Five Four-Twenty

It’s difficult to fully process the landmark news that Elon Musk has successfully purchased Twitter. Was this something we all should’ve seen coming? Maybe it was naïve of me to believe it was someone trolling a company who’d invited him to come aboard and then the entire deal fell through. It’s hard to say.

But what is easy to say is this is big news. Huge. In the social media space, there has traditionally been two places. For a while, it was MySpace and Facebook. Then it was Facebook and Twitter. There was a span of time where Google was in on the action, but that imploded. TikTok is coming to eat Facebook Meta’s lunch and the decline in active users of Zuckerberg’s platform is an indicator of a possible sea change.

And so where does that leave Twitter? It’s been a monumental success with its rocket launch beginnings as an SMS-only app launched at SXSW. Over time it’s morphed into a digital town square. It was hip and cool and a great way to get real-time information about anything. Of course, that’s changed and the neverending chase to satisfy shareholders and growth goals has overshadowed bots and vitriol and politics and everything else that adds toxicity to a place.

This is what Musk himself has to say:

“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” said Musk in a statement included with the release. “I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans.”

With Musk’s bid of $54.20 per share and the board’s unanimous approval of this offer, we will now enter a new realm wherein someone who has very opinionated views about a platform now owns that platform. Will he run it into the ground? Will he unban Trump? Will the seedy underside of Twitter that has essentially ruined a good place go away?

Musk’s track record on the business side shows he can get results. Sometimes in ways that aren’t with clean hands. His personality has always been his Achilles heel and one that can drive people away.

For now, Twitter isn’t going to change. Change takes time. Twitter’s press release indicates that the company will go private and so that will put a cloak over the ability to know if the company is doing anything (or even being honest) about everything wrong with it.

But as every failed social network will tell you, it’s all about the users. If enough people flee Twitter and remain dormant, today could easily be marked as the beginning of the end.

The rest of Twitter’s 2022 will surely be interesting to watch.

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