Twitter: A Bird in The House?
"While leadership pundits may celebrate disruptive behaviour as a think outside the box success, there’s room to wonder if Musk is the bird in the house"

“The sparrow had exhausted itself. It lay on the floor, spent and trembling. I could not bring myself to touch it. Noreen bent and picked it up. She cradled it with great gentleness between her cupped hands. Then we took it downstairs, and when I had opened the back door, Noreen set the bird free.” A Margaret Laurence reference from her novel, “A Bird in The House” reflects what some Twitter users are feeling as they grapple with new owner and disruptor of the social media platform, Elon Musk.



Musk, better known for his Tesla cars and Space-X adventures has been active on the twitter platform. He started stirring up publicity by pushing a forthcoming $8 a month fee for anyone wishing to display a blue verification checkmark, previously a free service meant to ensure the authenticity of public figures. In his new model, anyone can get verified if they’re willing to pay.


Will it happen? Maybe. It could also be Musk using a truth or dare tactic to trigger interest as he plucks feathers from the bird as part of the user base threatens to leave and others support him through their amped up freedom of speech vitriol. “Being attacked by both right & left simultaneously is a good sign,” tweeted Musk on November 2nd, and that was enough to earn 753 thousand likes, generate 49 thousand comments, and almost 60 thousand retweets to date.


Musk using social media and triggering product reactions isn’t new as he’s previously played puppet master with Tesla and Dogecoin.



As Musk’s $8 fee tweets distracted some, he went about slashing 50% of the global Twitter workforce. He later tweeted, “unfortunately there is no choice when the company is losing over $4M/day.” Meanwhile, there were reports of employee account access lockouts, see you later e-mail notifications, empty offices, and confusion. With criticism mounting on the you’re fired approach, Musk went into public relations mode by adding, “everyone exited was offered 3 months of severance, which is 50% more than legally required.” 



The on-line reaction was mixed as some empathized with those losing their jobs and some celebrated it as some sort of personal victory. The growing negative culture on the platform may be more than a gut-feeling. CBS news reported that “Twitter saw an immediate, visible and measurable spike in hate speech after (the) Elon Musk takeover.”


Feeling the pressure, Musk countered, “we have actually seen hateful speech at times this week decline below our prior norms,” then taking a swipe at media, “contrary to what you may read in the press.” His believe me not them damage control tweet is one of the few desperate ones in his recent twitter timeline.



Advertisers have also taken notice of Musk’s disruptive behaviour, some rethinking their future with the bird brand. Several have allegedly responded to his recent activities by pausing their relationship and advertising with Twitter. Brands like General Motors, General Mills (Cheerios), Audi of America, Mondelez International (Oreo), Pfizer, IPG Media Brands (CVS Pharmacy, Nintendo, Unilever, etc.) have all stopped their ads and some are re-directing to other platforms like Facebook and Instagram.



“A bird in the house means a death in the house,” wrote author Margaret Laurence in her 1970 novel, “A Bird in The House.” While leadership pundits may celebrate disruptive behaviour as a think outside the box success, there’s certainly room to wonder if Musk is the bird in the house, if he is in a birdbox, or maybe if this is what the wealthiest person in the world does when he’s bored?


Not everyone can set free what they love.


This is an opinion article by Guido Piraino of  The Monthly Social Podcast. It may also be heard on The Path Radio Mix Online. You can read other opinion articles on the blog page.


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