The Twitter Rapture

Where do we go next?

I did a rather silly thing the other day where I pretended to be Gwyneth Paltrow on Twitter. But I promise there was a good reason. Well, maybe not a good reason, but reason enough to feel like it was worth jeopardizing the following of 57k I’d built on the platform over the past 15 years. 

Ever since Elon Musk purchased Twitter for the combined GDP of many countries, the social platform has been circling the drain. In the earliest days of his acquisition, Musk introduced “Twitter Blue”: For $8 a month, any user could receive the coveted blue check mark next to their Twitter username, signifying verification. 

For many years, Twitter verification was an elusive symbol of importance, covering actors and singers, athletes and politicians, and staff journalists whose PR people knew who to contact at Twitter HQ. (I fell into the last category when I worked at Buzzfeed many lifetimes ago.) Verification meant increased visibility and engagement for your account, and now Musk has made that option available to anyone willing to pay. And late last week, a rumor spread that there were about to be some BIG changes with verification: Supposedly only the people paying for Twitter Blue would keep their checkmarks, and everyone else would be just another unverified normie. 

So as a form of…protest? joke? prank? I and a number of other verified users changed our display names and profile avatars and pretended to be other people (or, in the case of my friend Miles Klee, a government agency.) I chose Lady Goop because she’d just concluded her rich people ski accident trial and felt like a low stakes target for a little tomfoolery. And when I woke up last Saturday morning, I was locked out of my account and have yet to regain access. You can still scroll through all my old tweets like the Oscars In Memoriam montage. 

I didn’t panic, though. Even though I’ve gotten so much out of Twitter in the past, it’s no longer necessary in the way it once was. Current Twitter feels like an abandoned mall: There are signs of familiarity, and a vague sense that important things once happened here, but most people have moved on. And someday maybe we’ll forget about it entirely. 

Sure I’ve had moments where I kick myself a bit. After all, I’m a freelance writer who relies heavily on Twitter to publicize my work (and promote this very newsletter!) And though I continue to use a backup account like nicotine gum, I do feel that in the not-so-distant future, maybe the knee-jerk instinct to tweet will subside. 

I remember at my very first paid writing job in 2013, I wrote an essay (which is no longer available since the website folded) about how Twitter would someday end because it simply must. It survived a helluva lot longer than I anticipated, but with Musk’s complete and utter destruction of the platform, it may soon be time to finally say the eulogy that so many of us have already drafted.

Twitter dying doesn’t mean you won’t be able to log in and follow CNN or the account that exclusively tweets the clip of Daniel Craig saying, “Ladies and Gentleman: The Weeknd.” It’s more the death of its utility and its relevance in the public sphere. It used to be that in the middle of a breaking news event, you heard everything on Twitter first. Now it feels like a tshirt gun being fired by a drunk mascot. 

Which brings us to today.

Twitter users started noticing Friday morning that there were issues with tweets containing links to Substack posts. According to The Verge:

Twitter apparently began to restrict promotion and visibility for tweets with links to Substack posts. New tweets linking directly to can still be tweeted, but trying to retweet or like those tweets via Twitter’s website results in an error message saying, “Some actions on this Tweet have been disabled by Twitter,” while doing the same from within its apps or TweetDeck appears to work while failing silently. 

In turn, Substack has made itself hostile to Twitter, no longer allowing you to embed tweets in a post. Where do we go now? How do we connect? What’s the next frontier?

We’re living through a Cold War of content, and no one’s winning. I guess this is what happens when you let billionaires control vital funnels of information. Good luck to us all.

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