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What makes Elon Musk tick? I spent months following the same people as him to find out who fuels his curious worldview

By David Runciman

25 Sep 2023 · 18 min read

informed Summary

  1. Elon Musk has a unique perspective on the world, as revealed by the accounts he follows on X. Broadly speaking they are a mix of official accounts of world leaders, Tesla enthusiasts and contrarian figures who often espouse "alt-right" viewpoints.

What’s it like to be Elon Musk? On almost every level it is impossible to imagine – he’s just too much. Musk is the hands-on head of three mega-companies, one (Tesla) wildly successful, one (SpaceX) madly aspirational, one (Twitter/X) a shambles. He has plenty of other businesses on the side, including The Boring Company (which makes hi-tech tunnels), Neuralink (which makes brain-computer interfaces), and his current pet favourite xAI (mission: “To understand the true nature of the universe”). He is the on-again, off-again richest human being on the planet, his personal net worth sometimes fluctuating by more than $10bn a day as the highly volatile Tesla share price lurches up and down. He is the father of 11 children – one of whom died as an infant, and from one of whom he is currently estranged – with three different women, which to his own mind at least seems to make him some kind of family man. He has 155 million followers on Twitter/X (we’ll call it Twitter from now on for simplicity’s sake), which is more than anyone else. Only a very few people – Barack Obama (132 million), Justin Bieber (111 million) – can have any idea of what that is like.

However, unlike Obama, who follows 550,000 accounts on Twitter, Musk follows only 415. That anyone can copy (or at least they could, before the platform recently changed its code so you can now only see a small handful of users’ followers rather than the full list). So that’s what I did, spending this past summer following the exact same accounts Musk follows and no one else, to see what the world looks like from inside his personal Twitter bubble. I wanted to be a fly on the wall in the room with the people who are shaping the thoughts of one of the most influential, and unpredictable, individuals on the planet. I should add that I’ve never followed anyone else on Twitter before – I’ve never even had a Twitter account – so it was all new to me. What can I say? It’s pretty mind-blowing.

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