While Amanda Mull’s article on why instant grocery delivery startups have problems isn’t about Twitter, she gets at something which I think is critical about why Musk bought Twitter–and why Jack Dorsey seems sanguine about that (boldface mine):
Their biggest problem might just be that people like going grocery shopping. Not everyone, and not all the time, but it’s hardly the universally reviled task that investors and entrepreneurs seem to assume. Some regional grocery stores, such as Publix and Wegmans, have ardent fan bases. Many people genuinely prefer to pick out their own meat and produce from a selection of possibilities, or see what looks good before deciding what they’ll eat for dinner. (Delivery services, meanwhile, have to rely on stock images of, say, raw chicken or romaine hearts.) And going out into the world and having interactions with others—even the momentary kind that you’re likely to have at the grocery store—is good for people in ways that most of us instinctively understand, even if we’ve never really thought about it. When I was a kid, my mom liked going to the grocery store because she had developed a rapport with one of the cashiers, Miss Linda, over the course of years, and enjoyed going through her line.
Venture capitalists do not have much to offer these very normal people. The notion that true convenience is staying at home with everything you need brought to you, instead of living in a neighborhood where the things you need are available nearby in the course of your day, is, in my mind, a huge tell as to why investors refuse to stop losing money on these companies. It’s a consistent blind spot of the industry, and one that betrays the limited imagination with which wealthy investors envision the lives of regular Americans—if they really bother to envision our lives at all. To many billionaires, isolation away from the hoi polloi must sound luxurious and desirable—or, at least, that belief is commonly reflected in the lives they lead, the businesses they fund, and the policies they champion. But as many Americans realized during the worst days of the early pandemic, when demand for grocery delivery soared, that kind of isolation isn’t all that fantastic of a lifestyle choice. Mostly, it’s just kind of lonely.
Wealthy and rich people spend a considerable amount of time and money so they can avoid having to experience the rest of us. Unfortunately, on Twitter, it’s harder to do that, especially if you style yourself as someone who responds to everyone. My hunch, especially in light of Musk and Dorsey thinking about Twitter “as a protocol” as well as his efforts to make Twitter more expensive, is that they want to return to a more ‘local’ Twitter, one where the entire damn planet doesn’t jump on his ass for being stupid. Like most of us (reality hurts), Musk just wants to chat with his buddies (and fanbois) about how wonderful each others’ farts smell. He doesn’t want criticism–and he’s wealthy and powerful enough to not worry about personal security issues (unlike, let’s say, trans people). Like most rich people, he really wants to be left alone (or, at least, spoken to by the hoi polloi on his terms).
In a sense, he oddly wants to turn Twitter into Mastodon. Of course, he also might want to kill it off entirely.
Then again, I don’t think he knows what he wants. All he knows is that it doesn’t work for him, so things must be changed.