This has been a week of the worst possible news for Twitter, the website that Elon Musk purchased for $44 billion in the most torturous financial transaction of all time. Musk is, at present, doing his damndest to try and destroy the entire company, laying off 50% of the workforce and losing massive amounts of revenue by alienating advertisers with his lax plans for content moderation, which he then blamed on “activists.”
It is important to recognize how bizarre everything about this is. Elon Musk has so much money that he was able to buy a $44 billion website without really planning what to do with it. He was able to do so while also still being able to afford a house, and a car, and food, and all the other things that human beings need to live. He has closed a financial transaction (borrowing $13 billion in the process) because he was forced to legally and because he was terrified of the discovery process, which had already revealed some embarrassing text conversations.
The things that Elon is doing make sense to regular humans only through the most distant reference points — we have all sent or received stupid texts, we have all bought stuff we later regret buying, and we have all had horrible, stupid ideas. The difference is that when we did these things, our net worth did not cause us to buy one of the largest and most influential tech companies in the world and make ourselves owner, director and CEO. And I haven’t even got to the part where he plans to charge $8 a month for verification which isn’t really verification of anything other than that you had eight dollars.
That may not be the end, but it certainly resembles the beginning of the end. I have a blue checkmark, and Katie Notopolous of Buzzfeed nailed the point around checkmarks: that they are a lovely little status symbol that makes you feel slightly more important than everyone else, and anyone claiming they don’t really like theirs is lying to themselves or someone else. However, they also had the far, far more important feature of making sure that the person tweeting was the actual person tweeting rather than someone with a thing they bought for $8.
What Musk is doing by selling the checkmark for $8 is removing any and all benefit of its existence. The checkmark will no longer symbolize anything other than your ability to pay for something. The semiotic weight of the checkmark will exist for weeks, maybe months, before it becomes synonymous with nothing other…