“Exactly,” Musk tweeted in response to Pathole’s claims.
For supporters like Pathole, the billionaire’s mercurial Twitter presence makes him seem comfortingly normal. He says it is Musk who is the true victim of hate, lies, and misinformation.
“He gets bullied a lot… A lot of big players hate him,” Pathole said, citing Sen. Warren accusing Musk of not paying his taxes, Bill Gates allegedly shorting Tesla stock, and the persistent rumor in the nether regions of the internet that Musk’s family owned an emerald mine in Zambia — something Musk has repeatedly denied as being untrue.
And while it isn’t hard to understand why a legion of young engineers might be inspired by the world’s richest engineer, it is harder to figure out why Musk, who currently oversees three companies and may soon run a fourth, takes the time to reply to them.
“I’m basically a nobody,” Pathole said. “And for Elon, this super famous rich dude takes out his busy time to interact with a guy like me — who is nobody — inculcates that quality in you, that you should be humble, you should be down to earth, no matter how big you are.”
Musk did not respond to a BuzzFeed News email asking him what accounts for his unusual Twitter correspondence with Pathole, but just as Tiktok’s hypnotic lure lies in its uncanny ability to make a completely random account briefly massively famous, the @elonmusk account works like a one-person engagement engine: If you are clever, or funny, or interesting, or weird, or mean, or Tesla-obsessed, or SpaceX-devoted, or quirky, or just a glass of chocolate milk, Elon Musk might engage with you, and then a decade of social media engineering will do the rest. Your mentions will blow up, your follower count will skyrocket, and your brain will be flooded with tiny gratifying dopamine hits every time someone likes, retweets, or dunks on your interaction with Elon.