Fifty days into the job, Elon Musk has offered his resignation as CEO of Twitter. He did this, as he seems to conduct all of his big life decisions these days, via a Twitter poll, which you can see embedded below.
Just over 17.5 million people voted, of which 57.5% told him to call it a day. Maybe he should have flipped a coin.
At the time of writing, Musk has yet to confirm he’ll follow through on this democracy in action, though he has only recently got off his private jet on the way back from the World Cup according to ElonJet — the bot that tracks the self-proclaimed climate change fighter’s enormous carbon footprint. (Musk, the free speech absolutist, has banned ElonJet’s Twitter account, but it persists on Facebook and Instagram.)
While no doubt satisfying to those who enjoy seeing Elon Musk’s notoriously paper-thin skin take a bruising, it’s worth pointing out two things.
Firstly, while it may seem like this will have been unexpected, Musk often uses Twitter polls to rubber-stamp things he already wants to do. He did it to unban Donald Trump — something he’d signalled a desire to do months ago — and to sell 10% of his Tesla shares, even though the sale of a good portion was already scheduled.
In this case, Musk had always seen himself as temporary CEO, and had already signalled planned to stand down in a few months. By putting it to a vote, he could look magnanimous while still getting his way.
Secondly, resigning as CEO doesn’t mean he’s out of the picture. He paid NZ$75.6bn for his toy, and he’s not going to give it up just because a majority of the community gave him a massive thumbs down in a non-binding ballot.
As owner, he’ll still have an enormous influence on whatever the new CEO does. More than your average owner does over companies, in fact, because he also has the ability to rile up his 122 million Twitter followers against policies he doesn’t like if he feels like it.
If that sounds too petty to be plausible, remember who you’re dealing with. He used the platform to publically troll the then-CEO whilst in the process of buying the company, and his inflammatory tweets have resulted in his former chief safety officer having to move house for his own safety.
Regardless of whether stepping aside was intentional and the huge influence he’ll still no doubt wield, as popularity contests go, asking if you should stay and getting over ten million middle fingers in reply has got to hurt. Especially on the back of being booed by thousands of people in person.
Twitter may be changing beyond recognition, but it’s still the easiest way to get complete strangers to (figuratively) punch you in the gut. Some things never change.