existence, and racial feudalism is not. At its best, Twitter encourages non-dominant subcultures — from socialists to mob #bancars to ex-Republicans — to create disruptive, strategic and solidarity commentary.
When Twitter forbidden Then-President Trump from the platform of inciting violence (and sabotaging democracy) on and around January 6, 2021, these other users could have tweeted and communicated with more liveliness and dynamism, because the bully wasn’t sucking all the air. Now some speculated that Musk would return @realDonaldTrump. (Trump, for his part, said he would refuse.)
Although Twitter’s top and best uses are at risk, desperation may not be necessary. Sure, Musk isn’t a benevolent actor, but he probably wouldn’t be able to crash Twitter without destroying the thing he really cares about: $TWTR.
Rick Wilson, author and co-founder of Project Lincoln tweeted“Call me crazy, but I’m not tearing my (remaining) hair because of this.”
He went on to argue that “Daddy Musk,” for all his uninformed pride about the First Free Speech Amendment, wouldn’t stop Twitter’s content mod. Wilson added that if Musk brings Trump back, it will only damage Trump’s political career by bringing his worst traits back into the limelight.
In fact, it’s unlikely that Musk would un-moderate content entirely, lest the platform be overrun with porn like subscription site OnlyFans. And if far-right voices spread on Twitter, “filled with Holocaust denial, racist revenge, Bitcoin spam, Russian propaganda, and Seb Gorka porn” (as Wilson says), revenge will be swift: the market will devalue Twitter.”
I was flipping Wilson’s notes when I laughed out loud at “Seb Gorka porn”. Vintage phrase Wilson and Twitter too. That’s why I liked it.
As long as serious and ridiculous real-life songs like Gorka – and Musk – can be taunted mercilessly on Twitter, I’m staying.
Virginia Heffernan is a Wired columnist and host of the “This Is Critical” podcast.