Wait, you want more than that?
Umm, how about, “fuck no?”
Shit no? Hell no? Oh god no, and why the absolute crap would you bother?
Okay, that’s not helpful.
In case you’ve been hiding under a social media rock (which would actually be very wise)… Twitter finally, after what felt like decades of threats, removed the old-school Verified Blue Checks (which were actually white, btw) from us Fancy Verified Blue Check People. They did so on what seemed to be the basis that those with such checkmarks were corrupt corps d’élite who had — I guess? — bullied their way into the limitless power that the Blue Check afforded. This was of course nonsense; verification was literally what it said it was, a badge verifying that the person you were talking to was the person they said they were. That’s not to say Twitter didn’t fuck that all up before Musk Melon came along. They did, in that they were erratic about who got them, how you got one, and so forth. It wasn’t a corrupt system, but it was certainly an inept one.
Orlon Husk then instituted some kind of pay-for-play verification badge that… provided dubious benefits? It gave you algorithmic value, supposedly, though some people have suggested it didn’t really do anything. It was supposed to give you priority too in what might’ve been the FYP, but again, not sure that actually happened. Is there an edit button? And “long” book-length tweets? I guess. Whatever. Point was, it’s eight bucks a month, which is to say, the cost of some streaming services. On the one hand, you could pay that amount to consume content from NBC. On the other hand, you could pay that amount to be content. Which is what Musk seems to gravely misunderstand about the platform: it is made of people. It is not of value by itself. It is only of value when people are on it, and if people have to pay to be on it, then its value shifts — the value becomes access to all the people, but that only works if all the people pay for it.
It’s a huge gamble based on a very bad understanding of social media. In part because it is the contributions to that social platform in the form of content that provide value — it’s not the dollars, it’s the sense.
The other irony is, the blue check was valuable because it (ostensibly, falsely) marked you as the aforementioned elite — but if anybody can pay for it, and the people who got it before are now getting them taken away, elite isn’t elite anymore. You’re not the band, you’re just wearing the t-shirt.
Twitter was able to for free attract huge celebrities to its platform and for free have those people provide for free content to that platform. That cannot be understated — authors, actors, politicians, journalists, all part of the feed, heaving up free content on behalf of the feed.
And now, Musk wants to charge them for the privilege.
Which, okay, whatever. The notion here is, I guess, “they aren’t special, they’re just like everybody else,” except of course now Musk is paying for the blue checks of some celebrities anyway in the hopes you’re convinced that Stephen King and LeBron James are paying for theirs. (And they aren’t.)
It’s all very goofy.
So, should you pay for one?
Well, obviously, that’s up to you, but why would you?
Let’s unpack the reasons you shouldn’t.
First, Twitter fucking sucks right now. It wasn’t amazing before? For real, it’s been getting wonky for years. But now, the wheels are rattling off the thing, and it’s turned into a Nazi Bar. It’s not great. Nobody’s having much fun. It’s mostly just doom and weird ads running on an infomercial scroll. It’s buggy and inconsistent. Musk gets priority. Weirdos show in your feed. It’s ass. It’s a boat that may not be sinking, exactly, but it’s taking on water and there’s norovirus in every corner, so being on that boat for free is already a dubious proposition. Paying for it feels like hitting yourself in the nuts with a wrench.
Second, I’m not sure Twitter Blue is even helping anybody. Knowing a few folks who experimented with it, it didn’t seem to provide much value. Engagement is still throttled, and even if it’s boosted, it’s boosted into the existing dumpster fire that is Twitter. It’s like buying billboard advertising space in the middle of the apocalypse. You’re not getting a deal.
Which is to say —
Ennnh I really don’t want to judge the Twitter Blue folks but I’m gonna judge you a little bit. And so is everyone else. There’s a stink on it. Some people will think you’re a Musk Fanboy or a Nazi, which, hey, I understand probably isn’t the case. But in the probably best case scenario, they’re going to think you’re a bit of a chump for kicking in to help fund Musk’s Ongoing Embarrassment Parade. It seems like a bad idea and so, paying in feels like a chump move.
Further, and arguably more important than the optics, are the ethics. Is it… good to fund this? Musk is currently shepherding a platform that is becoming even more hostile to trans people and to other marginalized communities. He’s taking personal requests from the worst people, some of whom apparently are named after pet feces. He’s inviting Literal Actual Nazis back in, letting them have blue checks, letting them advertise right into your feed. Hate speech is up — way, way up, in fact. I’m not suggesting this means you should abandon the platform — more on that in a moment — but it certainly feels a little weird to give them money to continue doing this.
Listen, there’s definitely no ethical consumption under capitalism. You are inevitably giving money to awful people and helping to make the world worse when you spend money. You put gas in your car, you buy plastic bottles, whatever. Anybody who watched The Good Place (which you should do, if you have not) gets the sentiment: the point system is rigged and our actions have endless unseen consequences. We buy a Nestle Crunch on Tuesday, and a megadrought ravages California on Thursday.
That said —
There are also foreseen consequences, the kind where you just give money to an awful person to allow them to promote more awfulness. It’s the JKR problem — sure, you may really love Harry Potter, you’re Team Hufflenuts or whatever, but the money you give to her is going into her pocket, then out of her pocket, and potentially into helping boost or even fund anti-trans voices and efforts.
No, we cannot With Individual Actions save the world, but one might argue we also can at least withhold those Individual Actions from making things worse.
Is this that? Does contributing to Twitter Blue make the world worse? I don’t know. I certainly think it elevates Musk and his profile and helps him make a little hay off a platform he’s actively shitting up. I think it rewards that behavior. I’d personally not feel comfortable giving him that money, just as I’d suggest you should not give money to JKR. But your mileage may of course vary, and maybe for you Twitter Blue is a survivability factor. Maybe you think you need it to stay relevant and be seen. I’d argue it won’t help as much as you think it will, and I’d also suggest that the vibe around the blue check now is that it’s going to create visible stink vapors around those who use it — but maybe it won’t.
For my mileage, I’m not paying for it.
I’d say I won’t judge you for paying for it, but let’s be real, it doesn’t matter. Someone is going to judge you for it, for better or for worse.
Also, eight bucks a month could buy you ice cream, or you could give it to a charity, or whatever. Better spent, I suspect.
(The other question then is: should you leave Twitter? I’m not, but I’m also not really using it to provide content. Mostly, it’s an apocalyptic stock-ticker, and an effective one. I see news there and advocacy/activism that I don’t really see anywhere else, as yet. But it’s also not fun. I do not enjoy it. For enjoyment, I go to Instagram or Mastodon currently, and am at the other platforms too, less so. For doomscrolling, though, you still can’t beat Twitter. Midnight inches ever closer, and Twitter offers us the best seats in the house.)