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Twitter users who depend on the platform for work worry about Musk's takeover — but aren't deleting their accounts just yet

twitter
"I can't overemphasize how much Twitter made my career," Gabrielle Drolet, a freelancer, told Insider.
  • Some people are considering leaving Twitter in light of its new owner, Elon Musk.
  • Three professionals spoke with Insider about how they depend on the platform to land business.
  • An artist in Denver said he'd leave only if the platform stopped providing him with sales.

Gabrielle Drolet, 24, a freelance journalist and cartoonist whose work has been published in The New Yorker and The New York Times, doesn't think she'd have the career she does now without Twitter. "I can't overemphasize how much Twitter made my career," she told Insider. "I still don't know if I would be getting by comfortably without it today."

Twitter users like Drolet are asking that question with a greater urgency after Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of Tesla, bought the social-media platform for $44 billion. 

Twitter employees have expressed concern that Musk — who calls himself a "free speech absolutist" and has called Twitter a "digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated" — will scale back content moderation, which they fear could lead to a rise in hate speech and toxic content. In light of this possibility, Twitter users are left wondering: Is the change in leadership enough to make them log off

For people like Drolet, the answer isn't as simple as whether or not they agree with Musk's approach to running Twitter. When Twitter has been instrumental in growing your career and professional networks, it isn't so easy to leave behind at the drop of a hat. 

Drolet, who's verified on Twitter and has about 10,000 followers, said the beginning of her freelance career was greatly aided by the platform. She's able to find out how to contact editors through their Twitter bios, and oftentimes, editors tweet pitch callouts that Drolet responds to. 

But editors aren't the only people she's connected with. Twitter has also allowed her to connect with other freelance journalists, which she said was a huge stepping-stone in an industry that's rife with gatekeeping. "You need those community connections if you're not in the industry in a more official way," Drolet said. "When I was starting out, I was on Twitter all the time meeting other journalists, and that helped me get going." 

The connections she made with editors on Twitter early in her career still serve her today, she said, and some of her assignments have come directly from tweets, such as when she tweeted about buying minced garlic as a disabled person and an editor reached out to ask her to write an essay about it.

She's hesitant to leave Twitter for this reason, though she said she'd consider it if the new owner dropped enough of its content-moderation rules. As someone who often tweets about disability and queerness, Drolet is used to trolls. "Right now, the level of vitriol or unpleasantness is unmanageable," she said. She added that if the scales were to tip, she "would have a really hard time."

Emily Kong, 28, who works in digital communication in the political sphere, said she'd seen great progress in the content-moderation processes Twitter undertook since barring former President Donald Trump from the platform in the wake of the January 6 insurrection. Since then, Kong said, she'd seen a decrease in the number of trolls and bots she had to wade through on Twitter.

But if Musk drops those safeguards, "I feel like it's just going to open the floodgates for this hate to return," she said. Still, she said she wasn't sure where she'd go if she left Twitter for good. "Who owns all the other social-media platforms?" Kong said. "It's not great people either." 

For now, the value she gets from Twitter outweighs the negatives: The breakneck pace of the algorithm, she said, is perfectly suited for getting breaking-news alerts before she hears from newspapers. Kong, who works for an advocacy group focused on civic engagement, also said it's critical to be up to date on the news, and she's able to make connections with other digital staffers who freely share information she can use to do her job.

Paul Weiner, an artist who lives in Denver, said deciding whether to sign off the platform comes down to a simple equation: If Twitter stops leading him to profits from his art, he'll leave. 

Weiner estimated that he made 20% of his sales annually from Twitter connections and conversations. "What's keeping me there is sales," Weiner said. "It would be difficult from a career perspective. I could lose a fair amount of sales. It could mean you don't make rent. It could mean you have months without an income."

He added that he'd made sales and connections through Twitter that wouldn't have happened elsewhere. "Being an artist in Denver, I'm only really connected to the art world through the internet," Weiner said. "It's different if you live in Los Angeles or New York, but I'm really reliant on social media."

After building a following of 30,000 on Instagram, Weiner said he saw the growth of his account trail off after what he believed was an algorithm change. Now, he wonders about the future of Twitter — though, he said, the position he's in is a time-honored one for artists. "Being an artist, you're always at the mercy of some rich guy who has a lot of money and influence."

Read the original article on Business Insider








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