Bo Burnham accurately predicted Twitter’s Elon era in 2019

“They are now trying to colonize every minute of your life,” the filmmaker said in a resurfaced video.

Bo Burnham arrives at the 73rd Emmy Awards at the JW Marriott on at L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles
Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP/Shutterstock
Social Media

It’s safe to say there’s been apprehension surrounding Elon Musk’s $44 billion Twitter reign. Not only are thousands of employees expected to be laid off, but concerns over Musk’s definition of “free speech” have run rampant among Twitter users and the general public alike.

And now, you can add Bo Burnham to the growing list of critics — at least, Burnham from nearly four years ago. In a recently resurfaced 2019 video that’s gone newly viral, the filmmaker spoke about the dark side of social media companies.

"They're coming for every second of your life...And it's not because anyone is bad, it's not because anybody in this company has evil plans or is trying to do this, they're not even doing it consciously,” he said on a panel hosted by the Child Mind Institute while promoting his coming-of-age film, Eighth Grade. "We used to colonize land. That was the thing you could expand into, and that's where money was to be made. We colonized the entire earth. There was no other place for the businesses and capitalism to expand into. And then they realized human attention.”

He added, “They are now trying to colonize every minute of your life, that is what these people are trying to do. Every single free moment you have is a moment you could be looking at your phone, and they could be gathering information to target ads at you. That's what's happening."

We’ve known about the many, many pitfalls of social media for years now, but there’s a reason Burnham’s rant is particularly prescient considering where we are now, as Musk — someone with a lengthy track record of being an objectively bad guy with a marked enthusiasm for colonization — prepares to bring forth major changes to the newly privatized Twitter. His most recent announcement? Enacting an $8 monthly verification charge for users who want to keep or receive a blue check mark and unlock premium features like search priority, less ads, and the ability to post long-form video.

While Musk himself tweeted that the fee is being implemented because “we need to pay the bills somehow,” and it’s “the only way to defeat the bots & trolls,” the reality is that tweeting in Musk’s brave new virtual world is anything but benign — at least for now. In the first 12 hours after Musk assumed Twitter’s top role, research from the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI) showed that the use of the N-word on the social media network increased by nearly 500%. Sexist and hateful LGBTQ+ slurs were also circulating.

For now, Twitter’s Head of Safety and Integrity, Yoel Roth, says no changes have been made to the company’s policies regarding hateful conduct. “Bottom line up front: Twitter’s policies haven’t changed,” Roth tweeted on Saturday, adding that the accounts in question have been banned. “Hateful conduct has no place here. And we’re taking steps to put a stop to an organized effort to make people think we have.” If only we could get Burnham’s thoughts on the matter.