What a wild ride 2023 has been for X, formerly Twitter. In fact many people are still mid conversation having to pause "Twitter... I mean X now..." when the social network comes up in conversation. 2022 wasn't much less wild as Musk went from starting it's acquisition in April then finalizing it in October. In that timespan he went from bragging about buying it on Twitter, to then trying to back out of buying it, to then finalizing the acquisition in October. Then in April 2023 he changed the name to X, within about one year musk laid off 80% of the company. Twitter user activity has plummeted, advertising sales have continued to drop, the users who have stayed often complain of bugs and changes. Twitter is now a private company, so we can't judge public reflection via stock prices. There have been recent accusations of antisemitism towards Musk's comments on X. Has Twitter to X's transition been a catastrophe, if so can it be turned around or is it all part of the plan?
2. Context of the Transition:
Social Media has been constantly changing from AIM to Myspace and everything that's come since. It's seemed there's pros and cons about every platform that comes about - eventually to be surpassed by a more efficient or appealing platform as we progress. Between the big players like Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Tiktok, Snapchat, all outweigh Twitter/X in terms of community size. What was Twitter founded on and what does the change to X mean? Well Twitter was intended to balance social profiles with fast public messaging, the shorter limit on text required people to explain things simply; which made a great way to share news and ideas. X seems to want to carry the torch, but what does the rebrand stand for and what kind of changes can we expect?
3. Rationale for Transition:
It seems Musk loved twitter, so much in fact he wanted to own it and make it better. His backing out almost like a groom getting cold feet, not wanting to commit the arduous journey with something that was once so desired. It looked like the honeymoon phase was over and Elon was ready to call it quits. His arguments were that the company misrepresented itself, with it's % of community estimated bot figure. Musk is a conservative and it seems the Twitter mishandling media censorship of the Hunter Biden Laptop story, sparked a flame to take on making the company better. Musk loved the fast information traveling power that Twitter held but the more he learned about Twitter, the more that vision felt threatened. As he looked deeper into acquiring the company - more discretions and political favoritism towards the left seemed prevalent among it's leadership, middle management, and technicians. While he has laid off most of the company, Musk has publicly claimed plans to rehire some of the staff that was let go.
4. Negative Impacts of Elon Musk's Leadership:
There has been a lot of negativity here. From user rates and ad sales plummeting, to the bugs and general complaints of users still there, the pursuit to eliminate political bias could be causing an opposite effect where the platform now leans more conservative instead of in the middle. The accusations of antisemitism should be heeded with diligence as only a couple generations ago, men in power committed horrible atrocities against the Jewish people. The back and forth on firing then re-hiring staff really spells out the uncertainty in leadership that often reflects disaster.
5. Positive Impacts of Elon Musk's Leadership:
Musk has a track record of disruptive action that's actually come out positive. Disrupt is a buzzword in business, but in reality most disruptors only cause a hailstorm then fail with their business model. It's rare you see a leader in business be able to stir the pot with their changes and not spill the whole pot. From being a pivotal founder at Paypal and Tesla to SpaceX, there have been many controversies but the companies continue to bounce back. We could be seeing the same things with the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. When talk of bringing the biggest conservative power back on the platform came about with Donald Trump, Musk yielded to the left and showed them the same grace he would expect on a social media that is unbiased and pursues personal freedom of thought, free speech, freedom of the press, and democracy. While Musk is a conservative this shows his willingness to truly empower X as the transparent and efficient communications network, that Twitter was founded on. Possibly even better.
6. User Response:
While the user rate has dropped by about 13%, much of it has been from bot purges. The platform still seems to have a good balance of diversity amongst politics, race, gender, religions, and niche communities. Many users have left but the platform too regardless of bots though, and this is often a benchmark for death of social media platforms. Some users on the other hand believe X is already improving in terms of it's community while others don't believe anything has changed other than the name and still use it the same.
7. Lessons Learned:
If Musk has learned anything it's that managing social networks might be as hard - or even harder than managing rocket science or the logistics of auto manufacturing let alone it's R&D on electric motors. Society and culture isn't as predictable as engineering and technological progression. Elon argues his comments deemed antisemitic, were out of context. If his disposition is true or he really believes they weren't intended that way - could the short response themed cornerstone of Twitter/X be a Achilles heel?
8. Future Outlook:
If X follows the same progressive path of user growth that it continued to display, regardless of the 13% user drop. It will eventually outpace it losses on users. However the continual decline in revenue from ad sales, could kill the platform before it's user base can bounce back or worse; eventually be too much of a loss and be terminated. If Elon can figure out how to turn the disruption into a positive outcome, maybe the platform can not only live but thrive. This is a monumental task though, and carries far more variables than any of his other companies. Meta, the parent company of the worlds largest social media platforms has launched Threads. It's basically a Twitter clone and appealed to users / advertisers that were shaken up in the X "takeover" / antisemitic Hailstorm. The future for X does not look very good.
While the future for X doesn't look good. The metamorphosis of Twitter into X under Elon Musk's leadership has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride through the intricate terrain of social media dynamics. The journey - marked by abrupt shifts in ownership, rebranding, and substantial layoffs, has left users grappling with the profound changes and uncertainties introduced by Musk's audacious moves. One still can't help but wonder if this will go the same way of Tesla and SpaceX. Many whistleblowers, journalists and proponents for free speech still support X over other leading social media platforms. Could Elon's original infatuation with Twitter still develop into a better version, a successful predecessor? It's hard to say. One could estimate that the X community will have to master uncharted territory in terms of new features, utility, and appeal in social media software applications.
If Musk can beat the competitor Threads, at Meta's own pursuit of virtual and augmented reality features. There might be a chance, and Elon does seem to have a way with technical innovation. This is the industry that will give more substance to concepts like cryptocurrency and NFT's, something Musk has a lot of experience and foresight on. There are also other newer concepts in social media like the ability to tip other users financially. Instead of just liking a post - you send them a dollar, or a penny, or a fraction of a penny. There's the potential of political features like the ability to organize on drafting law for City, State, and Federal levels. We might see features that don't compete in the current realm of functionality but deploy entirely new ways of interacting online. If Musk is to turn his ship around, it will likely come from something like these. Otherwise X is sailing into a storm it won't come out of.
Elon Musk is a very powerful person in the world of global happenings. With conflict rising between Israel and Palestine, now is not the time for any type of racial discrimination towards the Jewish People. Even unintended banter here, can have monumental outcomes of gross misinterpretation. We've seen what people in power can do by generalizing a community. Neither should we generalize the Palestinians, or allow Hamas to cause us to bomb civilians in Palestine. You will find niche hate groups in any race, religion, gender, or nationality. The Israel / Palestine conflict has brought this out heavily on both sides. The UN created Israel after the Holocaust, the Nakba happened, and conflict has increased in the region since. Musk's comments were endorsing the idea the Jews hate whites, which is a dangerous idea to endorse. While there certainly exists those who hate, and on both sides across any fields of two different groups you want to pit against another. There are more people who love. Twitter's global culture grew so much because of the global pursuit of communication. Watching people from all over the world talk to one another in open forum has very beautiful moments. While there are trolls and lots of hate in this world, the growth of these communities suggests something bigger - we love our neighbors on this pale blue dot in space. More than we want to hate each other, we want to know each other.
If a social media platform is to thrive it will come from bringing out what people love and not what people hate. Whether that's X or Threads is of no concern to most of us users. We just want to experience the platform that pulls this off.
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” - Buckminister Fuller