Death in the Air on Twitter.
On the platform Thursday night, as #RIPTwitter was the top trend worldwide, users wrote what they feared would be their last post, bid an apprehensive goodbye and listed other (more stable) social media platforms where they could still be found.
They were responding to the terrible news emanating from within Twitter. Dozens of the social media company’s remaining employees appeared Thursday to dismiss owner Elon Musk’s ultimatum to work “too hard,” throwing the communications platform into utter disarray and raising serious questions about how long it will take to survive.
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Twitter’s death would have dire consequences, given how well the platform is integrated with global communications. The platform has often been compared to a digital city square. World leaders use Twitter to communicate, journalists use Twitter to gather news, dissidents in repressive countries use Twitter to organize, celebrities and big brands use Twitter to make important announcements, and often the public uses Twitter to monitor it all in real time.
If a platform goes down, or becomes unusable due to instability issues, one space won’t replace it immediately and connections across many social media sites can break, leading to seismic disruption and slowdowns in the flow of information.
Within the company’s Slack, a mass resignation effectively occurred after Musk’s 5pm deadline for employees to reach a resolution that passed. Hundreds of employees have apparently quit, accepting Musk’s offer to get out in exchange for a three-month severance package.
Employees flooded the “#social-watercooler” channel with the greeting emoji, indicating that they chose not to sign Musk’s pledge. A similar series of events was revealed in Slack earlier this month as Musk cutting nearly 50% of the company’s then 7,500-person workforce.
A former Twitter executive, who recently left the company, described the situation as an “exodus”. When asked about the situation, the former CEO said, “Elon is finding out he can’t bully top talent. They have a lot of options and they won’t put up with his antics.”
“They’re going to struggle just to keep the lights on,” the former executive added.
Another half-dozen current and former employees participated in this assessment Thursday. It was already bad enough after Musk implemented mass layoffs at the company earlier this month. So bad that Twitter asked some of the people he left to come back after a few days. The state of play has become more serious since then.
In fact, Twitter management was in a panic hours before the deadline passed, people familiar with the matter said, explaining that senior leaders were “scrambling” to persuade talent to stay at the company.
Musk himself seemed to finally catch up on the dismal state, sending an email to all employees softening his once uncompromising position on anti-remote work. “With regards to remote work, all that is required to be approved is for your manager to take responsibility for ensuring that you make an excellent contribution,” Musk said in the email.
It doesn’t seem to do much good.
The two employees who decided to reject Musk’s ultimatum on Thursday were crystal clear as to why they did so. “I don’t want to stick with building a product that gets poisoned inside and out,” said one, later adding that he felt good about making a decision that “is in line with what I do.”
“People don’t want to sacrifice their mental health and family life to make the world’s richest man even richer,” said a recently laid off employee who remains in touch with former co-workers.
Twitter appeared to have the mess on its hands Thursday night, emailing employees notifying them that it had once again closed all of its offices and suspended employee badge access, presumably to protect its systems and data.
Twitter’s already devastated communications division did not respond to requests for comment. But Musk nodded to the situation in a tweet.
How do you make a small fortune in social media? Musk asked. “Start with a big one.”