Musk Encourages Votes for Republicans in Midterms, Validating My Decision to Pause Twitter
Last night I wrote a thread on Twitter announcing that I would be pausing my engagement on Twitter until further notice.1
My rationale is straightforward and entirely self-interested: Twitter has become too unstable to warrant trying to share immigration research and data, and given my intense workload, my tolerance for instability is very low. It took a week of discernment, but that is where I landed yesterday.
This morning, Musk explicitly advocated for voters to support Republican candidates in the midterms, which although concerning in the sense that democracy might be unraveling, gives me some peace of mind that I made the right decision.
I don’t particularly care who you vote for and I have never used my account to advocate for political candidates or parties. I don’t believe that the CEO of Twitter should do so either.2 More importantly, I don’t believe it’s in the economic self-interest of Twitter to have its CEO stirring up partisan politics online at a time when Twitter’s standard operation procedures are already in turmoil and trust in the platform is extremely low.
Twitter has always been extra work for me, but the work always paid off enormously in terms of putting TRAC’s research in the hands of reporters and the public, as well as building connections and having conversations with more people than I ever could have imagined. Twitter has been its own kind of blessing (though not without its curses).
But Twitter is changing, and probably not for the better.
Musk’s volatile and incoherent policy changes raise major questions for me about how news organizations and reporters will operate going forward, and reporters are probably the primary audience I aim to reach. I won’t rehash the technical changes that are coming, nor their various implications, but let’s just say it will dramatically reconfigure how trust and attention work on the site.
Also, Musk’s attention-seeking has sucked up a lot of oxygen on the platform, making it harder to stay focused on what made Twitter useful: being a conduit for public discussion.
As a result, Twitter’s utility for me professionally, as someone who is not trying to be a celebrity or a politician or an influencer, just a plain-old-boring-academic, is in decline.
In short, I’m out. For now.
Maybe my concerns are overblown and Musk will build an amazing company and prove his critics wrong. Maybe Twitter is being weaponized from the very top to poison political discourse. I’ll wait and see before drawing any final conclusions. But I won’t participate in it. I can’t focus on my work while sitting in an office that is on fire.
The good news is, I have lots of other outlets for my work and for TRAC’s work, and I will focus on those with no loss in productivity or reach. I will write here on Substack as usual (probably with greater frequency), I am on Mastodon, and my email is easy to find on Syracuse University’s website. You can sign up for TRAC’s official emails here.
And that’s the last thing I’ll be writing about Twitter for a while.
Back to work, everybody!
You can read a cleaned version of the thread without logging in to Twitter here: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1589460951677669376.html.
On a related note, I have regularly criticized news outlets like the New York Times for endorsing political candidates, Democrat or Republican, but I think I’m in the minority on that view.