To Tweet or Not to Tweet
I guess that's a question.
I’ve recently received questions from some ‘Daly Grind’ readers wondering my thoughts on Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter. I assume this is because they’ve noticed I’m fairly active on the social media platform, and must have strong views on the issue.
As I wrote in a piece last week (some points from which I’ll repeat here), I really don’t. It honestly doesn’t matter to me who owns Twitter, and it never has.
This is clearly a big deal to lots of others, however, especially those who are part of political Twitter. That’s because a lot of prominent politicians and political-media figures spend a lot of time on the platform, which — in the past — has demonstrated some politically and ideologically biased moderation practices.
Another factor in the interest is Musk himself. The wealthiest man on the planet enjoys being part of our political conversation, often in trollish ways. And because Musk’s views don’t necessarily align with the political-media establishment and political correctness, he’s become either a villain or hero… largely depending on where people stand politically.
As someone who’s politically homeless, and perhaps tends to view issues with more nuance than other politically-engaged individuals, I’ve been having a hard time deciding what’s more ridiculous: watching people on one side treat Musk’s acquisition as an act of tyranny, or watching people on the other rejoice over “free speech” being restored to the universe.
The truth is that neither has happened. Twitter is just a website… and a second-tier one at that.
Twitter may get talked about much more than most social-media platforms, but it would probably surprise a lot of people to learn that when it comes to popularity, it barely ranks in the world’s top 15, placing well below Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and a bunch of platforms I’ve never even heard of.
Yet, a lot of people are convinced it’s a pivotal battlefield in the culture war, and that whoever sits in the throne above it, with the best strategic view of the landscape and a direct capacity to tip the scales, makes all the difference.
Now, I will concede that Twitter itself has more political influence than it logically should. While the platform has little (if any) bearing on the vast majority of regular people, a lot of powerful public figures, whose views and decisions do affect a lot of regular people’s lives, pay an unreasonable amount of attention to the themes and narratives that play out there.
I probably pay too much attention to that stuff as well. While I use Twitter primarily as a news and news-commentary aggregator, it also serves as (in addition to a place to peddle books) a personal soapbox to share views and vent annoyances. And when people with serious power and influence (like world leaders, for example) use it the same way, it can absolutely have an impact on society… and typically not in a positive or productive way.
Still, I blame the tweeters for that… not the platform or the company.
My prevailing view of Twitter is that it’s a private business, so whoever owns it can do with it whatever they want… including shutting it down and/or stripping it for parts (not that I think that will happen).
Users who are worried about being exposed to content or people they find offensive can use the site’s filters to better shape their personal experience (just like before). Or they can simply not log in, and even delete their account (again, just like before).
Users celebrating that, under Musk, they’ll no longer be silenced, should consider that Twitter was never “silencing” them in the first place. No one has an inherit right to express themselves however they see fit on someone else’s privately owned platform. And even if they were one of the relatively few whose past Twitter-treatment was inconsistent with other users due to the aforementioned biases, the fact remains that we’re still just talking about a single, comparatively unpopular social-media site.
There are plenty of other places to make your voice heard.
With Twitter, Musk gets to make the rules. He also gets to make mistakes that may come back to haunt his new company.
For example, there’s a lot of chatter right now about his decision to start charging verified users (I’m one of them) $8 a month to keep the “blue check” next to their name.
For those unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, being a “verified” Twitter user has traditionally only meant a couple of things:
You have at least some degree of public notoriety (the bar obviously isn’t all that high, lol).
You are who you claim to be (not an imposter or fan).
While I suppose there’s a bit of an ego-massage that comes with being deemed “publicly notable”, Musk is counting on such prestige compelling verified users to pony up almost $100 a year to continue to be visually recognized as someone important.
And he appears to be undeterred by those complaining.
Again, that’s his right as the owner of the company. But I suspect this move is going to flop from a business perspective.
Big public figures and companies have never needed a “blue check” on some website to verify their notoriety, and a lot of low-level public figures like me (if that’s even what I am) think of it more as nifty flair than a mark of honorable recognition. In a way, it’s like those “wings” pins that airline flight-attendants used to hand out to kids. Sure, they looked pretty cool, but no child ever thought he or she had actually been elevated to the rank of pilot by wearing one. If it was free, a young John Daly would have happily accepted one. If it cost money, no way.
To me, the bigger issue is authentication. If I’m reading Twitter’s documentation on this change correctly, it appears that anyone will now be able to purchase the “blue check” for their account… even if that someone is posing as me or somebody else. In which case, the only thing being “verified” would be a credit card number.
That would be so crazy and prone to chaos that I’m thinking it has to be wrong, and may soon be clarified or corrected. But for now, it’s not at all apparent, and that’s a big problem being that the change is already being rolled out.
So yeah, I think Musk is already screwing up some things. But that’s his prerogative, and it’s my and everyone else’s prerogative to leave if we don’t like what becomes of the site.
For now, I’m fine with letting things play out.
Have some thoughts on the changes at Twitter? Let me know in an email or in the comment section below.
Obligatory Dog Shot
Some people stand in the darkness
Afraid to step into the light
Some people need to help somebody
When the edge of surrender’s in sight
Don't you worry
It's gonna be alright
Cause I'm always ready
I won't let you out of my sight
Obligatory Colorado Fall Shot
So glad my daughter asked if I wanted to go on a bike ride the other night.
Have you picked up your copy of RESTITUTION?
Interested in a signed copy? You can order one (or five) here.
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A bit of a curve-ball this week with a jazz album.
It’s 1983’s “The Genie” by keyboardist and arranger, Bob James. James wrote and recorded the iconic theme song (titled “Angela”) for the sitcom, Taxi. It’s featured on the record along with lots of other familiar James tunes used on the show.
The laid-back, somewhat lonely songs really do capture the mood and tone one might associate with New York City cabbies from that era.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading today’s Daly Grind.
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Take care. And I’ll talk to you soon!