We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Twitter logo and Elon Musk. Thibaut DURAND

Opinion As a former Twitter employee, I'm horrified by what Elon Musk is doing

Declan Cashin used to work at Twitter – he says what is happening to the company is deeply disappointing.

IS TWITTER DYING? Its users and fans certainly seem to think so, with some even anticipating that it could go dark this weekend.

That’s because its new owner, Elon Musk, has spearheaded another mass exodus of employees by the end of this week. Two weeks after firing half of the once 7,500-strong workforce, Musk is reported to have driven away many more by last night, after employees rejected his ultimatum to agree to new “hardcore” work conditions, opting for unemployment instead.

Some reports have it that Twitter has only around 1,000 employees left. That may sound like a lot, and maybe Musk can keep the lights on with a drastically stripped-back team. But seeing as the latest departures include many engineers responsible for triaging bugs and preventing service outages, the signs don’t look good.

So far, Musk has shown himself to be the type of Twitter manager who’d think he could fix an outage by plugging it out and back in again.

Life on Twitter

I’ve been an active user of Twitter for 14 years, and I spent three years working there. I was a Lead in the Global English Curation team, a diverse group of people across the world who contextualised trends, created real-time-updating pages for major news, sport and entertainment events, and generally tried to provide as much context as possible to the many wild conversations happening on the platform on any given day.

It was an intensely busy and demanding job, which makes Musk’s recent demand for surviving Twitter employees to work even harder all the more insulting and idiotic.

Everyone at Twitter had a difficult job. It’s an extremely complex product requiring a huge amount of human input. Yes, we had catered breakfasts and lunches, and the perks were great. But that didn’t mean the people benefiting from those perks didn’t work their arses off too. I used to compare it to people saying teachers “had it easy” because they had long summer breaks. If it’s so easy, why don’t you try your hand at it?

Anyone using the platform over the last few weeks will have seen countless messages from departing Twitter employees praising the company’s work culture and sense of team spirit. It was indeed a very special place to work, even if it had huge problems in terms of management structure, career progression, and internal comms. It was always stressful, but for the most part, you always felt like you were working towards a greater good, be it entertaining people, providing information, or just connecting strangers online.

A disappointing departure

Don’t get me wrong. I know that, as a user, the Twitter experience could sometimes be absolutely horrendous in terms of abuse. But, on the whole, I personally (and I’m truly only speaking for myself) felt the good outweighed the bad.

So many people (myself included) have made friends and found jobs through Twitter. It has had an enormous role in online culture.

I won’t lie, I’m genuinely distressed about what’s happening to Twitter under Elon Musk, who has truly proven himself to be the Liz Truss of social media bosses (Elon Trussk?). Whether or not Twitter is dying, it’s evident that the platform will not and cannot be the same ever again. Who knows if any of Musk’s many mooted initiatives will stick, let alone work? 

I really do hope he can stabilise the platform and keep it running – though that might require him to step back from it entirely, and it’s doubtful his ego will permit that.

Part of the reason I’m so pessimistic about Twitter’s future is that I have first-hand knowledge of how hard it was to make the platform function at the best of times. One of the reasons the work was so stressful was that it never felt like any team had enough resources to really move the needle. Twitter’s impact and reach over the last 16 years has always been much bigger than its actual size and financial worth, certainly compared to the likes of Google and Facebook. But because it was never making enough money, there was always a huge pressure on every team to grow the user base and make the platform profitable.

As I said, maybe Musk’s drastic changes can do that. Maybe if it starts making more money, things will calm down and return to something we recognise as the Twitter of old.

But Musk’s erratic behaviour has already done untold damage to brand reputation. He seems to have so little grasp of how Twitter works that he keeps boasting about how the daily active user numbers have been spiking – precisely on the days when his chaotic leadership and management style has made the platform one of the big talking points of the day.

Twitter use always spikes during a major news event – that doesn’t mean his strategy of burning it all the ground is working. If Musk were the captain of the Titanic, he’d be on the decks boasting about how there’s such a huge demand for seats in the lifeboats.

I really hope I’m proved wrong about all of this. If Twitter is still there when you read this, you can find me @Tweet_Dec. But I for one am making lists of contact details for Twitter people I want to keep in touch with – just in case Musk’s latest toy rocket blows up in all our faces.

Declan Cashin is a freelance writer and digital content strategist, based in London. He worked at Twitter from 2019-2022.


Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel