Southworst Airlines
Credit: John Darkow, Columbia Missourian / CTNewsJunkie via Cagle Cartoons / ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Jonathan L. Wharton

December has proven to be the most chaotic month of Twitter’s ongoing soap opera. For months it was speculated that Elon Musk would purchase the social media platform. When he completed the purchase in late October, there was a lot of associated chaos, including staff firings and random rule-makings. I’m hardly a Musk fan, and this month’s troubling episodes remind me of why so many Americans now harbor negative opinions of him. But I will remain on Twitter because it’s user-friendly, even if the social media platform’s new owner is problematic.

Musk, unfortunately, targeted various reporters for suspensions, especially from big media outlets, based on their news coverage of a conflict Musk was personally involved in on the platform with an account called @elonjet, which was reporting the departures and arrivals of his private jet. The suspensions included reporters from CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times, who had reported on the conflict. But Twitter also went after my own CT News Junkie colleague, Terry Cowgill.

Cowgill’s tweet response to a Twitter follower about websites following airplanes apparently led Twitter to temporarily shut down his account as well as other reporters’ accounts posting about the location of Musk’s private plane. Online tweets and debates resulted about doxxing, and whether private planes’ locations was the business of reporters to know and post. It was messy.

Since Musk’s takeover, many Twitter users have left the platform including almost 40 of my own followers. On a weekly basis, it’s like witnessing stocks falling and, interestingly, Twitter’s own stock value decreased significantly following Musk’s actions. Even Tesla, his electric car company, dropped 70% of its value since the beginning of the year.

Still, the idea that a single owner can ban accounts sparked many to flee Twitter. It is Musk’s company now, so he can and has been aggressive about his response to the media. This is unfortunate since freedom of the press is not only constitutionally protected, but also part of America’s Creed. Reporters have a professional responsibility to report the news and we rely on them to do so, even when it’s not favorable for specific individuals.

But moguls have bought up numerous media outlets, like Jeff Bezos’ purchase of The Washington Post, and Alden Capital’s purchase of the Tribune Company’s publications, including The Hartford Courant. Now it has become clear that we should be equally concerned about who owns the major social media platforms, as well as our news outlets. 

Beyond Twitter, I loathe Facebook, which is owned by Meta now, and its owner, Mark Zuckerberg. And I rarely post on Facebook. I’ve removed my account for months at a time, especially during election season. It’s troubling when friends and family post their political opinions on my Facebook wall and add me to threads.

I may be a political scientist, but I hardly argue with personal opinions, and I will not do so on Facebook. I do have my share of stalkers, haters, and exes on Twitter. But at least I can engage in puckish exchanges on Twitter because it leads to intriguing threads.

Twitter also allows for more interesting exchanges and I also find it to be more user friendly than Facebook. I’ve tried using other platforms, like Muck Rack and Mastodon. Muck Rack is ideal for reporters since it’s a news media centered platform and it’s set up similarly to Twitter and LinkedIn. But is for those in the media industry. Mastodon, on the other hand, feels like I’m starting from scratch on social media. It’s bothersome to navigate and few people and entities are using it yet. 

I’ll likely delete my Mastodon account soon, but I will keep my Twitter account. Musk’s ego on display will hardly make me a non-user. He’s bound to find someone to run Twitter in the near future, but I won’t boycott his social media platform. I’d rather avoid buying his Teslas, especially with their sticker-shock pricing.

Jonathan L. Wharton, Ph.D., is an associate professor of political science and urban affairs at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven.

The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of or any of the author's other employers.