Elon Musk’s Twitter has inspired one of the worst and most arduous weeks on the website since the election of Donald Trump. Never mind the issues with the site’s usability — glitchier, maybe, after mass layoffs were announced and then reversed. I’m talking about its readability. The tweets are simply bad. The experience of Elon Musk’s Twitter is not solely his fault, though he certainly takes the lion’s share of the blame. But a lot of it is on you too.
The election of Donald Trump saw factions of Twitter fall into different camps: the undying stans of the poster-in-chief, the #RESISTers, and those for whom maintaining an original voice became impossible. Everything they did and said was in response to Trump’s tweets, even if it was not in active “excuse me, sir!” dialogue with them. This, too, is the general landscape of the post-Musk Twitter feed: terminal poster’s disease all around. The “let’s hear him out” nerds in his replies, the panicked users flocking to impotent platforms like Mastodon with all of the enthusiasm of people in 2016 mass-following Rogue National Parks Department or whatever all those accounts were, and of course, the Elon impersonators. For a certain class of blue-check power-poster, impersonating Musk is the ultimate “own” of their new landlord, who has been in the process of live-tweeting the ever-changing rules of his overhaul of the verification process for the better part of a week.
The Musk impersonators are getting one thing right about their muse: they’re not funny. This weekend saw a flurry of Musk impersonations, from comedians to journalists to Valerie Bertinelli, leading Musk to reverse his previous announcement that comedy was “now legal on Twitter.”
Musk went on to specify that verified users who change their name will lose their verification — all this after they were told they will have to pay either $20 or $8 per month to maintain their elite status. I am broadly sympathetic to blue checks on Twitter in the way that I am broadly sympathetic to pop stars at the helm of their concert documentaries: a brief “aw” and then I move on with my life. Don’t confuse me as being empathetic towards Musk when I say I can kind of see what he’s getting at: the blue-check verification system did exist, initially, originally, for people to avoid having impersonators, not for freelance writers to get the clout of being third or fourth in Seth Rogen’s replies rather than 38th.
Is any of this making a political statement? Not really. Is it funny? Also not really. If suspension soothes the minds of the impersonators, well, then namaste, etc. to them and theirs, but I halfway doubt this is the end of the line for Griffin and company. Not to be like “if you were the inventors of Facebook, you would have invented Facebook,” but: If you want so badly to be off Twitter, you would just be off Twitter.
The most annoying thing about the Musk takeover is that he’s such an unfunny loser that any and all “clap backs” or impersonations wind up indulging in that unfunny loserdom. He feeds off any and all attention, whether or not it is flattering. The only two options, in turn, are to silently walk away or just keep living life online as you do. RT a “college girls be like” tweet or a “quokkas doing stuff” account (a brief search suggests that “quokkas doing stuff” account does not yet exist — hello? Do I have to do everything myself??). None of this is protest; all of it is ego. The least you can do is make it pleasurable for the rest of us.