Twitter was never designed as a way for celebrity entrepreneurs to communicate with the masses. That’s exactly how Tesla’s Elon Musk has been using it for years, and it’s a bit ironic considering the platform started as a way to tell people your whereabouts.
In a recent series of tweets, the Tesla head honcho explained why the Tesla Cybertruck test last week went awry. (If you have not heard, the windows shattered. Oops) In one video, he showed how the tests before the demonstration went quite well, resulting in a mere thud against the glass of the new electric truck. Here it is:
In another tweet, he went into more detail. The company used a sledgehammer to test side panel durability, which he says weakened the glass and made it shatter-prone.
Over the weekend, social media went a little nuts over the truck, and not in a good way. Posters said the truck looks like the original Apple Mouse, then claimed it had a hint of the Blade Runner vehicles and the DeLorean. I remember someone posting that it looked like a door stop, which is probably the most divisive slam.
These comments are not surprising.
When I first saw the pictures, I thought someone in a middle school design class had used the basic shapes available in AutoCAD to make a car.
The real reason it looks odd might be way more intentional, though. Because of how the vehicle is made and the 30X steel used for building them, the design has to look like slabs of metal. The Cybertruck material can’t be formed and molded into the more stylish design of modern trucks like the Ford F-150. Here’s the tweet on that:
That said, there’s a question about whether posting on Twitter will be enough.
So far about 200,000 people have pre-ordered the truck, which is a phenomenal number considering the initial mocking posts and the gaffe when an engineer threw a rock at the windows.
The answer to why we’re hearing about all of this on Twitter?
It’s because the social media platform has gone from the original many-to-many model to the current one-to-many model. There are only around 300 million active users, but what we don’t really know is how many active followers there are. Sure, we can see the follower counts for President Trump and Elon Musk, but what we don’t know is how many people visit their feed anonymously. Anyone can go to the Elon Musk account and see his posts without ever creating a Twitter account.
I once had an interesting conversation with someone about Twitter. This was before the platform had come under so much scrutiny for troll-like behavior and for freedom of speech issues. The colleague mentioned how she does not have a Twitter account but keeps a tab open with the people she “follows” (meaning, the posts she reads since she doesn’t have an account). I was happy to hear she was so actively engaged, but asked about why she never posts. She claimed she didn’t have anything noteworthy to say on the same level as a journalist, a celebrity, or a politician.
What that means for the platform is that the shift was already taking place.
Twitter became a portal that is not for everyday people to post views, but for high-profile figures to update the masses on their current projects…or to explain why a demonstration went south. We have to decide if that’s a good thing.