It was Elon Musk’s tweet sharing homophobic misinformation about the attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband. That was the last straw. Just two days after he purchased Twitter for $44 billion and one day after he assured advertisers publicly that the platform would not become a “free-for-all hellscape” under his leadership.
Until that point, I’d been willing to give him the benefit of a doubt and see how it went on Twitter, a platform I’d been active on for almost 15 years. Admittedly, I’d lost a lot of respect for Elon throughout his on-again, off-again trainwreck of a process to purchase the social media network. And even though Elon’s tweeting had become increasingly erratic over the last couple years and felt, honestly, like a cry for help, I felt like he might actually do some good things for the platform. Boy was I wrong.
I’ve tweeted about 25,000 times since 2008 and the social media network has been my go-to destination for sharing ideas, following news outlets and keeping up with what’s going on with the world. My Twitter journey started when I owned a running event and wanted to promote it on social platforms in 2008. Then I sold that event to the Los Angeles Marathon and used Twitter there as the Chief Marketing Officer. For a brief moment in 2010 we became the most followed marathon in the world on Twitter. I’ve used the network on my own since 2011; it’s a remarkable place. In the early years, before Instagram, before Facebook figured out mobile, before Snapchat and TikTok, there was a sense of fun about the Twitter experience. It felt communal, mostly positive, and free from the toxicity that has come to define the space in recent years. I have maybe 15–20 IRL friends whom I met first on Twitter. My experience is that if you like someone on Twitter, you’ll probably like them in real life as well.
It was naïve for any of us to expect that social networks in general would not mirror society: diverse with love and hate and many institutions taking advantage of platforms for their own gain. This is how the world is, so why wouldn’t a social network with a couple hundred million users reflect that? I also witnessed that the presence of bots and hate speech on Twitter ramped up over the last 5–7 years or so. At the same time we saw how Facebook amplified outrage and served as a convenient tool for Russian interference in the 2016 election.
What I had hoped for was that those in charge of social networks (I’m looking at you Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, Elon Musk) would prioritize user experience, safety and democracy. But nope — if these folks can make money making bad choices and jeopardizing the public’s mental health, or democracy, they’ll do it. There’s a thriving business for Outrage Entrepreneurs, whether it’s in social media or via traditional channels like Fox News. Why wouldn’t a clever CEO take advantage of that? It’s good work if you can get it. Again, my bad for expecting better of those in charge of publicly traded businesses based on community and content.
Look, I’d been suffering from social media fatigue for awhile, even before Elon wrote a check to buy Twitter. Between the doomscrolling through negative news multiple times per day and feeling the obligation to “tell my story” personally or professionally on various platforms, social media was starting to feel like a job. An unpaid sidehack. While I enjoy Twitter for connecting with friends, keeping up on the news in whatever niches I’m into and sharing ideas, if I don’t get joy from it, what’s the point?
Furthermore, I’m trying to align myself with individuals and institutions that share my values. I can’t always do that, but when I have the choice, why not opt out a negative relationship? I’m tired of supporting wealthy tech bros drunk on money and power. And the Saudi Arabian royal family, the second biggest shareholder in Twitter after Musk.
As a marketing professional, I’ll still need to visit Twitter occasionally, but I’m taking a break from Tweeting myself. Maybe permanently.