The Collapse of Twitter

# writing

Twitter has a governance problem.

I think a lot of people mocking and criticizing Elon Musk’s product decisions at Twitter. I have no idea if they’re right. But I think the product decisions are the smallest problem right now. Twitter has always had product problems. Virtually no one will leave because of a bad interface, useless features, poor performance, or bugs. Musk might ruin the product. But, he’ll also slash costs. And Twitter will likely totter along.

But this month it’s become obvious that there’s a problem on the platform. If it’s not Musk’s disastrous management decisions, then what is it?

People feel alienated. We humans crave control over our surroundings, and Twitter is an important part of our world. From essential emergency alerts to intimate personal diaries. For the millions of people who use it, it’s a part of their lives.

And of the millions of participants in Twitter’s influencer meritocracy, one user has now broken the rules and taken control of the whole platform. You can’t mute Elon Musk anymore — he’s in the woodwork.

And, now, as Musk bullies and offends millions of his users, those users are waking up to the fact that they have no power in this relationship — their relationship to the world. They’re panicked, and they’re angry, because they have no agency.

There are some user- and worker-governed social media platforms, like Cohost and Mastodon. I don’t know if they’ll get big adoption (I doubt it). But, if they succeed, I think it will be because they make their users feel like they’re in control.

© Sam Littlefair, 2023