Starting April 15th, take the #ReversePokemon Twitter Challenge
(Because we aren't stuck on Twitter with Elon. He's stuck on Twitter with us.)
Okay just hear me out. This might be my best idea ever. I think we should declare a new Internet competition. Starting in mid-April, It’s time for the #ReversePokemon Twitter challenge. (“Gotta block ‘em all!”)
“…So all that’s going to happen is that we’ll suddenly be able to immediately identify who pays for Twitter (and doesn’t matter) and lose any ability to know if what we’re looking at is an account run by real person (who does, assumedly, matter).
This will also, hilariously, immediately remove any reason to pay for verification. Now, I’m sure there are some people who are paying $8 a month for an edit button and longer video uploads. And if you pay for Twitter and read this newsletter, know I love you and by reading Garbage Day, the cringe cancels itself out. But based on the amount of NFT and AI spam being pumped out by Twitter Blue subscribers, it seems like the majority of the 0.2% that pays for Twitter is paying to make themselves look like people who are important or notable enough to be legacy verified.”
(Keep in mind, btw, that a big chunk of Twitter’s source code was been leaked online back in January and has been sitting there, available for download, for months. Twitter just noticed it last week. This is maybe not the best time to give Twitter your credit card information, since malicious hackers have apparently had a couple months to probe the source code for exploitable vulnerabilities.)
Last night, Elon issued the following proclamation:
So, just to be clear, Elon’s brilliant plan is to bifurcate the user experience. There will be a “For You” tab filled with Blue Check try-hards who you cannot stand, generating outrage attention cycles about dumb topics that do not interest you, and there will be a “Following” tab with the chronological feed of the people you actually follow.
You are probably thinking: “uhm, I’ll just use the Following tab then. That seems fine.” And yes, sure, it does. But it isn’t very funny.
What I think would be funnier is if we announce a simple competition, maybe try to get the hashtag trending. It’s the #ReversePokemon Twitter challenge. You gotta block them all.
The goal is to have a clean “For You” tab. You reach that goal by visiting the For You tab once a day and blocking everyone who shows up. Show off your successes by posting a screenshot of an empty “For You” feed.
It’s like Inbox Zero, but instead of managing personal communications, you’re doing your part to subtly piss off the worst people on the Internet.
Every hustle-culture bro trying to buy respectability? Blocked.
Every dimestore Web3 expert who has suddenly pivoted to AI and wants to tell you all about it? Blocked.
Every manosphere pick up artist trying to harass women back into a version of the 1950s that only ever existed in their imagination? Blocked.
Every Tesla enthusiast desperate to pump their meme stock even further? Blocked.
All the January 6th apologists who got their accounts unsuspended and are now paying for extra reach? Triple-blocked.
You might be thinking “Dave, that sounds like a lot of work. There are a couple hundred thousand Twitter Blue subscribers. That’s tiny compared to the overall subscriber base, and a drop in the bucket compared to the lost advertising revenue. But won’t my thumb get tired?”
Many of those Blue Checks are just reply-guys, though. They don’t post their own content, they just swarm replies. You won’t need to manually block them for the #ReversePokemon Twitter challenge, because their posts won’t populate your “For You” timeline. We’re not blocking the entire paid-verified brigade all-at-once. We’re just blocking them when they open their obnoxious mouths and try to enjoy that forced-attention they purchased. You can have your paid Blue Check or you can show up in our feeds. You can’t have both.
There’s also the technically-enhanced solution. You can run a script that mass-blocks all Blue Checks. Those scripts already exist, and Elon probably doesn’t employ enough engineers to stop it anymore.
But, just speaking for myself, I think a mass block list is a bit of a cheat code if you’re gonna participate in the #ReversePokemon Twitter challenge. There’s something psychically soothing in denying each of these paid-reach fools the attention they seek. (Call it praxis, I guess.)
I was a guest last week on Joshua Holland’s podcast, “We’ve Got Issues.” One thing we talked about was the ethics of still using Twitter.
Joshua argued that he could understand people still using it to post links to their work, but otherwise there were real ethical questions about continuing to contribute free content to a platform that is now trying to amplify and advance Elon Musk’s broader political project.
I respect that perspective, but disagree. I think it’s fine to continue using Twitter for the same distractions and social conversations as we did before the takeover. But, if you’re going to do so, then I think you have the ethical obligation to mess with Elon Musk a bit.
He spent $44 billion to buy Twitter because, in his own words, he saw Twitter as the “public square” and therefore believed he should own it. He is now ruining the site. It will likely go bankrupt. It is definitely breaking down. The world’s richest man has set his own reputation and a good chunk of his fortune ablaze. It would be a tragic tale if he weren’t also such a demonstrably shitty person, actively pursuing ends that cause real harm at both the individual and societal level. It’s fine to walk away from Twitter and deny it oxygen. But I think it’s better to throw another log on the fire, frankly. We aren’t trapped on Twitter with him. He’s trapped on Twitter with us.
So there you have it: Starting April 16th (or later, if Elon inevitably delays implementation of all these changes), let’s declare the Reverse Pokemon Twitter challenge.
Block all the blue checks.
Congratulate your friends when they can show off an empty For You timeline.
Don’t just avoid the For You tab. Revel in the beauty of its silence.
Buying a Blue Check shouldn’t just be a waste of money. It should be outright self-defeating. What a Blue Check gets you is less public exposure, because all the real, remaining Twitter users are rushing to block you.
…That’s the idea, at least. What do you think?
[3/30 EDIT — two relevant notes that came up after I sent out this newsletter]:
(1) my students have informed me that #GottaBlockEmAll is a better hashtag than #ReversePokemon. My students are wise. That’s definitely a better hashtag.
(2) a few hours after I sent out the newsletter, Elon posted the following tweet
That’s less of a “forgot to mention” than a “everyone told me this was stupid, so now I’m going to insist I meant something else all along” type of correction. And, unless he changes course again (50/50 chance), it also moots the whole game idea.
…Oh well. Guess we’ll have to wait a week and then make a game out of the next stupid idea he has for ruining the platform.