Users

Will Paying Twitter $3 a Month Make Using It Any Better?

The site’s new premium plan offers a slew of small upgrades.

a phone with a blue screen and the twitter bird icon
Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash

Oh, good: Twitter wants us to give it money now. A long-teased subscription plan, Twitter Blue, launched on Tuesday, with a short list of exclusive features in exchange for $2.99 a month. Among them are the options to … change your app icon color (mine’s pink now!), update your theme (also pink now!), and organize your bookmarks, should you actually use your Twitter bookmarks.

If those sound not quite worth it, some of Twitter Blue’s functions may be slightly more enticing. The main events are the option to undo a tweet and a new way to read threads and articles. Undoing a tweet is basically like deleting one, except the tweet doesn’t send first; you hit tweet, and a loading circle appears to give you 20 seconds to reconsider that shitpost (or fix a typo or whatever). If you catch yourself in time, you can press undo and rework your tweet or just delete it entirely, as you would have done otherwise. This could appeal to trigger-happy tweeters, but I‘m not sure what difference a 20-second grace period makes for people already unable to self-censor.

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The reader feature—called, creatively, “Reader”— is a perhaps better argument in Twitter Blue’s favor (but again, only slightly). It makes it far easier to scroll through those endless threads from TikTok re-posters or professional whiners yelling about the New York Times without having to click through each individual tweet; choosing to look at the thread via Reader will flatten all the tweets out so that they appear seamlessly bunched together, inextricable from each other until you reach the thread’s end. This reads little more like a regular series of small paragraphs than a series of individual dispatches, which is a more pleasant reading experience.

regular twitter on the left, twitter's regular view on the right
Allegra Frank
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Plus, reading threads this way removes the ability to easily click “reply” or “like” on each individual tweet before you finish reading the entire spiel. Perhaps that will help people be less reactive on the app (though again: I’m not sure if people who reply emotionally and willy-nilly partway through threads will be the folks shelling out for Twitter Blue).  

Then there are the lesser benefits. While Twitter Blue won’t remove ads from your feed, it will give you some news articles ad-free. Twitter has partnered with some outlets to offer ad-free reading experiences within the app,. (Slate, full disclosure, is one of those select outlets.) This experience is reminiscent of Facebook’s infamous Instant Articles, stories that can be read natively through Facebook’s app. Twitter vets the outlets available on its version of this, which will hopefully avoid the issue that Facebook had with right-wing organizations manipulating Instant Articles.

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But who would actually consider paying money for Twitter in exchange for these features? Extremely Online folks, blue checkmarks, influencers—I do not think any of them care about an easier way to read a featured article on their phone. Pinning certain DM conversations—another feature, which allows you to tack up to four chats to the top of your inbox—might be nice if you’re an active DM-convo-haver, sure. Twitter blue will allow users to properly bookmark tweets—maybe there are actually people out there who like to bookmark tweets, for some reason. It’s not like Twitter blue is that expensive—at the price of a cup of coffee per month, these small conveniences might not be a total waste of cash, if you’ll use them.

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What’s frustrating to me isn’t so much what Twitter Blue is, but what it is not. There are way more important features the platform should be focusing on providing to users. Imagine if Twitter Blue were offering legitimately useful security and anti-harassment tools beyond its crappy “report” feature—like helping people stop random jerks from sending them targeted abuse in the first place, for instance. (You can already make it so  that you don’t have to see these mentions, but I would love to prevent anyone I don’t know from tagging my handle whatsoever) These features should be available for free, really, but much as I hate the idea of ever giving Jack Dorsey my money again once the one month of Twitter Blue I paid for is up, I would hand him my credit card enthusiastically if it meant a Twitter minus all the horrible shit that users have to see on a regular basis. One should simply not have to see their friends called horrible slurs while trying to scroll through memes and one-liners that make the app hard to quit. I mean, come on, Jack—we could at least use an actual edit button in exchange for our cash.

Until then: Enjoy Twitter Blue, y’all. Or, better yet, carry on as you were.

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