Twitter as the Ship of Theseus

The Ship of Theseus is a thought experiment about identity. It asks whether a ship, whose original components have all been replaced by new ones; is still the same ship. If not, where did the original ship cease to exist and a new ship was born?

The social media website/app and hellish town circle personified Twitter has undergone a number of changes after being acquired by apartheid money multibillionaire and the most divorced man on Earth Elon Musk in 2022. The first major change was the introduction of Twitter Blue – a subscription system where users would pay 8 USD per month for a verified “blue check”, making the previous system where only accounts of celebrities and major organisations held the check symbol. Musk and his yes men argued that the previous system was 'corrupt' and Twitter Blue was the first step towards making the site a platform for free speech as Blue users would have their tweets boosted; paying no attention to concerns of impersonation.

Proving the concerns right, numerous parody accounts of different brands with the verification badge popped up; making them virtually indistinguishable from the actual brand accounts. Some parody accounts made tweets bringing to light the role of fruits companies in the destabilization of Central America; and a parody account of Eli Lily, the patent holder of insulin, tweeted “Insulin is free now”. The last move was a direct critique of how Eli Lily gouged prices of life saving medication for profit and denying free medication would make their evil apparent.

Despite protests from users and advertisers alike, Twitter Blue system has stuck; with new features being added that disincentivizes anyone from using Twitter for free. Other than having their tweets and replies being boosted and shown first to all users, Blue users can send unlimited Direct Messages to anyone compared to the 100 DM cap that non-verified users have. Twitter also silently implemented the setting of only receiving new DMs from Blue users to all accounts. For about a day in June 2023, there was a limit on the number of tweets a person could view in 24 hours, and the limit for Blue users was 6000 tweets, 10 times the regular user's 600 tweets.

The implementation of Twitter Blue for verification meant the original verification system was scrapped, and celebrities and organisations who did not pay for Blue would use their verified status. Still, a lot of celebrities and organisations who lost their verification for not buying Twitter Blue, got their check mark back; indicating that the original verification system is still somewhat in place despite Elon and new Twitter saying otherwise.

The boosting of Blue users in the algorithmic homepage and replies has changed the way users interact with the app. Before, people expected hilarious replies and add-ons under a viral tweet, adding to the experience. Now, a top reply to any viral tweet is a flavourless answer by Blue users, with the most liked (and the good ones) replies hidden under the Blue users' replies. A lot of Blue users are politically Conservative, so any left-leaning tweet with a degree of virality has bland, cliched right-wing retorts boosted on top. If a trans or queer person has a tweet about their life and experiences go viral, the top comments are all homophobia and transphobia thanks to Blue. This experience of hate extends to other minorities as well.

Recently Twitter has implemented a new monetization system, in which Blue users would be able to get paid depending on the traffic they can generate on their tweets. This had led to trolls intentionally posting inflammatory tweets, as people replying or quoting them as retort will help them increase their revenue payout. On top of that, bigots with Blue checks now post increasingly outlandlish hatred to garner both support from fellow bigots and pushback from minorities and leftists — both leading to an increased payout from Twitter.

On top of all these changes making twitter less usable by the day (unless you pay 8USD or 900INR per month), Elon announced that Twitter would be renamed to X, and the blue bird logo changed to a letter X logo. On top of that, any features that used the Twitter name would be changed as well; like changing Retweets to Reposts, and Twitter Blue to X Premium. Almost all users have disregarded this change, and still use the old nomenclature for all the features. Some have pointed out the hypocrisy of Musk wanting people to call a social media platform by a new name almost immediately, despite being an outright transphobe and someone who is very likely to deadname people.

Between all these changes and the renaming, a lot of people argue that the Twitter people loved (and hated) is basically gone, and the site is now a cesspool of hate speech and misinformation. But there are still people on twitter (mostly queer and in fandom spaces) who keep using the app in the same way, talking about their interests and interacting with fanmade media; and a lot more are still using Twitter to talk about activism, spread information about grassroots movements, and crowdfunding to help support others. The latter groups of people have jokingly remarked that they will use Twitter for their work and activism until it is completely unusable. These different thoughts of people about Twitter reflect the different answers to the Ship of Theseus thought experiment, which makes Twitter the perfect fit for being the Ship in the social media sphere.