In the hours after Elon Musk completed his purchase of Twitter late Thursday, many avid users began voicing their uncertainty about the future of the platform and whether they want to remain on it. But with few obvious alternatives, Twitter users may be left with nowhere else to go.
Musk has repeatedly stressed his intention to rethink Twitter’s content moderation policies and permanent bans, potentially restoring the accounts of some incendiary figures. Those expected moves, and Musk’s own mixed reputation as both an innovative entrepreneur and someone with a history of erratic and controversial behavior, have ignited speculation about an exodus of users and advertisers from the platform.
But some of the initial reactions (some serious, some joking) in tech, media and entertainment circles on Twitter
(TWTR) hint at a more complicated situation: Users are wishing for a better alternative to a service that has established itself as the go-to social media platform for breaking news and political discussion, knowing that such an alternative probably does not exist.
“Let’s go back to Tumblr. It’s time,” tweeted Chris Grant, group publisher of Polygon and The Verge. “I already hate this site but this feels like maybe the moment to nuke the ol’ account permanently. Where do the cool kids hang out that isn’t owned by [points Elon’s way].”
“We really should’ve stuck with myspace,” tweeted screenwriter Jessica Ellis.
“SAVE US FRIENDSTER,” Patton Oswalt, the actor and stand-up comedian, posted on Twitter.
Many smaller social networks over the years, including the aforementioned services, have shut down or been acquired by conglomerates like Facebook-parent Meta. Facebook and LinkedIn have tried to recreate the same news feed feeling, but never established themselves as central to shaping the public discourse.
“LinkedIn’s moment has finally arrived,” Washington Post reporter Dan Diamond tweeted Thursday night.
Some platforms that have tried to emulate Twitter, including Parler and Gab, have mainly targeted conservatives and members of the far right who feel frustrated by existing content moderation policies and permanent bans. Other platforms, like Mastodon, have promised a more decentralized social media experience. But all have far fewer users than Twitter.
“Apparently i have a mastodon account from 2018 (thank you for the random follow notification that reminded me),” tweeted Tracy Chou, a software engineer and diversity advocate. “i logged in and it is tumbleweeds and one person on a soapbox opining about the nature of social networks.”
Not everyone sees Musk’s acquisition as the end of Twitter, though. Some celebrities and conservative figures expressed support and enthusiasm for the Twitter deal.
“Excited to see what you accomplish here,” retired basketball star Shaquille O’Neill tweeted at Musk on Wednesday ahead of the deal closing. Reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner also voiced support for the world’s richest man, tweeting Wednesday “[c]annot wait for @elonmusk to take over Twitter where all can speak freely.”
Former President Donald Trump used his social network, Truth Social, to say he is “very happy that Twitter is now in sane hands” following Musk’s takeover. Musk has said he would restore Trump’s Twitter account, though Trump has previously said he would remain on Truth Social.
By unbanning users and unwinding content moderation efforts, Musk could make Twitter less palatable for its most vulnerable users, typically women, members of the LGBTQ community, and people of color, according to safety experts. It could also roll back progress Twitter has made in cracking down on accounts and posts that promote abuse, spam and misleading information.
Musk, for his part, said earlier this week that he does not want Twitter to become a “free-for-all hellscape,” adding that “our platform must be warm and welcoming to all, where you can choose your desired experience according to your preferences.”
But many users clearly remain confused over whether to stay on the site and if there is anywhere else to go.
“[A]fter all these years on twitter, looks like it’s finally time to say goodbye,” Forbes editor Alex Konrad tweeted on Thursday night. “[S]o farewell, and see you all here tomorrow.”