There’s a great irony in the fact that Twitter is now owned by Elon Musk, one of the site’s most prolific, influential, and most-mocked users.
While some of Twitter’s most clever posters lean more on irony or surrealism than others, Musk loves puns. The cornier the better. Musk’s tweets are like a musty page from an old joke book. His replies attract sharp-tongued answers from more funnier users.
Musk was carrying a sink at his first visit to Twitter headquarters. could tweet, “let that sink in.” He followed up that killer punchline by laying off half of his new employees (the funny part is, Twitter is reportedly rehiring many of them).
Thus far, Musk’s leadership has proved as clunky and humorless as his posts; despite declaring that “comedy is now legal on Twitter,” Musk soon found that he was the butt of the joke.
In response to Musk’s takeover, and official “legalization” of comedy, the site was inundated with a barrage of racial slurs, prompting the comedian Trevor Noah to quip that perhaps Musk should charge white users to post the N-word, in response to Musk’s plan to charge $8-per-month for a verification checkmark.
Musk spent many days responding to verified high-profile users. He also haggled with Stephen King, a writer, like a car salesman. And he sarcastically responded to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. Whatever one’s opinion of Musk, it isn’t the most professional way to run a business, and didn’t exactly inspire confidence in the site’s userbase.
Many verified Twitter users feared that Musk would shut down Twitter and took the initiative to trolling Musk by impersonating him and posting a range of offensive and absurd posts.
Musk abruptly changed his position on permanning, which he had previously said should be reserved only for scammers and bots. He announced that all accounts impersonating other people without clearly identifying themselves as parodies would be suspended permanently.
Watching Musk react, in real time, to being mercilessly mocked by the userbase of the platform he just bought for $44 billion, is surely the funniest thing he’s ever done. It’s like an ambitious, out-of-control Nathan Fielder sketch (incidentally, did you know that Musk reportedly made a habit of inviting Fielder to parties, and would attempt to make the deadpan comedian laugh?).
Musk appears to be keen to leave his own mark on Twitter. To leave an inimitable impression on the site the same way former President Donald Trump’s psychedelic ramblings did, before he was banned permanently. But Musk simply doesn’t share Trump’s talent for turning deliriously petty feuds into pure poetry; you can’t buy that kind of unhinged talent.
It’s wildly unclear what the future holds for Twitter; the most cynical predictions of a glitchy site riddled with paywalls, intrusive ads and crypto schemes might actually come to pass. Perhaps things will change. Musk might panic and shift gears to make it more reasonable in the face of backlash.
No matter what happens to Twitter, it’s surely a safe bet that Musk’s posts will remain “cringe.”