And if the erratic behavior of a billionaire allowed us to realize that in a few years, Twitter has become a grave where the web’s worst faults rub? By breaking his toys, Elon Musk could paradoxically save us.
Twitter is broken. Log into the social network for a few minutes and you will see many messages about this similar swarming on the platform, since its takeover by its erratic new boss at the end of October.
However, Internet users are wrong: Elon did not break Twitter, the platform has been outdated for years. And Musk could paradoxically give us the opportunity to finally get our heads above water.
Not a day goes by without the billionaire proving what some have long reported: In addition to being a compulsive liar, Elon Musk behaves like a mini-dictator in a kingdom he has decimated. Twitter maintains just a few employees who are forced to change the terms of service as soon as a breeze turns the weathercock one way or the other.
The blue certification mark disappears, reappears, turns gold, links to Mastodon are censored, then no, it’s Instagram and Facebook’s turn to be banned, journalists are ordered to clean up, then they can return, but others remain suspended, profile images become square, some companies may have a double thumbnail, voting rights are due for payment, and suddenly we take this realization, like a slap in the middle of the Oscars: all this is not a big farce.
Web 2.0, as it exists, has taken away our right to indifference
For years, the political and media world has run in a vacuum under the big top of the same circus, where the users are both spectators and show. For years, the same Twittos tweet and the same followers retweet, pseudo-conscious victims of algorithms that reward the most negative emotions with fleeting virality. Notification-hungry zombies who act online like they would never do face-to-face.
” People don’t react like that to things in real life ” Rebecca Jennings, a journalist and columnist, recently argued in an excellent Vox article dissecting the grotesque mechanisms of rampant Twitter.” It is only on platforms that controversy and drama are prioritized because they drive engagement where we are rewarded for hating each other. “Where we come to hate a woman who tweets that she loves to drink coffee with her husband on his terrace while talking for hours.
The web wasn’t supposed to work that way.
Humans are not meant to work like this.
No one should have an opinion on everything all the time. Twitter gave the illusion that every word was valid, that everyone had an interest in reacting to the tiniest tweet. Where the polemicists argue and divide them rain, and suddenly the reaction of an anonymous person is highlighted by a certified account, which was his greatest enemy, and the machine starts again.
Web 2.0, as it exists, has taken away our right to indifference.
Where to say “I don’t know” online will bring no likes, no retweets, no satisfaction of its virtual entourage.
Where we end up speaking only in turnkey expressions, with a bonus for whoever utters the most grandiose and empty sentence (and it doesn’t matter if they contradict each other).
where it belongs for absolute freedom of speech (for who could oppose freedom?) and against censorship (even when they harbor division, hate or share transphobic messages), supposedly dying so people can voice their racism, homophobia or sexism, and if you’re not okay with it, you’re closed at best, a danger to democracy.
The web shouldn’t work like that, because no platform should bring 200 million people together every day and allow them to crack down on the tiniest person who sticks an arm out.
The bottle doesn’t matter as long as we have the outrage
For years it was thought that internet users would live in bubbles because of the web and would cut themselves off from others, while people have never been so exposed to conflicting opinions. Even Elon Musk, however drowned in the praise of his dithyrambic relatives, cannot ignore a whole crowd booing him when he goes on stage with Dave Chappelle. Or 10 million people voting for his resignation as head of Twitter.
With their centralized operation, platforms like Twitter have provided an answer to a need they created: to combat FOMO (fear of missing out), the fear of missing out, of not being up to date, of missing the scandal everyone is talking about. If tomorrow this whole little world were to split into multiple Mastodon instances, how could I let everyone know I’m against the woman at the cafe on her terrace and get as many retweets as possible?
Studies show that it’s not just filter bubbles that can radicalize people: the more people are exposed to conflicting ideas online, the more radicalized they become. No algorithm is neutral, moreover, the right is strongly reinforced by Twitter, even if it shouts the opposite all day long. But what does the bottle matter as long as there is indignation: the form of the speakers has largely transcended any rationality about the substance. In any case, the facts do not make us change our minds. The important thing is commitment. And the users are far from being the biggest culprits of these shortcomings, victims of dark patterns and malicious algorithms that maximize attention limitation.
On Twitter, there has never been a silence bonus.
By embodying the worst of our world, Elon Musk can save us from its excesses
The ridiculousness of the situation now appears as the nose in the middle of the face, now that we realize that this parallel virtual universe can collapse like a house of cards, at the whim of a single man.
Twitter is a private company that has done what it wants with us from the start, but it’s also a turnkey opinion that lacks nuance. There are usually safeguards, both regulatory and moral, in place for years that Musk is tearing down like there’s no tomorrow. Shows that the rules only bind those who respect them.
In this, Elon Musk can be our savior.
He is the incarnation of a neoliberalism pushed to its climax, of a world that tolerates, even encourages, that a handful of men can weigh more than 100 billion dollars each. Who has created an environment where a single man can have enough funds to acquire the communication platform used most by the world’s leaders, journalists, elites, without any checks and balances.
Musk’s growing power, as his brilliance fades (causing the loss of Tesla, one of the most interesting companies of the 21st century), is a strong warning signal: beware, we have collectively entered the red zone. Turn off the engine and wait for it to cool down.
By going so far, so fast, the billionaire will have helped internet users understand that nothing belongs to them online: we are just tourists who consume and feed the system.
Twitter has encouraged wonderful things. Social movements, meetings, debates, funny blunders, sharing memorable memes. But is the gain still worth the daily loss in time and mental health? The web wasn’t supposed to work with such a concentration of tools, an addiction to dopamine bursts with every retweet, and growing virtual animosity. The web should not pressure us to comment on all the pictures of Emmanuel Macron at the World Cup, just as it is not there to welcome our public arguments about people commenting on the pictures of Emmanuel Macron at the World Cup. .
There’s only one thing left to hope for: that Elon Musk is done breaking Twitter.
May the fallen internet users take their raft and leave to be stranded on a multitude of small islands, whether they are called Discord, Mastodon, Reddit or even the smallest thematic forums. Quieter, softer places. Although the great exodus is not for now, it is the first time since the dawn of web 2.0 that users are taking seriously the possibility of an alternative digital world.
Molly White, the researcher and engineer behind the website 3 Is Going Just Great, goes on to say: Despite the urban legend that people are chained to web giants, creating and deploying your own website or blog has never been easier and cheaper than it is today, and it’s heartbreakinge. So let’s fly.