So, just another average day on the social media beat, nothing much happening…
Oh, wait, no, Elon Musk has incited a mass exodus of staff at Twitter, many of whom are now predicting that the site will likely crash at any moment.
Yes, Twitter could well be on its last legs, or at least, it could be on the brink of significant outages, after Musk called on the app’s remaining staff to commit to ‘extremely hardcore’ working conditions, or leave the company with three months’ pay. Apparently, some 75% of them decided the latter was a better option.
A quick summary of the current Twitter staffing situation:
- In September, before Elon Musk took over at the app, Twitter, reportedly, had around 7,500 staff in total
- Musk initially cut Twitter’s top execs, on his first day at the helm of the app, then, just days later, Musk culled around 50% of the company’s staff as a cost-saving measure, taking it to approximately 3,700 staff
- At that time, many exiting employees said that the cuts were not thought–through, with entire, critical departments culled, and Twitter’s international teams, in particular, reduced to almost nothing. Reports also suggested that Musk’s transition team was forced to ask some key staff to return as a result of the hasty action
- On Wednesday this week, Musk sent an email to the remaining Twitter staff which explained that they would need to commit to ‘working long hours at high intensity’, on whatever projects Musk decided to pursue. There was no roadmap provided, no plan, just a requested commitment to ‘extremely hardcore’ work – or they could leave with three months’ pay. Workers had till 5pm Thursday to either accept these conditions or resign.
- At the 5pm Thursday deadline, around 75% of Twitter’s remaining workforce had reportedly decided not to accept Musk’s offer, which has now reduced the staff headcount to 900 people in total.
So we’ve gone from 7,500 to 900 – a 88% total reduction in Twitter staff since Musk took the reigns. Which, as noted, has left many speculating that the app cannot keep running at such a reduced capacity. Some are suggesting that internal systems are already breaking, with no one there to monitor them, while any significant increase in activity – like, say, the World Cup next week – could break the app.
It’s impossible to know exactly what may or may not happen, but an 88% reduction in staff has to have some impact.
For his part, Musk initially seemed concerned about the mass exodus of staff, but then resumed posting memes about the situation.
He also bragged, once again, that Twitter usage is at an all-time high, so he, at least, seems relatively confident that the platform will stay up and continue on as normal, despite the reduction.
But it does also appear that fewer people accepted his ‘extremely hardcore’ offer than he had anticipated. Further reports also suggested that Musk and his team scrambled to retain some of the most critical staffers at the last minute, which may well prove to be a saving grace.
Some exiting Twitter staff explained their reasoning for opting out, with one former Twitter engineer noting that:
“There was no vision shared with us, no 5-year plan like at Tesla. Nothing more than what anyone can see on Twitter […] additionally there were rumors the new vision might be radically different, not just subscription-based but possibly having adult content be a core component of subscription offerings. That is a BIG departure and one I wouldn’t get behind.”
As it turns out, people are more willing to sign-up to an ‘extremely hardcore’ work approach when developing major, world-changing projects, like electric vehicles and spaceships to Mars, but when the work you’re asking them to stick around for is potentially facilitating hate speech, profiting off porn, and taking advantage of fame hungry chumps, the enthusiasm meter isn’t so high.
But still, Twitter is still running, and Elon’s still tweeting about his plans for the app. So maybe Musk was right, and there was a lot of bloat in its staffing – or maybe your next tweet could be your last.
Nobody knows, which is why #RIPTwitter was trending last night, and remains a key topic of discussion in social media circles today.
So what comes next?
On Twitter itself, the Musk team’s five key focus areas, reportedly, are:
- Developing Musk’s $8 verification plan (apparently, all the staffers who were working on this project have now left)
- Developing a Twitter Blue for Business offering (no details as yet)
- Facilitating DM encryption (already in progress – as per this finding by app researcher Jane Manchun Wong)
- Expanded tipping for creators, with a ‘tips on tweets’ features (as opposed to on-platform donations)
- Enabling longer text in tweets
How Musk and Co. do any of this is now up in the air, as they’ll need to re-assess staffing, and reallocate resources. But these were Musk’s focus elements before yesterday’s mass exodus.
It seems like these will remain in place, once what’s left of Twitter re-groups – though again, how they get anything done beyond keeping the app running, day-to-day, is also unclear.
In any event, nothing will be happening till next week, with Musk’s team locking everyone out of the company till Monday, in order to mitigate the risk of rogue ex-employees causing problems at the app.
Oh, also, Musk’s Twitter takeover is apparently under a national security review due to concerns that Musk’s foreign funding partners may now be able to access user data.
So basically, just another day on Mr. Musk’s wild ride.
One thing’s for sure, he certainly knows how to get attention.
Instagram Tests More BeReal-Like Elements as it Looks to Lean Into the Authentic Social Shift
Will the BeReal process of posting an image of whatever you might be doing at a specific moment of the day end up becoming a lasting social media trend, or will it fade out, like many viral shifts before it?
It feels, in some ways, like it’s already waning – though BeReal did win App of the Year on both the Apple and Google (‘Users Choice’ category) stores for 2022. So there’s that – and overall, there is also a sense that BeReal has showcased an underlying trend in social, that people have had enough of the airbrushed, edited, sculpted personas that people present in their every upload and comment online.
It all feels a bit staged, and BeReal eliminates that, in a creative way. But what’s next for BeReal, as an app? Is there anything more that can be done with that concept?
Is there anything that other apps can do with it – and is it worthy of further exploration?
Instagram’s certainly giving it a shot.
After trying out a very BeReal-esque feature called ‘Candid’ earlier this year, Instagram is now also developing some similar features, focused on different elements within the app.
First off, Instagram’s working on something called ‘Roll Call’ which would enable group chat members to request that all participants add a photo or video of themselves to the chat within 5 minutes.
As you can see in these screenshots, posted by app researcher Alessandro Paluzzi, Roll Call is effectively a small-scale version of BeReal, within an enclosed group chat, as opposed to sending the request to all of your contacts.
Instagram’s also working on ‘Glimpse’ Stories, which works exactly like BeReal, in using the front and back cameras to show what you’re up to at any given time.
As you’ll note in both of these variations, they require participation, just like BeReal, with the images or videos posted only made visible to those who’ve also submitted their own contribution to the Roll Call/Glimpse.
Could that work, and become a more significant trend on IG, if indeed either feature is ever actually released?
I mean, maybe.
Again, BeReal has seen a massive surge in downloads this year, so there’s clearly interest in such functionality, and really, the BeReal process is more of a feature than a platform in itself, so it could also make more sense as a complementary element within Instagram or some other app, than as a separate app of its own.
But it also feels like a bit of a fad that people will tire of – an antidote to the artificiality that now dominates the main apps, but which doesn’t actually change them, or the way we use the more popular apps, as such.
Which is the real challenge. While there is clearly a desire for more genuine, honest communication within social apps, the big platforms already play such a significant role in our daily process that it’s going to be difficult to usurp them, while it’s also hard to resist the entertainment value of TikTok for distraction and engagement, veering away from social connection.
How do you make the mundane more interesting, and a more significant aspect, when it’s more of a curiosity, a fleeting interest to make you feel more connected, but not a longer-term engagement element within itself?
The unfortunate truth that all social apps have eventually shown us is that we’re all pretty boring. Most of us don’t lead amazing, glamorous lives worthy of constant documentation, which is what’s eventually led to more people portraying enhanced versions of their existence to glean more likes and interest from others in this constructed digital engagement sphere.
That’s then gone even further, into image editing and blatant distortions of reality, in all respects, which has then led people to question more of what they’re seeing, while on another front, friends and family sharing their political opinions has forced us to see sides to them that we never knew, and in many cases, didn’t really need to find out about.
Which is what’s then set the scene for an app like BeReal to come in, and show us, in a relatable, human way, that we’re actually much more closely aligned than these increasingly false or distorted depictions may suggest.
That feels like the seed of a new shift, a new way of approaching social media interaction – but thus far, that’s as far as we’ve got. There’s just not much else you can do to build on that concept, and lean into that trend.
Maybe it’ll spark the next industry shift, and maybe it’ll be Instagram or TikTok or some other established app that will crack the code and find the best way forward on this front (I’d argue that Snapchat’s focus on connection among friends is most closely aligned with this shift, as a general app approach).
But right now, it feels like a limited element, a glimmer of what could be in amongst the broader social media cacophony.
Instagram might make more of a push to see what happens, but it may need something more to evolve this into a bigger element.