In the days following his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter on Oct. 28, Elon Musk has repeatedly tweeted about the vibrancy of the platform.
“Twitter feels increasingly alive,” he boasted on Nov. 13 to his 115.6 million followers. On Nov. 10, he posted, “Usage of Twitter continues to rise. One thing is for sure: it isn’t boring!” Another one: “Hit all-time high of active users today.”
While Musk didn’t back up the breathless posts with hard data, headlines tell a different, far less enthusiastic story. According to a tweet from Twitter head of Safety & Integrity Yoel Roth (who has since departed), 50 percent of Twitter’s 7,500 employees were laid off and other high-profile leaders resigned, departures that stoked concern about privacy and security. Advertisers pulled back and celebrities tweeted final goodbyes to devoted followers.
But not everyone has followed through with deactivation.
Although a number of stars and high-profile figures signaled plans to leave in the wake of Musk’s tenure, the majority have simply left their accounts dormant rather than delete completely. “Not hanging around for whatever Elon has planned,” tweeted TV mogul Shonda Rhimes on Oct. 29, although her account is live as of Monday. Same for Sara Bareilles, who bid adieu by writing, “See you on other platforms, peeps. Sorry, this one’s just not for me.”
While Gigi Hadid, Whoopi Goldberg, Stephen Fry, Amber Heard and Alex Winter wiped their accounts (along with Balenciaga who deleted on Monday), others like Brian Koppelman, Toni Braxton, Ken Olin, Sully Sullenberger and even Playbill still have theirs even though they quit tweeting — for now. Keeping that option open is key, says Wynter Mitchell Rohrbaugh, a digital strategist and podcaster.
“I don’t recommend deleting an account,” explained Mitchell Rohrbaugh. “The knee jerk reaction is to delete and I’ve had clients who made that decision and followed through, either on their own or with my help. I always respect my clients’ wishes not to interact with a platform or contribute to what’s happening there. You can say that you’re going to sunset the platform in its current state or not post anymore past a specific date but I don’t recommend deleting entirely because you’re never going to get that audience back. I’m telling everyone to sit tight — for now.”
Others are encouraging users to maintain accounts so that bad actors aren’t able to secure their former handles and impersonate them, with or without an $8 blue check subscription, one of Musk’s highest-profile and most controversial changes during his first two weeks at the helm. Mitchell Rohrbaugh said that while the situation at Twitter may seem extreme, every social media platform is going through some level of upheaval at the moment as layoffs and cutbacks sweep through the tech amid a possible recession and belt-tightening by advertisers.
“Everyone that is a person of influence should think about taking your audience to other spaces in case things change and continue to get worse,” she said, noting that she has clients who are experimenting with email news marketing, Discord, Telegram and other platforms . “This happened really fast and you want to be prepared should something like this happen again where you find yourself not in agreement with a CEO’s practices, policies or viewpoints. You want to ensure that you’re going to have a way to reach and interact with your audience.”
Speaking of sitting tight, several high-profile users THR spoke with are carefully considering their options. Trent Reznor told THR at the LA premiere of his new film Bones and All that he’s prepared to bail but hasn’t pulled the trigger yet. “Embarrassment,” offered Reznor when asked for his take on the platform in the wake of Musk’s takeover. The Nine Inch Nails front man and Oscar-winning composer (with longtime partner Atticus Ross) doesn’t tweet all that much but has a sizable 1.6 million following even if he’s ready to say goodbye for good.
“I’m about to leave. We don’t need the arrogance of the billionaire class to feel like they can just come in and solve everything. Even without him involved, I just find that it has become such a toxic environment. For my mental health, I need to tune out. I don’t feel good in being there anymore.”
Oscar winning filmmaker Matthew A. Cherry is keeping it business as usual with 312,500 followers. “I’m just waiting to see how it plays out,” he told THR on the red carpet at Big Brothers Big Sisters LA gala on Thursday. “Every hour of every day there’s new information coming out with employees speaking out about all the craziness that’s going on but it’s such a great platform and I hate to let it go. I’m just going to see how it plays out, day by day, and think about what the next move might be.”
Cherry is more than a prolific Twitter user, he once inspired the platform’s #TweetitintoExistence campaign. “Twitter is unique,” he says. “You can get instant gratification. You ask a question and somebody answers within a few seconds. It’s a hard decision to make when it’s a platform that also does so much good. But if you pull back the hood on a lot of major companies, you aren’t going to like what you find so you have to use it for the people you support and who support you and continue by taking it day by day.”
For Mitchell Rohrbaugh, Twitter is beyond just a business platform that her clients use, it’s personal. “I’ve been on the platform from the beginning,” she said, adding that she joined her first account in 2008, two years after it was launched. She uses it to engage with her community while also promoting her writing, podcast and strategic and consulting business.
“Twitter is my favorite platform,” she said. “I don’t think the Twitter of today will be the same in a year from now. Right now, it feels like the Wild West. It doesn’t help that everyone we used to deal with on the talent partnerships team is now gone. I had good relationships with everyone there and partnered with them on multiple great opportunities for clients. It’s really unfortunate and no one has reached out to say, ‘Don’t worry.'”
She continued: “I’m a freedom fighter. I’m going to stay on as long as its tenable. We have all contributed to the success of the company, in one tweet, shape or form, and we’ve made it great. That is thanks to creators, educators, experts, people of color, Black Twitter, film Twitter, everyone. It’s been a lifeline during COVID and the most valuable source of information. I refuse to believe this is how Twitter’s story ends.”