Before the present owner, I was a Twitter Blue customer, because I always pay for software—to support its creators and help prevent it from disappearing, as so many great websites and platforms have done over the years.
It wasn’t about the Twitter Blue pro features, to be honest, because they were few and inessential.
For instance, the ability to unsend a tweet for 30 seconds turned out to be more of an annoyance than an asset. Its value could be replicated without the feature, simply by taking a few seconds to reread your post before hitting Send. Most of the time, the feature felt to me like an annoying delay before every tweet went up.
And as Twitter compulsion is closely connected to the dopamine hit of instant gratification—voila! your thought is out there in the world, quick as the firing of a synapse!—waiting 30 seconds soon came to feel like like a drag on the experience, not a benefit worth paying for. Like a cigarette that takes thirty seconds to deliver nicotine when you drag on it.
Nevertheless, as long as I had the income to do so, I would have continued to pay, simply to help Twitter keep going.
Because we’ve all seen what happens to beloved platforms after they run for too long on fumes. Investors grab lifeboats. Founders sell to a new owner who rapidly enshittifies the platform. Or the product disappears. Or it lingers as an under-resourced shadow of its former self, like a loved one with a tragically wasting disease. (Something I know far too much about.)
Besides: Twitter, as a town square, was important. Leaving its future health to the mercies of subscription models and advertising was risky enough.
Just as, despite the many obstacles to true representative democracy that threaten my country, it remains my sacred duty to vote, so too—as a user and fellow creator—did it feel like my duty to vote for Twitter’s continued existence with my wallet. (Again, acknowledging the privilege of having employment and at least a modicum of disposable income.)
I won’t rehash the history of the new regime’s dangerous decisions and confounding errors of judgement—and that’s putting it charitably. Or share my anxieties about the Beloved Platform turning into a red-pilled fuckfest of racist, sexist pile-ons.
Even when a longtime web acquaintance persuaded the new owner to “democratize” the blue checkmark by charging for it (and we’ll skip that history, which is still in progress, as well), I kept using Twitter, kept paying my Twitter Blue dues, and kept hoping for the best.
Even as brilliant people with vital jobs got kicked out by the thousands. Even when respected friends and colleagues abandoned Twitter like it was a room that smelled of corpses. Even when each day’s freshly absurd Twitter news cycle conjured disbelief worthy of U.S. Election Night 2016.
“Maybe it won’t be so bad,” I whispered to myself.
“I’ll hang in there,” I said.
As if continuing to use Twitter was some bizarre loyalty test to the platform itself, and not to the ideas and human beings that drove it. Like loyalty to a friend who drives his car into trees while drunk. “I’m not going to abandon him now, he needs help.”
Here comes the punchline: one day Twitter emailed me to say that my Twitter Blue account was being discontinued, but I would soon have the opportunity to pay for an exciting *new* version of Twitter Blue.
Then Twitter emailed me inviting me to roll over my credit card so as to become a member of the new Twitter Blue. Which made me wonder: do I continue to go by the principle of paying for software I use, even when I disapprove of the direction in which a new owner is taking the platform? Or do I register my dislike of that direction by refusing to pay, even if it accelerates the death of the platform? (Whereas I was still hoping for the platform to survive and right itself, no pun intended.)
In the end, and I know I’ll lose many of you here, I decided to keep paying. And now the promised punchline: Twitter was unable to accept my credit card, and the subscription failed.
I tried for maybe 30 minutes.
I’ve successfully used software for over 30 years, and I’ve written a few things about UX and web design and development, so I generally have some idea of what I’m doing when I interact with internet content, and I also know that shopping carts are supposed to work. They’re not supposed to make users think. They’re supposed to make it easy to pay, whether you actually need the product or not.
Yet somehow—I wonder if it had to do with (illegally) firing most of the staff?—Twitter was not able to take my money.
The attempt to subscribe failed. Over and over. Perhaps it was my higher power telling me something. Perhaps it was my unconscious telling me something. But most likely, it was simple engineering and UX incompetence, caused by the removal of almost everyone at Twitter who knew what they were doing.
And the second punchline? I still have my blue checkmark. Which I’ve had since, like, 2006, or whenever the original Twitter first bestowed it. I guess because I’m of some small note in my field.
Of course, for all of having 322K followers, almost nobody sees my tweets, as the stats (and lack of engagement) plainly show me.
So either most of my 322K followers have abandoned the platform, or the algorithm works to minimize my footprint. And, theoretically, that latter situation would change if I paid Twitter the monthly $8—or, I believe it has gone up to $11, now, with price increases over time part of this week’s strategy to frighten folks into subscribing while they can still afford do so.
But I tried to give Twitter my money, even when I had Enormous Doubts that it was the right thing to do. And they simply wouldn’t take it. La de da. And for now I’m content to wait, peck my posts into the maw of the blind white whale, and see what changes next.
Twitter Blue, Twitter blew it.