“This is what it looks like when Twitter falls apart”

Caroline Mimbs Nyce, writer at The Atlantic, has an interesting Q&A up with David Karpf, a professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University and a notable Twitter user.

The article is titled, “This Is What It Looks Like When Twitter Falls Apart (Elon Musk hasn’t finished his drama yet)”:

Caroline Mimbs Nyce: If Twitter becomes a parable of the modern internet, what do you think the moral takeaway will be? “Don’t let billionaires buy up giant social-media websites”?

David Karpf: There is a deeply baked ideology of the internet going back to the ’90s, a sort of West Coast ideal that engineers and entrepreneurs, particularly around Silicon Valley, are the modern heroes of society. They are innovating and building a better world. They’re the good guys. The bad guys are the old industries and the regulators who get in the way.

And these innovator-inventor heroes are the ones who are paving the way to a new and better world, because they’re such incredible geniuses. But the hero has to overcome resistance, and what we should do is cheer for him because of his genius and his brilliance. And 10 years ago, Elon Musk was the archetype of that story. He was really treated as the guy who is going to kind of save the world, between his electric cars and his rockets.

There’s a lot of problems with that story. But the most basic problem is that it’s utter horseshit. And what I hope comes out of this episode is that this becomes a cautionary tale that these people aren’t genius heroes. Turns out that Elon Musk is really bad at running Twitter, because he isn’t that special.

I hope that the cautionary tale of Twitter is to stop putting your faith in the mythology of the founder geniuses, because they ain’t that special. That’s not what’s going to save the world.

Nyce: What do you think the future of Twitter is right now?

Karpf: One of the things to keep in mind is just how fast Twitter’s devolution is happening. This is, what, maybe week seven of Elon owning Twitter?

I thought that one to three months in, very little would have changed. And then he went in and trashed the place immediately in a way that has seemed surprisingly sloppy.

If this had been spread out over the course of a year, then people would have had time to migrate to competitors and figure out what’s what. And I still think that’s going to happen. But right now, we’re kind of in this moment of, like, My God, how has Twitter not fallen completely apart, both technically and also on the community level? I’m pretty sure this is actually what falling apart looks like; it’s just happening so fast that people don’t really have a place to migrate to.

Right now people are looking around, saying, “I guess I’ll start with a Mastodon account?” Competitors need more time than they’re being given, because nobody really expected him to set the place on fire as fast as he has.

Karpf (whom I follow on Twitter) always has a lot to say in ways that makes sense to me. He has been especially on-target and eloquent on why Elon Musk is not a genius now and never has been, and why it’s taken so long for everyone else to catch up that reality.

Incidentally, the New Yorker also has an interesting piece up about Musk. You can read it here.

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