Like everyone else, I’m wondering how Elon Musk’s take-over of Twitter might affect the platform and the way we use it. Lots of my mutuals are talking about leaving the platform in response, some have moved on to Mastodon or started accounts there just in case, some have just gone off social media altogether, some want to wait and see. All the disgusting elements of the Internet are delighted, cheering that Musk will bring back Donald Trump and open the flood gates for all of the shit that has managed to be taken off the platform by its pretty flawed moderation systems. What is most likely to happen, I think is not nearly as good as some hope it will be, and likely not nearly as bad as some fear it will be. Musk doesn’t have an amazing track record of delivering on his overblown promises. But he’s also proven to be a petty and vindictive person, so we’ll see. Personally, I hope for the hilarious outcome of him losing his entire investment. To paraphrase a tweet I’d seen: we’ve done this to Tumblr after the Yahoo takeover, we can do it again.
Whatever the outcome, at the very least it seems that the kind of community I inhabit on Twitter is going to be radically changed – some of my favourite people have already declared themselves to be planning to leave, I imagine that if the takeover is approved by the shareholders, many will follow. Whether there is going to be a critical mass of users shifting elsewhere remains to be seen.
If this happens, the loss of the community I’ve found for on Twitter would be deeply unsettling. I joined somewhat reluctantly, in the first year of my PhD, to find other historians of philosophy and to try to talk about my research. It ended up being crucial to my survival through grad school and to opening up professional and personal opportunities ever since. I’ve made friends and ‘networked’, it’s led to me gaining publishing opportunities, and it’s helped expand my intellectual horizons in myriad other ways that are hard to articulate.
The prospect of losing this community is deeply worrisome, but at the same time, it’s not the first time this sort of thing would occur. We’ve moved before. I just hope that we won’t have to build up our communities from scratch if and when this happens.