He Always Tweeted Like He Owned the Place

Mr. Musk’s Twitter, much like his money, works in ways that others’ do not. He follows only 114 accounts, but his tweets usually receive tens of thousands of replies apiece, and often many more. He opens his Twitter app to what is quite likely the busiest notifications tab on the entire service, representing millions of words directed at him, largely about him.

With each pull of a thumb, the tab algorithmically replenishes from a pool of more new posts than a single human could possibly hope to read. It’s a Twitter that is too busy and overloaded to resemble Twitter as most people know it, with every possible notification bubble eternally reading “99+.”

Twitter, for the majority of users, is a place to follow people and maybe post. For a smaller group of users, it’s a place to try to amass a following. For someone in Mr. Musk’s position, “it’s like he’s texting the world,” said Jake Updegraff, a celebrity social media manager with experience running large Twitter accounts.

With a large enough audience, Mr. Updegraff said, “it’s like a whole forum under everything you post.” It’s an on-demand portal to the center of a media galaxy, in which a regular feed of information is replaced with an infinite stream of people addressing you by name. For the right sort of person, few things could be more intoxicating (or more debilitating).

The ways in which Mr. Musk has leveraged Twitter for real-world power are measured with different tools, and on a different scale, than whatever clout he has been able to accumulate within the platform. They’re what will matter most in the future, to him and to the rest of us. Mr. Musk plainly sees value in what Twitter already does and in what it has allowed him to do, and his desire to protect or extend those qualities could have serious consequences well beyond the platform.

For decoding Mr. Musk’s claims about how Twitter may change, his experience with the platform could be instructive. He has used Twitter to promote his companies — Tesla in particular, but also SpaceX, the Boring company and others — and relentlessly attack his critics and competitors.

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