Column: Elon Musk’s Twitter chaos came calling for me
When Elon Musk strode into Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters in October, toting a bathroom sink, it did seem possible that the social media platform might soon be circling the very drain he held in his hands.
So much of the Twitter-using world was aghast at Musk’s purchase of the popular but unprofitable social media platform. For weeks, the speculation raged:
He’d wreck Twitter by letting banned troublemakers like former President Trump back on.
He’d charge for the infamous blue check that denotes “legitimacy,” rendering it meaningless.
He’d make sure that his own tweets would top every user’s timeline.
More ominously: He would crumble under the immense debt load he incurred by taking Twitter private.
I followed the controversies but not terribly closely.
Of course, Twitter has become an indispensable platform for many of its millions of users. But unlike many journalists, I don’t live for every post and retweet. For me, it’s been a great tip service; I get lots of column ideas about topics people are passionate about. Mainly for professional reasons — and to procrastinate, of course — I dip in and out of Twitter multiple times a day.
On balance, the platform is a hugely positive phenomenon for its users, although volumes have been and will be filled about its misuse by propagandists, conspiracy theorists and hate mongers from all points on the political and cultural spectrum.
And, of course, there’s no snark like Twitter snark.
It was a tragic day for many reasons when conservative provocateur Andrew Breitbart dropped dead of a heart attack in 2012 at age 43. Selfishly, I still mourn the demise of his brutal but immensely entertaining daily Twitter war with liberal media critic Eric Boehlert, who also suffered an untimely death after being hit by a train while riding his bike last year. The two of them turned Twitter into, as one Breitbart admirer put it, “a tool of combat.”
These days, I love perusing the replies to posts by right-wing ideologues like U.S. Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Marjorie Taylor Green of Georgia. I’m enamored of porn actress Stormy Daniels’ bawdy takedowns of the Former Guy and his supporters. (Trumper tweet: “President Trump wouldn’t touch you with a 10-foot pole.” Daniels’ reply: “True. He touched me with a three-inch one.”)
After Musk sacked about half of Twitter’s workforce and the site was awash in glitches and outages with apparently not enough engineers to right the ship, many users speculated the end days were near. For a while after the Musk takeover, its trending hashtags included #GoodbyeTwitter and #RIPTwitter.
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The good news is that Twitter is, as the New York Times put it late last month, “unlikely to go kaput.”
Well, maybe for you.
But for me, on March 12, Twitter went kaput.
I was watching a movie when an email from Twitter landed in my inbox: “Email address for @AbcarianLAT changed.” A link had been sent to the new email address, “ga********@g****.***” and if that wasn’t me, Twitter asked, “please contact Twitter support immediately.”
That wasn’t me, so I clicked on the enclosed link, which sent me to a support form, which I filled out. I didn’t think much of it, but I was unable to open my Twitter account @AbcarianLAT. That was slightly inconvenient, but not a major bummer. Also, my profile photo had disappeared.
A few days later, Twitter support emailed to tell me that my Los Angeles Times email address, the one I’d used to register my Twitter account in 2009, was not the email associated with my account. What the hell?
You can’t actually email or call a human being at Twitter, so I filled out another form explaining who I was, that I was locked out of my account and that the Times email should be associated with it. I had a couple more frustrating exchanges with nonhuman Twitter, and then, unbidden, it assigned me a new handle, @abcarian84006. I wrote again and said I wanted my old account back.
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After that, I was never able to get back into @AbcarianLAT. I had almost 10,000 followers, which is not very many in the grand scheme of journalism Twitter. In fact, one of my colleagues once described my Twitter account as “tragically underfollowed.” Whatever. It was mine and I liked it.
After 10 days or so, figuring I would never again be able to access my account, I created a new one (see below). My profile photo is me, as the Wicked Witch of the West, and my golden retriever as the Cowardly Lion. My background banner is a photo of my father flipping the bird in front of the Trump National Golf Course in Palos Verdes.
I now have 10 precious followers, to whom I pledge eternal loyalty.
On Monday, I couldn’t believe it when another email from Twitter landed in my inbox: “Your Twitter account has been reactivated! Welcome back!”
It’s a beautiful car with no carbon emission, and initially, I was proud of owning it and being seen driving a vehicle that displayed my concern for the environment.
Oh wow, I thought, I guess I overreacted when I created that whole new account. Hasta la vista, 10 new followers. @AbcarianLAT is back!
Alas, it was not. Twitter was merely reactivating the account I never asked for in the first place, @abcarian84006.
As of now, @AbcarianLAT is still there, frozen in time. Since March 12, no one has accessed it, or hacked into it, as far as I can tell. I don’t really understand what happened, and so far, Twitter won’t or can’t explain it to me.
This week, because Musk is drowning in debt, he shook up the Twitterverse once more.
Starting next month, he announced, blue check marks, introduced in 2009 to verify identities and delegitimize impersonators, would officially be available only to those willing to pay $8 a month. And Twitter’s algorithm, he vows, will no longer promote, or recommend, tweets from accounts without blue check marks.
I lost my check mark when I got locked out of my original account; I don’t intend to pay for a new one. I never expected to be anything more than a bystander to all the drama at Twitter, but quite unwittingly, I seem to have been swept up in it.
But here’s the thing: My sense of self-worth has never risen or fallen on my Twitter status. I can still peruse Twitter for news just as I did before.
And with a new identity, I now have access to accounts that have blocked the old me — talking to you, @HeyTammyBruce!
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