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Idolizing Elon Musk

Dec 12, 2022

Elon Musk recently bought Twitter, and many people online continue to parade him as a sort of pioneer of a new generation of Social Media. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Musk, the world’s richest person (worth ~$220 billion according to Forbes), is as much a wealthy businessman as he is an online personality. Often hailed as the world’s “coolest billionaire”, people love Elon Musk because of how in-tune he is with current meme culture and how willing he is to speak his mind; something rarely ever seen before by people of such status.

Yet, the more you find out about him, the more you realize that Musk’s entire public persona is as much a crafted business practice as anything else – deceiving those who wish to believe they are similar to someone of such status.

In reality, Musk isn’t the funny, personable person he paints himself to be online.

Starting with Tesla, the business most often associated with Musk other than SpaceX. Tesla is a publicly traded company on the stock market, meaning public opinion of the company very directly affects its value of it. 

Due to how attached Tesla is to Musk’s name, his actions directly affect this public-opinion based valuation of the company. This was exemplified in 2018 when Musk tweeted that he was planning on taking Tesla private when the stock reached $420. His statement artificially pumped the price of the stock by almost 10% as investors rushed to get invested before they lost the chance. 

As a result, Musk lost his position as Chairman of Tesla and was forced to pay a $20 million fine for misleading investors.

In Musk’s past, there are many instances where he misleads his supporters with his generally misguided ethics. In fact, it’s been a defining factor in all his past business and even personal relationships. But why bring this up now?

The answer is simple: Twitter.

While many believe Musk went and outright bought Twitter, the purchase itself was not nearly that simple.

After making a commitment to grossly overpay for Twitter at $54.20 a share ($44 billion total), he had to sell Tesla stock, take out loans, and get funding from investment banks to make up the total amount. Musk will have to pay $1 billion yearly in interest on the loans he acquired. 

In the weeks following, Musk has proven that he bit off more than he could chew in hopes of somehow paying that $1 billion annual fee. As advertisers are leaving Twitter in droves, Musk has tried to somehow monetize Twitter.

This is where he messed up the most. Musk allowed Twitter Blue subscribers, who pay $7.99 a month, to get a “blue check” (Twitter’s verification badge).

Many believe that Musk only did this out of desperation to form some sort of revenue; while it may be a significant reason behind why he did, I don’t think it tells the whole story. I believe that it was a calculated decision with a small chance of possibly working. 

In short, Musk is trying to monetize clout. Instead of providing anything worth $7.99 of value to Twitter Blue subscribers, he’s letting people pay to look more important online. He hopes that, in the coming months, the regular Twitter user will be swarmed with so many verified users in their feed that they feel like an outcast for not being verified. 

It’s yet another way that a social media platform will take advantage of the insecurity it cultivates within users. But, due to those aforementioned misguided ethics, this predatory model likely means nothing more than the cash it brings to Elon Musk.

And that’s the core of the issue. It’s Musk’s fragile ego that’s dictating the world’s town square and not a level-headed business owner that’s working for the benefit of its users.

While some of his most die-hard fans believe that Musk is two steps ahead in his actions at Twitter, he wholly underestimates people’s rationality and financial situations.

8 dollars is a lot already. Even with a job and being in Twitter’s target audience for the feature, I can’t justify paying that much for Twitter Blue. Moreover, I don’t want to throw 8 dollars towards a model with questionable morality from a company on the brink of bankruptcy.

This is for the same reason I paid $60 for a Patagonia crewneck and wouldn’t do the same for H&M: I get a choice and I want to stay true to my own ethics and values, both of which are being intruded on by a company that doesn’t follow any.

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