Under Elon Musk’s authority

Doing church on social media is not like standing in the public square. It’s more like putting ourselves under a form of sovereignty.

Last week Elon Musk, owner of Tesla and (depending on the performance of its stock) the world’s richest person, made a deal to purchase Twitter and take the social media platform private. His politics appear to be the standard politics of the tech industry ownership class—as indicated by his very public dissatisfaction with Twitter’s content moderation practices, his history of hostility to unions and worker safety, and his vindictive treatment of critics. This—along with his particularly public and online kind of bumptiousness—indicates to conservatives that he’s an ally and to liberals and leftists that he’s a threat. Some Twitter users fear a return to the unrestrained harassment and widespread neo-Nazi presence that characterized the site in the middle of the last decade. Others look forward to looser policies on banning and disinformation.

I’m a heavy Twitter user who does not wish to see a return to the days when blocking random hate accounts was a regular necessity even for low-profile accounts like mine. But I have no idea what mix of personal, pecuniary, or political motivations spurred Musk to take on this role. I can’t guess how he will balance the need to keep a liberal-leaning user base from walking away in disgust with the priorities of his lenders and his own enthusiasm for unrestrained discourse. If the big change to Twitter is that it ends being up a bit more oriented toward selling more electric cars and solar panels, that wouldn’t be the worst outcome.

But there is more at stake in an event like this than the question of which team in America’s increasingly mind-numbing culture wars feels like Twitter is on its side. It also highlights the inherent fragility of building our lives online—an important reminder for, among other people, Christians who have been talking optimistically about a digital future for worship and community.