What we lost in the fire: Elon Musk is slowly killing the things that made Twitter a force for good

OPINION: In just a little over a month, Captain Apartheid has managed to destroy Twitter as a social media app. But it gets much deeper than that. 

In this photo illustration Elon Musk Twitter seen displayed on a smartphone screen with Twitter logo in the background in Athens, Greece on October 30, 2022. (Photo by Nikolas Kokovlis/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Y’all, Twitter as we know it is slowly dying a painful death. 

To be clear, Twitter was already on life support, but Captain Apartheid swooped in and started unplugging all the machinery, and now the site is wheezing for help and pushing the nurse call button, but no one is responding. 

Elon Musk and his never-ending supply of idiotic ideas have been eroding the social media site of every shred of its assumed dignity since he took over on Oct. 27. 

Not only has he completely disrupted the lives of thousands of employees, but he keeps making dumb decisions based on knee-jerk reactions to things people say about him either in the media, in the company Slack or on Twitter itself. 

Like, imagine being that much of a witless, entitled dweeb and having the unmitigated gall to have a fragile ego to go along with it. 

Part of the problem is that Melon Husk is high on his own supply. So many people have referred to him as a genius (which, please knock it off; this man is simpler than a “Little Golden Book”).

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is pictured as he attends the start of the production at Tesla’s “Gigafactory” on March 22, 2022, in Gruenheide, southeast of Berlin. (Photo by PATRICK PLEUL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

His sycophants follow him around on Twitter, defending him with outright lies about his accomplishments, including the whopper that he invented Tesla (he didn’t).

While Twitter is not the only billionaire-led corporation to currently be going down in flames, it certainly is the one that has everyone’s attention. 

Mark Zuckerberg is currently burning Facebook to the ground behind this whole Meta/metaverse nonsense, but at least his L is on mute. 

Elon’s fail is on blast, and the knob is broke, and everyone everywhere all at once can hear it. 

Add to that the fact that unlike Facebook, which is a walled garden mainly occupied by our mamas and aunties and older relatives who can’t get with the speed of information on Twitter plus our hood cousins who like to change their names to things like “Dana LivingMyBestLifeWithoutHim Jones,” Twitter is the town square where everyone could set up their soapbox and be heard by millions of people around the world all at once, and you can understand why its perceived demise is daily news at this point. 

Twitter was and still mostly is a great communication tool.

While it didn’t start out that way originally, Twitter has evolved into a great conversation tool. The ability to follow your friends — as well as people whose work or words you are interested in — and engage in a back-and-forth dialogue with them that anyone else could join if they wanted is nothing short of brilliant. 

It has given us unfettered access to our elected officials, our favorite celebrities (and admittedly, we have many times wished we didn’t know what they were thinking) and everyone in between. 

It provided a platform for people to have their voices heard, but as of late, there is a constant worry that some of those voices will be drowned out by the noise Elon is creating with all of his knee-jerk reactions and decisions that continue to erode and deteriorate what little integrity the social site had left. 

Just take a look at the entire “blue check” debacle. 

Paid “verification” is harmful to the integrity of the site.

To be clear, Elon’s attempt to devalue the blue checkmark and give everyone access to it without any type of identity verification is a direct attack on journalists. Journalists and others working in media make up about 25 percent of verified accounts on Twitter according to one report. Journalists have not been kind to Elon — in fact, they have been the most critical, even before his takeover of Twitter. 

As mentioned before, Elon is still the kid who used to get shoved into the locker every day at school, and his grievance against journalists is no secret. 

Verification provided journalists with a status that some without verification viewed as elite, but those in the know recognized as a tool for separating the real news from the fake. People looked to verified accounts as trusted sources of information

That trust began to devolve as soon as Elon opened the gates for anyone with $8 a month to have a blue checkmark. It’s reached the point where seeing a blue checkmark on an account requires further verification that the person tweeting is actually a credible person of note and not yet another troll with money to burn for no reason at all but to carry the coveted blue checkmark so many previously pretended not to care about.  

Twitter thrived as a great tool for activism.

Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The #MeToo as a movement. These are just three examples of the social issues and movements that gained momentum via Twitter. We may not have been able to raise as much awareness about the extrajudicial killings of Black people by both white vigilantes and white vigilantes in police uniforms without this powerful tool. 

Should Twitter die out entirely or cease to be an effective venue for communication, we will have lost one of the greatest tools of activism to date, and I am convinced that Elon is well aware of this as he continues to destroy the medium.  

We will miss Black Twitter when this all goes to hell.

To be clear, Black people aren’t going anywhere. We have been here, and we will continue to be here, but the centralized form of communication that has made it possible for us to spread memes, jokes and information, and watch television shows and movies “as a family” may be gone. 

Think back on all that we have shared as a community through Twitter. Shonda Rhimes Thursday nights consisting of “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal,” and “How To Get Away With Murder.” That night in 2015 when we all watched “The Wiz Live” as a family. The night Arya Stark killed the Night King, and we collectively cheered our fave on. This entire season of “House of the Dragon.”

Black Twitter makes everything better, from sporting events to reality television and everything in between. We are the literal spice the otherwise bland world needs to make things exciting, and baby? We did that. 

As Meredith Clark noted in a recent op-ed, Black people aren’t going anywhere, but we are not likely to find the same type of water cooler gathering spot that we had in Twitter, and it is this part of Elon’s mess that makes me the saddest. 

Elon Musk is destroying a powerful tool.

He is taking down a communication network that has united people from all walks of life all across the globe. He is dismantling a space where we could come to laugh, talk, argue, debate, crack jokes, read people’s thoughts and interject some of our own if we so wished. 

As Elon kills Twitter, he is killing a legacy, and ultimately, that is what people will remember from all this.

Monique Judge

Monique Judge is a storyteller, content creator and writer living in Los Angeles. She is a word nerd who is a fan of the Oxford comma, spends way too much time on Twitter, and has more graphic t-shirts than you. Follow her on Twitter @thejournalista or check her out at moniquejudge.com.

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