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Jeff Bezos is not a poster

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Twitter rewards the unhinged

An action figure of Jeff Bezos captures the oddly plasticky, unreal nature of his tweets.
Photo by Andrew Liptak / The Verge

Friends, I’ve had alerts on for Jeff Bezos’ tweets for a while now, and after some consideration, I’m afraid I have to conclude that this man cannot post.

I am, in fact, finding it difficult to believe how bad he is at posting. It’s astonishing. If Elon Musk’s tweets are pure lizard-brain id, Bezos’ tweets are all superego — my guy probably workshops them, which is why they’re DOA, emotionally. Even something like this, which is (I think) supposed to be loose, absolutely fails by modern Twitter standards:

First of all, this is a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac. Second of all, it’s PR speak and may even have been lawyered. It’s insincere (“far from smooth”?). And, worst of all, it’s not funny.

You might wonder, why is Bezos doing this? And there’s like, a very obvious answer, which is that Elon Musk is at the center of a lot of conversations, and Jeff Bezos isn’t, and the way that Musk has placed himself at the center of those conversations is by tweeting. Bezos has definitely observed this. But he hasn’t really understood how Musk does it.

Musk is a Poster for sure. Annoying, obnoxious, late to memes — but definitely a Poster. He uses Twitter as intended: as a direct line to his id. Has he planned to follow up on any of the stuff he tweets? Frequently, no. And that is what makes him so entertaining. Here’s him responding to the CEO of Twitter, a company he is at least theoretically trying to acquire:

Musk engages in name-calling, sometimes so intensely that he winds up with defamation lawsuits on his hands. He’s mostly stopped posting about his Ambien use, but I haven’t forgotten the tweets.

Shit, one time Musk announced he was taking Tesla private on Twitter, generally to the surprise of Tesla, Tesla’s investors, and the SEC.

And here, by comparison, is Bezos:

I cannot believe I am about to explain Twitter, but for those of you who are not on the social media platform fondly referred to as “the hellsite” by its most committed users: the dumbest users and the smartest users post the exact same way. Sentence fragments, inconsistent punctuation, half-baked ideas, and a strong propensity for trolling are all among the power users’ most consistent traits.

Trolling is crucial, actually. See, one of Twitter’s major engagement mechanisms is the quote-tweet dunk, where you post someone else’s tweet to make fun of it. This means that Twitter heavily incentivizes bad behavior. Sure, a good own will drive engagement, but so will an obviously stupid take that provides other users with an opening to dunk, thus spreading your original tweet further. There is no incentive to be reasonable. I’m going to say it again, because this is a fundamental law of Twitter: there is no incentive to be reasonable.

This is not an age thing, either. One of the truest Posters I have ever encountered on Twitter is Joyce Carol Oates, age 83, and I’m not going to embed her feet pic post — it’s gross — but it’s a masterpiece of the form and part of the reason we are all on Twitter in the first place. This post about hiking in sandals drove discourse for a week! And this is to say nothing of the time she tweeted about Jurassic Park or wondered if we did, indeed, have to hand it to ISIS. Absolute legend, this woman.

The reason Bezos’ tweets seem so mealy-mouthed, even bizarre, is that he’s trying desperately to be taken seriously on a platform that doesn’t reward being taken seriously. Twitter is for trolling your way to a presidency or to being the CEO of Twitter. It’s for pretending you think dinosaurs are an endangered species, watching some llamas get loose, or otherwise dealing with the most instinctive and primal discourse on the internet.

Now that we’ve established how to Post, let’s examine some Bezos tweets. Take this:

This is a Facebook-ass Tweet. What is even happening here? This isn’t fun enough to be a dunk. It’s certainly not trolling. What could possibly be the point? Twitter has existed since the year of our lord 2006, and over the course of the last 15 years of its existence, every user has discovered the hard way that it is actually impossible to have a substantive conversation on the platform.

This is an attempt at thinkfluencing, being an ideas guy. Except no one respects ideas guys on Twitter. Even the VCs have figured out shitposting better than this. Remember how proud of their little shape rotator meme they all were?

The attempt at thinkfluencing does actually get worse. Like, check this out:

I am not sure how you manage to build one of the companies that’s the backbone of the internet without developing some kind of internet-related situational awareness. And before Bezos started tweeting, I thought he did understand the internet. Like, take this absolute banger of a blog post: “No thank you, Mr. Pecker.” It’s dry and witty; it understands what blogs are for, plus it’s full of dick jokes. It is the strongest possible response to someone attempting to blackmail you with nudes.

And now, I’m convinced it was ghost-written by a PR pro. (Email me if it’s you!) Because there’s no way that the person who understood the internet well enough to produce this is also attempting to post serious policy takes on Twitter.

Bezos’ obsession with the Biden administration is like, a nice way of showing the problem. See, it used to be that responding to a Trump tweet was a great way to juice engagement, inserting yourself into a conversation. The Biden administration’s basic strategy is to impersonate a bunch of graduates of the Milford School. Trying to use the Biden administration as a flywheel to get engagement ends in stuff like this:

“Look, a squirrel!” My God. Adam Aron didn’t go pantsless during a YouTube interview for “a squirrel!” to be the expression of “it’s a distraction.” Virality, memes, and nonsense are now important for business purposes. Why else did AMC survive the pandemic? If you are a business leader, entertaining people is serious.

But Bezos either doesn’t know this or doesn’t care. Here’s him getting spicy:

I don’t know, maybe this is a hit on the McKinsey corner of Twitter, but this is not going to get you Musk-level attention. Bezos is, for some reason, writing for consultants, professionals, and managers. Limited audience. Which is probably why Bezos’ tweets aren’t getting the kind of traction that Musk’s do — kind of like how Blue Origin isn’t as successful as SpaceX.

Jeff, my guy, maybe try tweeting from the toilet next time.