X is a manipulative network!

I used X (formerly Twitter) for a short period August 2023, and paid for Premium (along with getting it refunded). It was gross, and here’s some quick points about my experiences.

I was subject to many automatic “Doge-coin” themed account posts, and other profiles that generally showed cool designs off for things like a Tesla school bus and asked some silly engagement question like would I ride in it. It’s all baseless engagement farming on the surface, and slow manipulation underneath. “Of course some mock-up of a Tesla phone looks cool! Of course I’d use it! Look at all the thousands of likes/reposts of others with a similar mindset! Tesla is great, and must only do great things. Unions are bad, because Tesla is against those!” Tesla/SpaceX/X can get away with anti-consumer tactics and bad controversy by mass-media manipulation, which they are hoping to gain by manipulation tactics to get people to the network (large payouts to people just Tweeting nonsense).

They took about 3 or 4 days to activate my Blue checkmark after I had paid. There was no implication of a delay, and the reason X stated for the delay was to review my profile. I had about 50 tweets at the time and my profile could have been reviewed in about 5 minutes. The blue checkmark is undeniably the primary appeal for paying for Premium, and it felt like a bait-and-switch to not instantly deliver it. I requested a refund from my bank and they honored it no problem.

X went from promising an open-network, to banning anyone with mentions or links in their bios to other social networks (notably Mastodon), and then 180’d and reversed the decision. It was a gross power-move, erratic, and shows questionable ethics.

They promote free-speech open-discourse. Trump is generally praised on the platform. Based on experience, this tends to attract people of a certain political mentality that I rather not interact with. I absolutely don’t blame advertisers being weary about X, and I’ll slightly judge any company that actively does ads on X.

I had many ads about “content creators” (yes that’s the term they use) getting paid hundreds of dollars by X just for posting trivial content. This is extremely manipulative as it encourages an unhealthy relationship to social media (posting only to gain engagement and the most likes both in-count and personally to encourage people to repost), and encourages people to pay for Premium on the assumption the Blue checkmark makes them look more notable.

I’ve gotten ads in my feed from channels in a different language that I’ve only listened to on Spotify and TV. Specifically, I checked out some Spanish channels on PlutoTV, and some Russian dance hits. Days later, I get ads in both languages. I’ve heard about others reporting this with Facebook previously and figured there must have been more to it. While this isn’t inherently manipulative, it’s creepy. I have no direct proof of anything to imply X was listening to my environment through my phone’s microphone, and it’s possible the personalized ad network is just that quick and efficient between PlutoTV, Spotify, and X.

There are pro-China posting accounts that actively only post anti-US rhetoric. I’ve seen similar behavior on Reddit and notably their r/Sino subreddit. It’s blatant, and only serves to manipulate vulnerable groups. X is actively turning a blind-eye to this.

I was also subject to Pro-Elon Musk posts. Usually snippets of his history about how he was repairing some car, some failure-to-success videos, and “good” quotes like “make babies not war”, stuff about not letting money rule his actions, do the most good, etc. It became gross after a while and I had to even use the platform’s Mute feature to silence some of the accounts. I saw nothing anti-Elon conveniently!

X quietly updated their privacy policy to note that they use data on X for AI training (I say quietly because they know people are going to skip the invasive nag-banner that appears when going to the Home page that implies a large wall of text, when they could have also mentioned AI right in the prompt if they were sincere). I appreciate that it’s their platform and they can benefit with that, but I don’t know enough about AI personally to be entrusting how my data will be used for it. I’m particularly skeptical about if X will use it in good faith (likely only to further improve their manipulation algorithm so it’s less-noticeable), and don’t know enough about SpaceX nor Tesla to trust their long-term goals. Basically, I don’t feel comfortable with contributing my data to Elon’s empire so long as I can help it at this time.

I used Facebook. I scroll through my feed, and most of my algorithm-curated posts are funny. The content curated to me does not encourage engagement beyond a short chuckle, and it even ends if I spend enough time scrolling. I don’t know how Meta curates their experience for others, but it seems they know not to mess with me with some respect. X was the complete opposite and was actively and quickly pulling me towards content and attitudes I deem negative. Reddit has its questionable places too, but I was never directed to those places by the platform itself.

I don’t like the general vibe of X, and have become more critical of Tesla and Elon’s actions as of lately. My foray with X was to see if social media could be fun. I feel the atmosphere of X to be more casual than Facebook, and less of an echo-chamber than Reddit. I enjoyed most of my engagements on X, but my bad habits with social media were growing quickly on the platform, which ultimately led to me putting in a deletion request to curb it. I need to work on my priorities as of lately, and X was not productive to that, at least directly (ended up putting my Friendica instance back up for a micro-blogging platform).

X’s monetization sows manipulation and encourages the worst aspects of social media, pulls in a lite free-speech crowd, and feels like a mass-media propaganda engine for Tesla, SpaceX, Elon, and other affiliated entities and causes. I don’t believe X to exist with good-intent to consumers, and question its usefulness even for non-affiliated advertisers.