Twitter has been in the news a lot because billionaire genius Elon Musk bought it.
I don’t know why he’s messing around with social media instead of focusing on building the first real Iron Man armor, but so it goes.
One of the first things Musk plans is handing out blue verification checkmarks to anyone who buys the $8 monthly Twitter Blue service, which apparently adds more fun to a site that’s entire purpose is to perfect the expression of outrage.
The blue checkmarks used to be for celebrities, athletes, politicians, and others who needed to separate their personal brands from the scores of people pretending to be them on Twitter.
I am presently a verified Twitter user.
This is because I used to be a reporter and columnist for the Gannett Outlet Store in Des Moines.
The company had some in with Twitter that got journalists verified — back when Gannett employed journalists — so people would know the tweets were from real reporters and not people who just made up the news.
Then Donald Trump came along and told everybody that all the reporters made up the news except the ones who agreed with him.
This led people, who are easily led, to throw around the term “fake news” at anybody who used facts, data, or documents to prove a point.
The blue checkmarks didn’t seem to make much difference to credibility.
The only time it ever came up for me was years after my paragraph-stacking career was over.
Several of my students at the middle school have come to me with their phones showing my Twitter profile asking if that’s me.
I tell them it is. They note I’m verified, which to them means famous.
That’s demonstrably untrue, but flattering, nonetheless.
Soon, the blue checkmark won’t mean anything – if it ever did.
I used to have about 6,200 followers on Twitter. That’s down to 5,800 now. I expect it to continue to plummet.
I’m not tweeting the news.
I’m not even paying attention to the news.
I’m trying to teach 11-year-olds to not throw orange juice boxes at each other’s heads in class.
Someone recently told me she stopped following me on Twitter because all I ever tweeted about was baseball.
I am proud of that.
Most of the things people talk about on Twitter are things I don’t want to talk about.
I usually want to talk about baseball, and not even current baseball at that.
I tweet about baseball players I remember from my childhood, especially Don Mattingly.
I retweet posts about Don Mattingly with the caption: “If I see a picture of Don Mattingly, I retweet it. A good man has got to have a code.”
There was a time while I worked for the local Gannett Outlet Store when they had a constantly updating chart displayed on one of the TVs at the front of the newsroom.
It basically showed who had the most social media juice.
I had the most for some time. I was a cop reporter, and tweets about destruction and death get more interaction than pictures of Don Mattingly.
I was a Twitter pioneer. I was the first person at the local Gannett property — that’s what the company pooh-bahs call newspapers, “properties” — to cover a meeting via Twitter way back in 2008.
Now, I am no longer a newsman, at least not the kind where your social media profile matters.
I admit, there’s a hit to the ego to see my Twitter follower count fall.
All writers crave an audience, the bigger the better. And I’m insecure enough to think I’m somehow less important because I have fewer followers.
But the reality is I can’t take my Twitter follower count down to the credit union and get a better rate on a loan for a new minivan.
I’m not going to trundle up next to a 40-something lady at the bar on my walker and say, “Hey, sweetheart, did you know I’m verified?”
The media’s obsession with social media is paired with the hope that they can use the sites to bring in young readers.
I don’t think there’s another generation of readers coming.
I was at the drugstore the other evening to get a flu shot. I was early for my appointment, so I wandered over to where the magazine rack used to be.
The magazines were gone. In their place was a wide selection of “cheaters,” those over-the-counter glasses that magnify text for people whose retinas don’t flex as well as they used to.
The store probably got rid of the magazines because nobody bought them.
I found it ironic that magazines, a thing we read, were no longer profitable to offer for sale, but cheaters, a thing we use to read more clearly, were.
People are probably just using those cheaters to read tweets more clearly.
In contrast, I’m slowly fading away on Twitter.
And that’s probably for the best.
Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
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