Nobody knew what they were signing up for when they signed up for Twitter, but it certainly wasn’t Elon Musk’s “X.” I have been on Twitter since the very early years; I joined in March, 2009. I was a verified blue check member when media were verified, and I’ve taken long breaks from Twitter in the past. Now that Twitter has officially changed and become “X,” I see no reason to stay. I didn’t sign up for X, and now I’m done.
The takeover by Elon Musk, whose politics and demeanor I find abhorrent, has been intolerable, but I stuck around. By abhorrent, I don’t mean that he’s a Tech Dude Bro who says things that are brash and pseudo-intellectual and generally offensive to anyone with a questioning mind. I believe Musk is dangerous.
Elon Musk has elevated the voices of people who are anti-vaccine, and he clearly pushes an anti-vaccine agenda. I take this issue very personally. My mother died in the early stages of the COVID pandemic, before the vaccines were available. I wish I could say that she would still be here if she’d had a vaccine, but I cannot, because anti-vax paranoiacs like Musk have made the pandemic an impossible problem to solve.
When the richest man in the world buys one of the most important contemporary media platforms and pushes dangerously anti-scientific information that can literally get people sick with a deadly virus, we need to take this seriously. As Musk’s influence grew, and his followers became even more prominent to the point of earning paychecks from Twitter for their views, I started looking for the exit.
Musk has also unquestioningly promoted anti-semitic, racist, and transphobic views. He makes fun of the use of alternate pronouns and deadnames transgender people. He publicly called a rescue diver a slur that insinuated the man was a pedophile, just for disagreeing on a submarine.
I'm tired of being the butt of Elon Musk's jokes
I don’t expect Twitter to be perfect or filtered. Twitter started as the public water cooler, then morphed into a town square. I don’t know what town you live in, but I have been to many public squares. They can be raucous, crowded, and full of people you don’t want to see or hear from. If you want the benefits of the town square, you have to suffer the crowds.
I can’t speak to how Twitter has changed for everyone, because I think that everyone uses Twitter differently. But I can say that Twitter has changed dramatically and instituted policies, like Twitter Blue, that are so clearly a money-grab, with absolutely no value to the user, that the entire social network has started to feel like a cynical ploy.
When I log in to Twitter, I feel like I am the butt of Elon Musk’s in-joke. I feel him laughing at me. He is promoting everything that I stand against, and daring me to leave. He’s broken the service on purpose and is charging for the privilege of fixing it.
Can’t you imagine Elon Musk reading this story and laughing? Is that the sort of network to which we want to belong? The kind where we can be sure that the guy in charge is laughing at users who have been creating content for almost a decade and a half?
That’s why X was the last straw for me. It confirmed what I had been feeling. X is not the name of the site I joined. X feels like a joke. It feels thoughtless, like everything with Elon Musk. It lacks curiosity and critique.
The X logo is apparently a commonly used Unicode keyboard character, so Elon Musk won’t be able to copyright or protect it from fraud. It will probably change before that matters, but this change feels so rushed. I don’t need to contribute to a communication platform that rushes major changes.
The name X feels like a joke I’m not getting. It’s a variable. It’s an axis. It’s a stand-in for anything and everything else. Elon Musk didn’t want Twitter, or any communications platform. He wants everything. He wants an everything app, and in buying Twitter he assumed a billion people would be on board.
I didn't sign up for X, I signed up for Twitter
I didn’t sign up for Twitter: The Payments App. I didn’t sign up for goods and services. I didn’t sign up for Everything. I signed up for Twitter.
For everything that Elon Musk has ‘accomplished’ since he bought Twitter, the biggest thing he hasn’t been able to deliver is Twitter.
Sadly, there is currently no great alternative to Twitter, especially if you want to feel conscientious. Threads is deeply problematic for me. I have an active Facebook account and I use Instagram occasionally, so I would be hypocritical to denounce Threads for being part of the Facebook empire, but I feel dirty using it.
Facebook has serious baggage. Amnesty International says Facebook’s pursuit of profits created an echo chamber of hateful messaging that contributed to genocide in Myanmar. I hesitate to pile on and add to Meta’s success, especially if that means giving the company control of a new/old messaging platform. I haven’t stopped using Facebook, but I’m not committing fully to Threads as long as there may be alternatives.
I’ve been using BlueSky as well for a while, and I like it, but it suffers from being a limited invitation-only service. When your service is built on invitations, you tend to become an echo chamber of like-mindedness quickly. People invite others like them. That has already caused tensions among users. I think the solution will be opening the service to everyone, but it’s unclear if BlueSky is technically ready for the expansion needed to be a Threads competitor.
The bottom line, though, is that I have a plethora of options. While I cannot recreate the experience and community I loved when Twitter was at its best, I can still find online communities of asynchronous shut-ins, like myself, who are willing to trade barbs and ideas over silly things like phones and puppy dogs.
I’m done with X, née Twitter. This is not what I signed up for. I was willing to stick with the service as it grew and evolved, but I’m not willing to pretend that this new thing is the same as the old. Twitter is gone. It had a great run, and it will be a story we tell kids about the early days of the Internet, when we knew how to treat each other well and poorly all at once, but only in 140 characters or less.
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Phil Berne is a preeminent voice in consumer electronics reviews, having reviewed his first device (the Sony D-EJ01 Discman) more than 20 years ago for eTown.com. He has been writing about phones and mobile technology, since before the iPhone, for a variety of sites including PCMag, infoSync, PhoneScoop, and Slashgear. He holds an M.A. in Cultural Theory from Carnegie Mellon University.
Phil was the internal reviewer for Samsung Mobile, writing opinions and review predictions about top secret new devices months before launch. He left in 2017. He worked at an Apple Store near Boston, MA, at the height of iPod popularity. He has been a High School English teacher at Title I schools, and is a certified Lifeguard. His passion is smartphones and wearables, and he is sure that the next big thing will be phones we wear on our faces.