Dear Twitter, or X I think, you had a heck of a run but now I know it’s really about to end. 

The bird app begin rapidly approaching death when Elon Musk, who is currently the richest guy in the world purchased in in October of 2022. His first order of business of was to strip verified users and news outlets of their blue checks in effort to get everyone to subscribe to Twitter Blue, a relatively worthless $7.99 per month service the app offers. I don’t mean worthless in regards to the functions it offers; it is worthless because it is not cool. Social media should be cool. Being selected to have a blue check meant that you accomplished something at some point that made you notable­­ – a person with a certain amount of influence that people should be able to trust. Not trust in what you tweeted about, but the ability for people to trust that those tweets actually came from you, not a bot – and this was cool. Working hard enough to have your account be selected for verification was cool. You know what’s not cool? Paying for it. 

Paying for a blue check is the corniest thing you can do. It is almost as bad as the guy who paid for a million followers, and to have 10 to 30,000 likes on every picture in addition to 150 fake comments that often have nothing to do with the picture posted. I once saw guy with a bunch of fake followers, post a picture of his grandmother’s obituary with a caption that read, “See you on the other side grandma.” As I clicked on the picture and began typing my condolences, I saw his fake comments flooding in, with bots saying things like “That place has the best pizza!” and “Your icy watch is fire bro!”

Not cool. 

Last week the 52-year-old mogul announced that he is considering making everyone pay for Twitter or X during a livestreamed event on X with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

The big elephant in the room, that no one wants to address, is that Twitter or X is just not cool. It’s not cool for free, so why would anyone pay for it?

“The single-most important reason we’re moving to having a small monthly payment for use of the X system is it’s the only way I can think of to combat vast armies of bots,” Musk said before explaining that a subscription would make it much more difficult for bots to create accounts. The strange thing is that he unverified notable people . . . which gave bots extra strength. 

I don’t understand how a person can create spaceships that we’re supposed to trust in outer space, but can’t get ahold of some lousy bots. That’s another conversation for another time, because I don’t think bots are the issue here. The big elephant in the room, that no one wants to address, is that Twitter or X its just not cool. It’s not cool for free, so why would anyone pay for it? 

Twitter used to be cool, mainly because it was like a maze. A complex puzzle that you had to hang in, read, retweet and learn to maneuver in the effort to find your community. I created my first account back in 2009, and it took me a few weeks to find my community. Actually, my friend Nikki, a bartender at the restaurant I used to frequent helped me find my way through that maze by snatching my phone and following everyone around the city, mostly mutual friends of ours that had accounts. The outcome was beautiful. 

Mainly because Facebook didn’t provide a space for the quick reaction; at the time the app was more like party pictures, vacation pictures and moms commenting on every single picture like “I love my son!” But Twitter was a place to have those sharp arguments, to post articles that supported your claims, to have your opinion flipped and most importantly allow you to gain unexpected perspective from close friends, friends of friends and eventually strangers. By 2010 I was hooked on the app, and when I discovered Black Twitter, a niche group inside of the app where you could be hilarious, petty and brilliant every day, I fell in love, and couldn’t imagine a life without the app. 

Black Twitter would go on to teach me about historical figures like Henry “Box” Brown, who was a slave that convinced his friends to tape him up in a box and mail him to freedom. The app also provided a space for me to virtually meet one of my literary idols dream hampton, laugh with historically up and coming comedians who ended up on network television like Issa Rae, and debate the works of bell hooks and Tony Morrison with other people who were new to their work at that time. I learned from everyone and even launched my career as a writer. 

“At one point that community was at its peak, and Twitter was so good there maybe Elon could have charged a fee. That time has passed.”

My first Salon essay Too Poor for Pop Culture did numbers on Twitter, basically sparking my career. This phenomenon wasn’t just a Black thing. Some of my white friends from the MFA writing program I attended have found their communities on Twitter as well. Maybe they were preppy, maybe their community was queer or maybe they were white and had just loved the jokes on Black Twitter even though they didn’t really participate. They logged on, they had fun, they had community. At one point that community was at its peak, and Twitter was so good there maybe Elon could have charged a fee then. That time has passed. 

I believe that community started dwindling around 2015, when social media takedowns became a thing. That’s when tweeting excessively about an individual you didn’t like or agree with, no matter how mean and stalker-like it is was the best way to pick up followers. At some point having followers became more important than humanity. Now I’m all for holding a**holes accountable but, I saw great people, whom I once had relationships within real life turn in to harassing monsters on Twitter ,and that mentality damaged the community that used to exist.   

And I hate to say this to Elon, because I don’t think anyone else is going to tell him, but that community is gone. Sure some of us still have our Twitter or X accounts, but we just use it to promote and nothing else. And honestly the promo isn’t even that good anymore because so many great people won’t touch the app. I honestly get better engagement for my events on Facebook and Instagram, so there’s that.

Paying for Twitter or X, means leaving Twitter and honestly there’s nothing there for me. So Elon should charge away. There’s a good chance, he’ll be there by himself. 

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D. Watkins

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