“The end is near”. We see it over and over again; Long-time Twitter users proclaiming that the “Hellside,” as many refer to it with a sort of odd, horrified affection, must surely be on dwindling life support following Elon Musk’s takeover. And now even the doors to Twitter HQ have been temporarily closed.
Predictions of impending doom were strengthened Thursday night as reports surfaced suggesting the number of employees took up an offer to leave the company on severance pay rather than agreeing to a new “hardcore” work culture numbering in the hundreds – more than 3,000 of them colleagues fired by Musk in the previous weeks. Some suggested the service would struggle to turn on the lights, though Musk himself cheerfully tweeted about “all-time high” traffic.
Twitter users who have been obsessively posting to the site for years are writing their epitaphs, making backup accounts on other platforms like Mastadon, downloading their data and occasionally pretending it’s the last day of school or possibly the last days of Rome – and explaining theirs crush, make serious declarations of affection for the site, air its secrets, post thirsty selfies… or change account names to names that mock Musk and intentionally break the rules to get yourself banned.
I would compare the latter to the Weasley twins in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenixwho unleash anarchy before fleeing their school, except I’m a tragically invested, left-leaning, and achingly woke Twitter user and we’re trying to stop referencing JK Rowling’s books. You probably know why.
Of one thing I am sure: the disappearance of the platform breaks my heart in a way that is difficult for casual users to accept or understand. The idea of Twitter disappearing is strangely unbearable. Not being able to send out news to the world every day, not being able to immediately follow the discourse around big and small news events, not being able to participate in the jokes and memes… that’s unthinkable.
It’s also extremely revealing that Twitter’s possible demise is literally playing on twitter. That’s the problem. Twitter is where we’ve always been collectively processing to engage in shared jokes, shared trauma, and shared knowledge.
I’m aware I’m too invested in Twitter. I worked as a curator for the platform for nearly seven years, on a global team — now broken up by Musk, according to tweets from team members. Our job was to put big conversations into context by adding descriptions to trends, debunking viral misinformation, and assembling algorithmic timelines and hand-curated bundles of tweets that summarized or explored the day’s most important conversations.
Overall, we were a hugely invested team; We believed in what we did. That was actually true of most of the company. It’s not for nothing that the lettering “#LoveWhereYouWork” is emblazoned on the wall of every Twitter office. We’ve been working on an insanely powerful platform that can dictate the news agenda, influence the global market, make and ruin careers. It punches massively in excess of its weight.
Our job has been to ensure it continues to be a force for good. To maintain an unbiased and honest conversation. We kept the platform useful when it was needed most. i loved my job Not just for the salary (which was fine), the perks (which were great), or the prestige (that…depends on who you ask), but really for the mission. Not many people can say that.
But my investment goes beyond that. I was a relatively early adopter of Twitter; I joined the platform in 2009 and have watched the community grow around me. I remember the innocent days: Stephen Fry, harmless meme games and Graham Linehan before he was banned for expressing his somewhat controversial views. I was there the day it broke that a young David Cameron once did something unspeakable with a pig’s head, and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much in my life.
I was there the day the Brexit vote took place and the cathartic display of anger and solidarity that followed. The day David Bowie died. The day Grenfell burned. Lockdown day began. The day there was this huge puddle in Newcastle nobody could stop watching. I’ve documented my best ideas, dumbest thoughts, overly emotional or angry rants, and dumbest jokes on the platform for well over a decade. I like to think I’m pretty good at it.
I’ve used Twitter as a reader, journalist, performer, and former social PR pro (in the music industry — I once hosted Shakira’s official bebo; and Blue’s Lee called me for tech support because he did). I don’t understand what I did. Another story for another day.) In other words, someone who creates, engages with, and shares content with the same joy. The value of Twitter has been inestimable.
I got my book deal by replying to a tweet and it changed my life. I got my job on Twitter because someone messaged me Twitter. I’ve weirdly gone viral with funny or angry posts, been trolled and scolded for my writing and views. I have found close friends. Twitter is woven into my everyday life. “Baby, are you alright?” Someone tweeted earlier. “You’ve barely touched your strangely genuine grief at the impending loss of a site you’ve pretended to hate.”
It’s an extremely relatable statement that is impenetrable even to anyone not invested in Twitter culture. When people say being “very online,” they really mean “very much on Twitter.” Facebook has more followers, Instagram has more influencers and TikTok is younger – somehow Twitter hits culturally harder than them.
I don’t know if Twitter is on the way out. Things are certainly messy, that’s undeniable. Finally like this? We will see. I’m not a huge fan of the decisions Musk has made since taking control of the company — the part where he fired a few of my friends didn’t make me sympathetic. But I’m not stupid enough to count him. His plan seems to be to break things, clear decks and rebuild. It could work. I’m not a business mogul. What do I know?
However, I fully understand why hundreds of my former colleagues took the escape route offered to them — I left to freelance just weeks before Musk finalized his deal. I get it. I also understand and sympathize with those who stayed, just as I understood the people who left the platform themselves because everything got a bit much and those who kept using it.
When I say “we” built Twitter, made it what it is, I mean it literally. “We” like my colleagues and I who stress, sweat, and occasionally despair to make this silly app work properly, and “we” like the community of users for whom posting and reading Twitter is part of our lives. I’m not saying I’m not bitter or angry at how my friends and colleagues were treated.
I’m not saying I think the service was perfect. I’m not saying I agree with the direction it might be going. But I know I really wish it survived. It’s too important, too good, too ridiculous, too crazy, too useful to lose. We deserve Twitter. The good and the bad. I would even say we need it. I just hope it makes it through the night.
https://www.independent.ie/business/technology/i-worked-at-twitter-for-seven-years-this-is-what-i-want-you-to-know-42154639.html I worked at Twitter for seven years – I want you to know that