Elon Musk’s Twitter has lasted more than a month, in spite of his own self-sabotaging. He is operating with a bareboned staff, rolling out features before thinking them over and simply tweeting through it all.
He’s also welcoming the worst of Twitter back on his platform. He brought back Kanye “Ye” West, who subsequently tweeted a photo of a swastika and a star of David merged together and got banned again. Under Musk’s guidance, Twitter has allowed 12,000 accounts to be reinstated, which has included Nazi sympathizers and other figures on the alt-right. He even held a poll on the platform to justify bringing Donald Trump back.
This behavior has been enough to drive them some users away. Celebrities like Jim Carrey and Whoopi Goldberg have made their exits. Others have seen their own accounts targeted, or had first- or second-hand experiences with Twitter’s new moderation policies. Mark Simpson-Vos, the Wyndham Robertson Editorial Director at University of North Carolina Press, tweeted that he was leaving the platform Friday morning after one of his writers was permanently suspended, seemingly without reason. Earlier this week, there was a warning label placed on UNC professor Daniel Kreiss’ account for “some unusual activity.”
I have never been good at social media breakups. I still have the Facebook account I made at 13. I have the same Instagram account I made at 14. I have the Snapchat username I made at 17. I’ve forgotten passwords and deleted apps, but I find it hard to pull the plug permanently.
The times I have been able to do it, it has been for me. I deleted my Tumblr account in the first year of college because it was pulling me further into depression. I deleted my first Twitter account that year, too, only to create an entirely new account months later for a journalism class.
It’s even harder to decide what to do when you feel your moral compass pulled multiple directions. This year, as musicians left Spotify because of the streaming service’s exclusive contract with podcaster Joe Rogan, who’s been accused of racism and promoting COVID misinformation, I mulled whether to join them. Spotify has always had problems with the way it treats musicians and other content creators (it’s part of what fueled my collection of LPs over the years from newer artists).
I considered switching to Apple Music or Tidal but ultimately came to feel that none of the options, aside from buying physical media, were any better for musicians or my listening experience. It’s a decision I still have mixed feelings about, but that’s life as a consumer.
Whether we like it or not, these decisions are deeply personal and deeply political. Choosing where to spend your time and money is not the same as choosing where to donate your time and money, but your money still might have an impact when corporations or even local businesses make political statements with their profits.
Boycotting businesses is a tangible way to decide where your values lie, even if the effect is marginal. It’s something that we do on both sides of the political aisle. Folks on the left make the choice not to shop at Hobby Lobby or Chick-Fil-A. On the right, Target and Disney have been subject to boycotts in recent years.
All of these boycotts, of course, are a little different from Twitter. Twitter is useful, especially for young journalists like me. I don’t want to compartmentalize my social media. I don’t want to have my friends on one site, talk to my sources on another, and talk to journalists on yet another site. Twitter has given me the opportunity to combine my work life and personal life, in one giant mixing bowl of chaos.
The verdict is still out on my Twitter decision. For me, the site is still useful. Tomorrow, it may not be. That’s a decision I’ll have to make for myself.
Sara Pequeño is a Raleigh-based opinion writer for McClatchy’s North Carolina Opinion Team. This essay originally appeared in the Raleigh News & Observer.