Elon Musk Just Realized How Bad Twitter Is

In recent memory, a conversation about Elon Musk could have had two fairly balanced sides. There were the supporters of the visionary Elon, boss of Tesla and SpaceX, a selfless billionaire who invested his money in what he believed could save the world. And there were criticisms from Egregious Elon, the unrepentant troll who spent much of his time provoking hordes online. These characters existed in a strange harmony, displays of genius balancing outbursts of terror. But since Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, Egregious Elon has gained traction, so much so that the case for Visionary Elon is getting harder to make every day.

Take, just this week, a back-and-forth on Twitter, which, as is usually the case, quickly escalated. A Twitter employee named Haraldur Thorleifsson tweeted to Musk to ask if he was still employed, given that his access to the computer had been cut off. Musk, who oversaw a forced exodus of Twitter employees, asked Thorleifsson what he was doing at Twitter. Thorleifsson responded with a list of bullet points. Musk then accused him of lying and in a reply to another user, replied that Thorleifsson “didn’t have an actual job, claimed as an excuse that he had a disability that prevented him from typing, but was simultaneously tweeting a storm.” Musk added, “I can’t say I have much respect for that.” Egregious Elon was in full control.

By the end of the day, Musk had backtracked. He had spoken with Thorleifsson, he said, and apologized “for my misunderstanding of his situation.” Thorleifsson is not fired at all and, according to Musk, plans to stay on Twitter. (Twitter didn’t respond to a request for comment, nor did Thorleifsson, who didn’t say whether he would indeed stay.)

The exchange was surreal in several ways. Yes, Musk has accumulated a list of offensive tweets the length of a CVS receiptand we could have a very depressing conversation about which cruel insult Or hate shit was the most blatant. Yet this – mocking a disabled worker – felt like a new low, a very public display of Musk’s ability to keep finding ways to get worse. The apologies were themselves surprising; Musk rarely shows remorse for being rude online. But maybe the most surreal part was Musk’s personal conclusion on the whole situation: “Better to talk to people than to communicate via tweet.”

That’s exactly what the owner of Twitter, the man who paid $44 billion to become CEO, an executive who is passionately focused about how many other people are tweeting on his social platform, and who would have been so upset that his own tweets weren’t garnering the engagement numbers he wanted him to engineers change the algorithm in its favor. (Musk has disputed that.) The conclusion of the Thorleifsson case seems to betray a lack of conviction, a slippage in the confidence that made the visionary Elon so convincing. It is difficult to imagine such ambiguity elsewhere in the Musk Cinematic Universe, where Musk seems more comfortable, more in control, with the particulars of his grand visions. While running an electric car company and a space venture, Musk has expressed and adhered to clear goals and objectives for his project: to create an electric car that people actually want to drive; become a multiplanetary species. When he acquired Twitter, he articulated a vision to make the social network a platform for free speech. But in practice, the self-proclaimed Twit leader had gotten carried away – and has now articulated – what many people understand to be true about Twitter and social media in general: that, far from providing a space for expression complete human, it can make you a worse version of yourself, bringing out your most terrible urges.

We can’t blame all of Musk’s behavior on social media: the visionary Elon has always relied on his darkest self to achieve his greatest goals. Musk is not known to be the most understanding boss, in one of his companies. he is called at SpaceX workers on Thanksgiving to work on rocket engines. he is said that Tesla employees who want to work remotely should “pretend to work somewhere else”. On Twitter, Musk waits employed to be “extremely hardcore” and work “long hours at high intensity”, a directive former employees have claims, as part of a class action, resulted in the dismissal or resignation of disabled workers. (Twitter quickly sought to dismiss the complaint.) Musk’s interpretation of worker accommodation is to convert conference rooms into bedrooms so employees can sleep at the office.

In the past, however, the two sides of Elon were aligned enough to produce some truly admirable results. He led the development of a wildly popular electric car and produced the only launch system capable of carrying astronauts into orbit from American soil. Even as SpaceX attempted to drive out the residents of the small Texas town where he develops his most ambitious rockets, he converted some locals into Elon fans. SpaceX hopes to attempt the first launch of its newest and largest rocket there “in about the next month or so,” Musk said this week. This launch vehicle, known as the Starship, is for missions to the Moon and Mars, and is a key part of NASA’s own plans to bring American astronauts back to the lunar surface for the first time in addition to 50 years.

Through it all, he tweeted. It’s only now, however, that her online persona is alienating people so much that more than His fans and the employees begin to protest. Last summer, a group of SpaceX employees wrote an open letter to company management about Musk’s presence on Twitter, writing that “Elon’s behavior in the public sphere is a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment to us”; SpaceX replied dismissing several of the organizers of the letter. By being so focused on Twitter — a place with many digital incentives, very few of which involve being thoughtful and generous — Musk seems to be giving way to the part of his personality that boasts of troll behavior. On Twitter, Egregious Elon is rewarded with engagement, “impressions”. Being reactionary has its rewards. The idea of ​​someone “getting empire” on Twitter is common, and Musk has shown us a masterclass of that downward trajectory over the past year. (SpaceX, it should be noted, prides itself to have a “no-asshole policy”.)

Does the Visionary Elon have a chance to regain the upper hand? Of course. An apology helps, as well as an admission that tweeting in a vacuum without context might not be the most effective way to interact with another person. Another idea: Stop tweeting. Many people have, after realizing – with the clarity of the protagonist of The right placea tv show about being in hell, which This is the wrong place, or at least a wrong place for them. For Musk, however, opting out of Twitter would now come at a very high cost. It’s also unlikely, given how often he tweets. And so he stays. He engages and sometimes abseils, exploring the darker and darker corners of the hole he has dug for himself.

On Tuesday, Musk spoke at a conference hosted by Morgan Stanley about his vision for Twitter. “Basically it’s a place where you go to learn what’s going on and get the real story,” he said. This was in the hours before Musk recanted his accusations against Thorleifsson, and presumably learned “the real story” – on Twitter. His original offensive tweet now carries a Community Rating, the Twitter feature that allows users to add context to what may be false or misleading posts. The social platform should be “the truth, the whole truth – and I wouldn’t say anything but the truth,” Musk said. ” But it’s hard. It’s going to be a lot of BS. In effect.

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