Tuesday, May 17

a broken conversation

I’m too busy writing to care about readers

W. Faulkner

We have taken the days off with enthusiasm and the drought of topics has returned. Understand me, it is not that the miseries of the world, the wars, death, the political struggle are not there… it is that as almost everyone is suddenly taking care of their own and pleasant affairs, a kind of truce has been decreed until tomorrow or past. A reality that I leave there for further reflection. The point is that a professional writer or a columnist does not write at the mercy of his emotions or his boredom, but “must” write, and this gives a perspective on the fact different from that of ordinary mortals. Although all this might seem like a digression in the face of the lack of hot topics that I have not written about and the professional need to write –that there may be something– the truth is that it is not even painted to bring to these lyrics one of the questions of the week that has perhaps gone unnoticed by many, who are happy and idle, and from which several reflections can be extracted. I am referring to the purchase of nine percent of the shares of the Twitter network by the richest man in the world, Elon Musk, the threat of his entry into the company’s board, the financial move to leave him in the minority again and his raucous offer of 43,000 million for the total purchase that the company tries to reject.

I am not going to talk about purely financial issues. I’m not interested right now. What shocks me is the obsession of a man who has everything – he is even going to grant himself the moon, that which every poet longed to put at the feet of his beloved – to control a social network like Twitter. And I find it interesting because it allows us to reflect on what the hell we do in it by inflating the figures of something that is far from being a good business. If Twitter gave dough, its shareholders would seek economic profitability. We are all capable of understanding that. The point is that when money is not what is sought, the only alternative answer is power. Power at the expense of our participation.

It is known that I have been on Twitter for almost twelve years. It is known less that I am taking off. Understand me, I have not closed my account, nor will I, nor have I stopped using my timeline as an updated ticker, which is what I created it for. I am in a process of active reflection about my participation, that is, about giving away content that I can convey through conventional media and about interacting with accounts that do not play fairly with the same weapons as me. When there are Twitter users who act with name, surname, profession, registered telephone number, email address and all personal data and others who do it in ambush, something unthinkable in real life, some are/we are in inferior conditions within a terrain that has become a battle and a quagmire. It wasn’t like that when it started. I have met magnificent people in the first few years on the net, although the truth is that I already have contact with them in real life. In fact I have contact or can have it with most of the people who interest me in real life. So what does one do on Twitter?

I don’t know if you know that Twitter has a headquarters in Madrid, near my house, very cute and very modern and that is accessed in a somewhat tortuous way and without any signs on the portal that the world of ‘ bluebird’. There are people on Twitter. Sometimes I have had the opportunity to meet them and I have always asked them the same questions: what will happen to Twitter the day people or institutions that have something relevant to say shut up? I myself answer them: that it will be even more of an unbearable babel in which the insults, the dull conversation and the lack of interest will be obvious and will end up boring the users who will leave. And it is something that is getting closer. Check it out by going to the profiles of many professionally relevant people: when was the last time they added comments that were not promoting their professional activities? When was the last time you had conversations with anonymous profiles? It is a fact that the elites –professionals, business, academic, intellectual, legal, etc– can contact in other ways. They have been doing it all their lives and they continue to do it every day. They do not need to use a social network. How long are they going to put up with a level of aggressiveness that doesn’t actually exist in their environment? Twitter knows that it is enough to not open it for it to cease to exist unless the conventional media echo it.

“Join the conversation” is Twitter’s motto, but Twitter hasn’t been used for conversation for a long time. Talking is dealing with a subject and talking is dealing with it with other people. In the social network it is increasingly impossible to deal with any matter. Even if we leave out the outbursts and outbursts – believe me, most of the people I interact with have all possible filters activated and we hardly ever see any of it – I am absolutely certain that some of the recent controversies that I have had in the network –with people whose phone I have!– would not have developed in the same way if they had taken place through other means. Mea culpa.

With this panorama, now it turns out that the richest man in the world wants to buy it – really or is it another publicity stunt? – because he says he wants to safeguard “freedom of expression”. As a result of this action, we are more aware of who owns the social network besides him: Vanguard (the world’s largest investment fund manager), Morgan Stanley (investment bank), Blackrock (the world’s largest asset manager), world), State Street (bank holding company), the Saudi prince Alwaleed and a bunch of other investment and financial funds. The point is that they have control of the algorithm of a network that substantially influences democracies and that has created its own control laws, without the control exercised by the Rule of Law of the countries in which it operates being easily established. . Are they interested in our freedom of expression or in power? There is no possible comparison with the ownership of any conventional media, all of them are largely controlled by the judicial mechanisms of the countries in which they operate and subject to licenses and other controls. They play with an illusion, but the freedom they offer is what they want to allow, with opaque rules and little chance of fair procedure or recourse. Ask those who have seen their accounts closed, sometimes without knowing why.

“Twitter has extraordinary potential. I will unlock it” Musk has said to justify his desire to gain absolute control over “the conversation”. I think you don’t need translation. That’s why I’m taking off.