Thoughts on the Twitastrophe

Twitastrophe - cartoon of a newsreader, with firefighters in the background putting out a fire.

Rubbernecking: to look about or stare with great curiosity, as by craning the neck or turning the head.

The news has been full of Elon Musk’s destruction of Twitter. It’s like watching a building implode. We can’t help but be fascinated.

I don’t use Twitter, but I find myself reading all the headlines. The ability of one ultra-rich man to destroy a company the size of Twitter in such a short time is mind-blowing.

Why we want to know

Bad news sells. That’s why news headlines are all about war, natural disasters, crime and corruption.

There’s some psychology behind our need to watch disasters in progress. From what (little) I’ve read, our desire to rubberneck has some use:

  1. It triggers our survival instincts. It gives us information on the dangers to avoid.
  2. We stare (read / watch YouTube videos) as a way to face our fears without risking harm to ourselves.
  3. It stimulates our empathy and helps us cope with our own troubles.

I’m not sure how that applies to the Twitter debacle. I don’t think mere employees can avoid the dangers of a corporate buyout. Covid already forced us to deal with the fear (and reality) of job loss. And in South Africa there are many people who should trigger our empathy.

Two interesting thoughts

Most of the Elon-Musk-destroys-Twitter headlines I’ve seen are sensationalistic. But I read two articles that were food for thought.

Don’t believe the rhetoric

The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance published an article that points an accusing finger at the previous Twitter board.

Here’s an extract:

“… notwithstanding their stakeholder rhetoric over the years, when negotiating the deal, Twitter’s corporate leaders chose to push their stakeholders under the (Musk) bus.”

The Twitter corporate leaders and shareholders made lots of money from the deal. But they completely ignored the interests of other stakeholders, especially employees.

Twitter’s careers page states: “Come for the purpose. Stay for the people.” But when there was money on the table, the purpose and the people were ignored.

The real assets

Companies like to claim that “people are our number one asset”. It’s good PR.

In a knowledge economy, however, it’s actually true. An article in the Guardian pointed out that, without the knowledge and talent of its staff, there isn’t much left of Twitter. It’s just an office building, some patents and a brand name.

And yet, in corporate financial statements, employees aren’t assets. They are costs. That’s why companies often cut staff to increase profits. It looks good on paper.

IT systems are vital, in everything from manufacturing to banking. The people who know and understand the systems should be treasured like the assets they are.

Will we learn from the Twitter debacle? Or will we just follow the latest developments to satisfy our morbid curiousity? What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinion.

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