I'm happy paying Twitter eight bucks a month because price isn't the same as value
Addressing social media's baked-in flaws starts with users realizing its true worth
Opinion I've decided to sign up for Twitter's subscription-based service for a simple reason: to put my money where my mouth is.
I'm a verified user, but care not for the blue tick as a status symbol. I applied for it as a sign of authenticity because plenty of websites cut and paste copy from The Register to scrape up a few cents from search ads. Scum who pursue that as a business model could easily tweak stolen stories to include a fake Twitter profile that besmirches my name or misleads people.
I do care for the group of friends, contacts, colleagues, and sources I've interacted with over the 15 years I've used Twitter. I'm user number 1,407,461 (Elon Musk is number 44,196,397) and I feel that Twitter has given me a lot: some of my 52,000+ tweets helped me do this job well, make friends, and connect with family during some of their trickiest moments.
A modest monthly contribution to a site that's a big part of my personal and professional lives is an investment worth testing.
Just testing, though. Elon Musk was wrongheaded and stupid to suggest that the blue tick is a symbol of some "lords and peasants" class divide that can be bought, rather than a signifier of trust that benefits the community. Twitter has thankfully changed its mind and introduced a category of "Official" accounts to signify authenticity for certain users.
A lot of folks have asked about how you'll be able to distinguish between @TwitterBlue subscribers with blue checkmarks and accounts that are verified as official, which is why we’re introducing the “Official" label to select accounts when we launch. pic.twitter.com/0p2Ae5nWpO— Esther Crawford ✨ (@esthercrawford) November 8, 2022
The following tweets from Yoel Roth, Twitter's Head of Safety & Integrity, also make me optimistic, because they show that new management gets that a central concern about all social media services is that they're unelected and unaccountable arbiters of public conversations.
For years, Verification on Twitter has been tricky because it’s a signal both of authenticity (you are who you say you are) and notability (you’re “important” by some standard).— Yoel Roth (@yoyoel) November 8, 2022
Notability is inherently difficult to determine in a fair way globally. I support getting rid of it.
I therefore feel that paying for verified account status erodes social media's unearned authority and shifts it back to users.
In an ideal world, this debate would not be necessary. Those who created social media services should have anticipated their misuse, and built appropriate infrastructure to deter and prevent it – rather than let their venture capital investors drive for growth at all costs.
But those investors cashed out ages ago, leaving an unsustainable business in the wake of their yachts. Twitter's management has never shown that it can devise or execute a plan to fix the business.
- Musk sells $3.95 billion in Tesla shares, paid eleven times more for Twitter
- Parody Elon Musk Twitter accounts will be suspended immediately, says Elon Musk
- Twitter employees sue over lack of 60-day layoff notice
- Elon Musk reportedly outlines horrible Twitter layoff process
Another baked-in flaw of social media is that its users – to borrow from Oscar Wilde – know the price of it is zero but don't understand its value.
Musk's plan to charge for verified accounts – to put a non-zero price on them – is not a serious revenue-raiser by any means. It is, however, a challenge to users: think about Twitter's value.
It's not a perfect plan by any means. The service's value to some is that it lets them rouse a rabble. But Musk is at least trying something to address social media's unhelpful mutations – and despite carrying on like a pork chop in public his other businesses deliver exceptional products.
He has put his money where his mouth is, so I'm willing to do the same. For a while. ®