What is the value of Twitter? That question has been top of mind since the company agreed this week to be purchased by Elon Musk for $54.20 a share, giving the social network a market value of about $44 billion. A company’s stock price, of course, can change: Only a year ago, Twitter sold at $70 a share after the company announced goals to double its revenue by the end of 2023. And Twitter’s value is wrapped up in other senses of the word — its usefulness, its ability to provide pleasure and intrigue and news — a notable challenge for a platform synonymous with the word hellsite. One of the great questions surrounding the Musk acquisition is whether Twitter’s value for shareholders, users, and the media organizations stuck to it like barnacles on a whale will rise or drop. While many a wag has noted Twitter really couldn’t get any worse, the past decade in this country has shown us there’s always more room to fall. With that in mind, New York’s staffers have offered 24 moments when Twitter really was memorable, as a reminder of what Twitter once was and, for better or worse, what it could be.
One afternoon in 2010, while watching Scott Baio, a pretty face of the 1980s, go after Jezebel, the site where I worked at the time, for the crime of republishing his own tweet about his taxes subsidizing lazy people, I too tweeted. You see, the real-time meltdown of a marginal cultural figure still felt novel. The complete details are lost to poorly migrated image libraries and deleted tweets, but I remember that Baio, a name-searcher, replied a few times and called me the Real Racist, and the record shows that his wife took to Facebook to call all of us “lesbian shitasses” and declare that her husband had more class in his piss than we did. Memes were made. What could be more low-stakes amusing than a washed-up star fulminating on Twitter and his wife threatening to enlist the attorney general because she believed Baio’s supporters’ comments were being suppressed on a private website? Thrillingly, what we once saw only onscreen was talking back at us, and it was saying something wholly stupid. Six years later, Baio would headline at the Republican National Convention to endorse Donald Trump. —Irin Carmon
Do you remember where you were when Rihanna sent Ciara a decapitated horse in the form of a tweet? I do not. But I do remember blacking out shortly thereafter. The date was February 11, 2011, precisely nine days prior to Robyn Fenty’s birthday. Infamy. There was not much worth tweeting about in February 2011 — just as there’s not much worth tweeting about now — except, I don’t know, that decade-late Black Eyed Peas halftime show and the Egyptian revolution. Then … along came Rih, sent here (Twitter) to destroy us … but mostly just Ciara Princess Harris (now Wilson). She nuked the timeline and issued a death sentence at approximately 11:22 p.m. ET, sent from Twitter for BlackBerry (RIP).
Twitter was invented for moments like this. The bird app was always an overcrowded prison cell of adult bullies and big mouths (now it has the warden it deserves!), except typically the ones doing the squawking do it with cowardice. Rihanna knows only audacity. If 2022 Twitter’s main function is to turn every person on it into a personality or parasocial nightmare, then Rihanna dragging Ciara through its town square is some relic from when breaking decorum On Here was about more than a like or a ratio. Rihanna retaliated in unkind words after Ciara told E!’s Fashion Police (RIP) that she’s not nice IRL and doubled down with the tweet “Trust me Rhianna u dont want to see me on or off the stage” when Rih called her out on her bullshit. Bonafide celebs weren’t supposed to do that; they’re still not. At best, you sub and let the fans do your dirty work. (You weren’t supposed to tweet about how Drake doesn’t write his raps, either.) If I’m gonna cherish anything from Twitter history (RIP), I guess it’s that blip in time when its billionaire users didn’t have their billions yet and tweeted with their whole chest, when those 140 characters (RIP) were about selling nothing but the raw truth where everyone could see it. Good luck booking that next stage.
A moment of fleeting wonder: On August 30, 2012, Clint Eastwood delivered a prime-time speech at the Republican National Convention. The party had reserved this piece of precious real estate for Eastwood, believing his cinematic magic would make for compelling television. What happened instead was shambolic, as Eastwood stammered through unrehearsed, unwritten remarks centered around an inscrutable attempt at a comic routine in which he spoke to an empty chair where he pretended Barack Obama was sitting.
On Twitter, everybody — Republicans, Democrats, the undecided — was able to watch it happen in real time together, united in shock that the Romney campaign had permitted such an amateur debacle. (We were all so naïve.) You simply couldn’t believe it was happening, and you could share your disbelief with everybody else having the same sensation at the same moment.
What made this episode so magical was that it mobilized the best aspects of the platform — its contemporaneity and connectivity, the feeling you get watching an exciting game at a crowded sports bar — without all the awful components: the rabid context collapse and bad-faith tribalism. Maybe one reason people keep coming back to a site that makes them feel bad is their memories of the times it gave them something they couldn’t get anywhere else. —Jonathan Chait
Just because someone is saying something out loud doesn’t mean you have the natural right to understand what they’re saying. In any discursive ecosystem, context clues are earned through familiarity, camaraderie, and genuine exchange. Or by intensive, invasive surveillance. That’s why the best part of Twitter, the internet’s high-school cafeteria, is not the tweet. It’s the subtweet: You gotta know who is talking, what they’re talking about, why they can’t just say what they’re saying outright. Some of my favorite subtweets came in a cryptic series of messages from the since-deleted account @truthtrain14 back in October 2014, which grumbled missives like “CA-40/43-44/49-44/44-50/36-44/49-10/16/14-52→49/476-10s.” Unintelligible mush.
But through a probable combination of familiarity and surveillance, CNN, which would soon make a great deal of money from its divination of tweets, managed to suss out what @truthtrain14, along with other accounts with names like the West Wing–inspired @brunogianelli44, was up to. It was classic subtweet reverse engineering. The mush turned out to be polling numbers, the kind that congressional campaigns — in this case, Republican — would have loved to share with dark-money political groups with whom they were legally bound from coordinating. Convenient! And when CNN started asking various big-name Republican political outfits, including the National Republican Congressional Committee and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, about these convenient tweets, the tweets got deleted! This is the classic fate of so many subtweets that become too suddenly legible. (For what it’s worth, the Federal Elections Commission said the tweets were a “potentially alarming” skirting of the law but ultimately decided that pursuing the matter “would have been an unwise use of Commission resources.”)
Twitter is not a public square where everyone knows everything and can robustly discuss our collective happenings. Twitter is a glommed-together blob of private squares, a place where everyone is talking, always, over and around and at and through one another. Sometimes people talk to each other, but everything is only overheard. If you insist on an all-encompassing knowledge of every word uttered in your immediate vicinity, you need to put in the work. —Melvin Backman
It was the spring of 2016, and I had recently started working at The New Republic as a web editor. We had published a series of profiles of the presidential candidates and asked the writers to do a “takeover” of our official Twitter account as part of the social-media campaign. Readers would ask questions, the authors would respond, hopefully a couple hundred more people would click on the article itself, and then … I’m not sure what was supposed to happen after that (the money certainly didn’t roll in!), but it felt like this was what Twitter should be used for. Anyway, one of the authors was Patricia Lockwood, and at the end of her shift, she tweeted, “fuck me daddy” at @realDonaldTrump, who was then in the midst of destroying the rest of the Republican primary field. Full-blown panic ensued in-house while the rest of the internet enjoyed the sight of a 100-year-old journal of ideas asking its daddy to do naughty things to it. (“Trump has not yet responded to The New Republic’s offer,” wrote New York Magazine’s Brian Feldman at the time.) It was only six years ago, but it now seems like a far more innocent era, when the context collapse of society was not yet complete and it was genuinely shocking for writers, magazines, and presidential candidates to interact with each other this way. Now it seems like a harbinger. —Ryu Spaeth
Forgive me for mixing my Ezra Koenig metaphors here, but this tweet
really is a tab in my brain that I’m afraid to close. I sent it to Vulture senior news editor Morgan Baila just the other day when we were discussing summer footwear for maniacal walkers, using the inverse example of inelegant shoes to explain why I can never wear Birks, not even the Manolo ones. I’ve included it as an epigraph in stories. And it has, vaguely, informed my shoe-buying philosophy. (I can assure you this isn’t a body-dysmorphia thing. No free feet pics to prove it.) But what has really stuck with me is that it’s the truth with a topcoat of sprezzatura — you can totally tell Koenig drafted tweets and workshopped them to convey a dashed-off-ness as fake as his transatlantic accent. Now he’s got a kid with Rashida Jones and isn’t so active on Twitter anymore, but I like to think about the time when he’d regularly drop modern aphorisms like this, each one much labored over to project learnèd cleverness. It was an image thing, to be sure, but maybe it was for us, too, to recognize all the uncool work that goes into looking cool online and to be okay with doing it ourselves. Because if you’re not a try-hard on the internet, why are you even here? —Chelsea Peng
I don’t love much about Twitter, but what I did love was having a place to regularly post an image that most captured my worldview in a way that I could pretend made sense. I posted it all the time in 2019 and 2020, often as an expression of my deep concern about the badness of the discourse or the politics or the world, rarely with any commentary. It was an image of a tawny frogmouth, and most people who responded to it thought it was an owl.
And it looked so worried, which is how I felt. And how I feel. And it was nice, briefly, to be able to express how fearful I felt in a way that didn’t require me to write either 8,000 words or 280 characters, via an image that probably didn’t even track for most people. But I so deeply appreciated the people who would like my worried bird because they made me feel less alone in my worry. And in the fast-running currents of its rancorous bad faith and poison, I guess that’s the one thing Twitter did occasionally provide: the brief feeling of being less alone in your anguish. —Rebecca Traister
I know, I know, the whole Agent Orange President Cheeto thing is played out at this juncture, and I hate to sound like an MSNBC dad, and most Trump tweets are homogenous lumps of spitty grievances unworthy of analysis — but I’ll never forget waking up on May 31, 2017, the morning after my 21st birthday, hungover as all heaven and hell, to a dining hall ringing with “covfefe.” “Covfefe?” I said. “Covfefe!” said my friends. “Covfefe!” said a professor. “Covfefe!” chirped the robins and wrens. The president’s Twitter typo gripped a delirious nation, compressing its author’s carelessness into a single funny word. Here was a butterfingered fool, here was a sloppy gerontocrat. With my birthday celebration over and my head on fire, I drifted back to earth and began to think — as we’d all been thinking for months — “Haha, we’re in danger.” —Brandon Sanchez
In the olden times of Twitter, the @ was still included in the character count. This was before threads and blue lines or any other little product tweaks that made conversations between large groups of people even remotely neat or tidy. So when a bunch of people were all tagged into one conversation, it was called a “canoe.”
This quirk of Twitter circa 2014 gave us one of the greatest moments in the history of the platform: the Great Dong Canoe. What happened was that an increasing number of people were added to a canoe (again, a tweet with a bunch of @s) with short dong jokes — Howard’s Dong, Dong of Solomon, Dong Days of Summer — over and over again. There were countless variations, most of them lost to history, but I’m pretty sure that was the extent of it: just a running, growing thread of dick jokes that were inescapable once you were in the canoe. It’s probably the epitome of a “you had to be there” moment, but I swear it was the most hilarious thing. As an internet friend I’ve only ever known as Just The Tape wrote that day, “thank you all for bringing me along in the canoe Twitter was invented for.” —Willy Blackmore
In 2018, I read a Ben Affleck tweet and it felt like seeing a shooting star.
So rarely does a truly, truly A-list celebrity go on Twitter to address the discourse, much less a ginormous back tattoo, but on March 29, 2018, Affleck logged on to clear the air. “The Great Sadness of Ben Affleck,” the New Yorker piece to which he was responding, written by pop-culture savant Naomi Fry, claimed that Affleck’s garish — literally his word — back tat made him “Homer Simpsonesque” and wondered what a world without Good Will Hunting–era Ben Afflecks looked like. What if all men in Hollywood were reduced to their bad tattoos and dirty gray towels? Would the world feel different? Affleck’s tweet boasts only about 19K likes — a conservative amount, barely viral — but stands out regardless in my corner of the internet. No one expected him to use the platform to give a quick mental-health check-in. It’s like Leonardo DiCaprio going rogue and suddenly addressing his penchant for dating 20ish-year-olds. (“@NYMag,” I imagine he’d write. “Don’t worry about me. Worry about our planet, which barely has 25 years.”) Imagine doing just fine! On Twitter! Could not be me. —Morgan Baila
I can’t say I’ve enjoyed witnessing our democracy crumble over misinformation during the 2016 election or getting caught in the crossfire of shouty, scoldy urbanism bros who seem to think $3,000 apartments are affordable. But every time I’ve said, Enough! I’ve had it!, and vowed to quit Twitter cold turkey to protect my sanity, something truly funny on this cursed platform changes my mind. I’ve stayed for tweets that make me laugh at just how terminally deranged our culture has become as a distraction from the fire-hose news cycle that Twitter helped create: Bossip calling out the Kente-Kloth-Klad Kongress. Room Raters making light of the fact that all of us live on Zoom now. Johnny Depp narrating, in deadpan, the filthy texts he sent about Amber Heard.
Do I have time to follow a trial? No, but good thing the denizens of Twitter do and will neatly excerpt what I need to know. Today I saw a Tweet about a fake Fox News report on Snickers’ “beloved dick vein” being a casualty of cancel culture. And Snickers’ pandering assurance that the dick veins remain. Is this a healthy coping mechanism? Definitely not! And I don’t care! —Diana Budds
Kevin Durant became the NBA’s premier villain when he left the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2016 for the Golden State Warriors, the team that had just beat the Thunder in the Western Conference finals. Fans hammered him. Durant fought back — not only from his official blue-check Twitter account but from a burner he might or might not have created to defend himself. He even seemed to respond to a critic from his official account when he meant to tweet from the burner, telling user @ColeCashwell that “KD can’t win a championship with those cats.”
In a 2020 podcast, Durant admitted to having burner accounts, stressing that they weren’t for talking shit but for participating in other communities. “I was like, These people really made me delete what I enjoy,” he said of the drama around his burner. Just this morning, after a flurry of posts provoked by criticism from Charles Barkley, Durant tweeted at user @Swav_ay:
Spoken like a true poster — one who will never quit Twitter, no matter which billionaire buys it. —Chris Crowley
On March 8, 2013, MLB reporter Ken Rosenthal replied to a user with an all-caps exhortation to actually put in the time to read the story the user was commenting on. A few things made this a perfect tweet. For one thing, the content was painfully relatable to anyone who has ever wanted to shout “READ THE COLUMN” at someone in the replies, as Rosenthal did here. Also: The most compelling reason to stay on Twitter is reporters like Rosenthal, who (if you curate your follower list correctly) can give you a useful feed of real-time news. But mostly the tweet has stuck with me because the reply was famously sent to a user named @MrSugarPenis, a perfect reminder that, for better or worse, all kinds of people are playing in the same dumb sandbox each and every day. —Joe DeLessio
One day in 2016, I got a pure hit of the kind of ridiculousness Twitter could whip up. I had been walking through midtown when I saw two men unloading a taxidermy zebra out of the back of a truck. It looked so lifelike. I took a picture and tweeted:
My follower count was infinitesimal, but somehow BuzzFeed got hold of it. With one retweet, my afternoon exploded. Local news reporters began contacting me about the Runaway Zebra. Animal-rights activists were furious. I was accused of being an internet hoaxer. As always, people found a way to connect it to Donald Trump. Various Twitter tribes contorted the zebra picture to their own ends. And then they all moved on. —Shawn McCreesh
It’s well established that Brand Twitter is embarrassing and annoying, no matter how thrilling it was the first time Moonpie told Carl’s Jr. its burgers tasted like a virgin cooked them (or whatever). But for me, it’s all worth it for the day in 2014, back when brands were only tentatively saying “on fleek” and Steak-umm was mostly tweeting things like “There is no sincerer #love than the love of #food,” when the US Airways Twitter account posted a ludicrously pornographic photo involving a model of a 777, a naked woman, and … actually, just those two things, plus flash photography. Even better, the picture was sent in response to an unhappy customer whose plane had sat for an extra hour on the tarmac, along with this text: “We welcome feedback, Elle. If your travel is complete, you can detail it here for review and follow-up.” My timeline was immediately full of ecstatic allusions to the photo, which the company didn’t manage to delete for an hour. It felt like the moment when we all realized the volatile potential of the platform, and it proved more than anything since then that the most important tweets, the ones we all log on in hopes of glimpsing, are the ones sent by accident. —Emma Alpern
As with Cassandra, it came to him in a dream: a hollow M&M’s cookie shaped like a hand and filled with Greek salad, a dish that Twitter user @thatfrood re-created using a silicone mold with M&M’s marking the knuckle bones.
The King’s Hand moment was full of the toothsome weirdness I associate with a certain corner of Twitter. Like an image that circulated in 2019 doctored to mimic the feeling of having a stroke, the impression it produces becomes less clear the longer you contemplate it: Which king’s hand is this? Are we honoring him or cannibalizing him? (@Thatfrood told BuzzFeed News that, in his dream, it was the main course of a festival feast.) It’s ornate, ceremonial, childish. “I was thinking, This doesn’t make sense,” he told BuzzFeed. “But of course it doesn’t make sense. I saw it in a dream.”
What were you doing while a Taylor Swift–parody update account got out of Israeli military prison? Two years ago, @LegitTayUpdates, who goes by her first name, Na’ama, went viral at the end of her two-month sentence. During that time, she still posted from the inside, just with paper and pen, her notes photographed and uploaded by a friend. Owing to doxxing threats, the then-19-year-old is no longer on the app, except as a folklore legend. Screenshots of her viral tweet explaining, “I refused to join the IDF lmao,” now make the rounds with captions like “hoping she’s safe and well.” Twitter is either a constant “social-justice warrior” town hall or a fan-club meeting gone out of control, depending on whom you ask over the age of [redacted]. For perhaps this one moment, it was the best version of both. Around 50,000 likes later, Vogue wrote “The Viral Taylor Swift Stan Story That Made Me Love the Internet Again,” and Teen Vogue interviewed Na’ama about politics back when it was still rare for Taylor Swift herself to share her beliefs. “For years in Israel, everyone around me told it was ‘us vs. them’ — them being Palestinians — and I believed it because I trusted the people in my community,” she told the teen mag. “But as I grew older and saw more videos and articles about the things my government is doing in Palestine, I couldn’t do nothing.” It’s a reminder that activism isn’t a choice for many in this generation — it’s as forced onto them as the internet age — and that speaking out on Twitter can do something other than create meta-conflicts with far-right trolls. For those, we may just have to shake it off. —Zoë Haylock
As soon as the news arrived that Cynthia Erivo would be playing Elphaba and Ariana Grande would be playing Glinda in the movie version of Wicked, I canceled my plans for the evening to simply … tweet. After years of joking that this film would never get made (I’m still not convinced), an extremely loud but aptly ignored corner of the internet was given a megaphone. I hosted my first ever Twitter space because I was overwhelmed by the number of threads, DM groups, and tweets being texted to me off-app. It was a beautiful, glistening example of how Twitter not only encourages but fosters community. I have made countless friends through snarky musical-theater Twitter. I’ll even embarrassingly admit that relationships with every man I have seriously dated started from chatting via Twitter DMs. The night of the Wicked movie casting announcement reminded me that this community of people who love theater but do not pursue it professionally in any way still has a home — a space to congregate, even if it isn’t backstage or in a rehearsal room. —Zach Schiffman
My flight had been delayed, and I was stuck at an airport in Florida when the Cats trailer dropped. We are all now desensitized to the look of Cats, or as desensitized as one can be to its litany of visual terrors, so it’s hard to put into words just how alien and upsetting it was to collectively witness it for the first time. Nothing had ever looked like the Cats trailer before, and nothing ever will again, not even Cats, which, of course, went through much more corrective work after the trailer came out (it still ended up a botch job, but still). On July 18, 2019, the official Cats movie account tweeted, “This Christmas, you will believe,” already positioning the film as a direct affront to Jesus himself. This was the first time we saw the cats’ strange human proportions, their nude physiques, Judi Dench’s and Jennifer Hudson’s altered faces floating flatly in front of their furry heads. We saw James Corden belly-bump a cat into a trash can. We saw Jason Derulo yell MILK! We saw how small the cats looked in relation to a fork and a knife. The group shots were something out of a Goya war painting, writhing and disturbed. Hours later, I got off an airplane, opened Twitter, and the whole thing was still wall-to-wall Cats.
These are the moments when Twitter is at its best and still worthwhile to me. In the past year alone, we’ve had similar experiences with Nicole Kidman’s AMC ad, Gal Gadot’s “acting” in the Death on the Nile trailer, and Pauly Shore’s Pinocchio. Times when, in an otherwise pretty much siloed and stratified media landscape where no one’s tuning in to watch the same thing at the same time, we can commune over some kind of monoculture. And more often than not, it’s not the monoculture we need but the one we wretched bunch deserve: disgusting and awful.
Celebrities don’t have to tweet, but some of them love to post. They’re just like us! So the best moments on Twitter come when, off in the distance, you can hear a publicist yelling, “Take their phone away!” Twitter is a great avenue for stars to reveal that they’re as frustrated and petty as the rest of us, as when Constance Wu tweeted, “fucking hell,” right after Fresh Off the Boat was renewed because she clearly wanted to do something else. But my favorite celeb-frustration tweet is great because it’s so vague: Back in 2016, Jennifer Hudson wasn’t nominated for a Tony for Featured Actress in a Musical for the revival of The Color Purple. (Cynthia Erivo went on to win Lead Actress in a Musical, accelerating her career.) In response to a fan, Hudson tweeted, “my presence was used for my celebrity, not my talent. I’m not surprised.” Yes, the musical got a good amount of publicity for casting an Oscar winner, but was Hudson admitting she didn’t have the talent for awards recognition? Or that the producers didn’t want her to get attention? She quickly deleted the tweet, but I’ve thought about it ever since. When I show up somewhere and no one seems to pay attention to me, my presence is being used for my celebrity, not my talent. When I’m ignored by a waiter trying to get a check, same. It makes no sense and yet all the sense. Twitter is where a celebrity can admit that being a celebrity is everything and yet not enough. —Jackson McHenry
I don’t love Meghan McCain. [Pauses.] But I love the brand of stanning her, if that makes any sense — and without Twitter, we wouldn’t have this tweet, or this one, or this thread comparing the icon’s hairstyles from her stint on The View to desserts. There might not be any quickly searchable existence of this video of McCain being asked about nepotism. Imagine … if we had never gotten to witness this takedown by Joy Behar on Valentine’s Day 2022? All I’m really trying to say is that if Twitter were to die, so would this image.
And who wants that? —Wolfgang Ruth
Reminiscing about Twitter’s greatest hits, I’m tempted to cite a moment when the entire site appeared to be united in shock, disgust, or mockery of a “main character.” There are many such candidates to choose from; for my money, nothing captured the dreamlike madness of 2016 quite like a certain unintentionally hilarious Darren Rovell tweet. But those collective freakout moments — in which it seems as if everyone on the platform is discussing a topic that’s sensical only to those who spend hours a day on it — also exemplify the kind of closed-loop insularity that may be Twitter’s worst feature. (There’s a connection here with the dismal ritual, during the Trump years, in which most of my feed apparently felt the obligation to make a C+ joke playing off whatever piece of insanity he had just tweeted. Let’s hope those days never return.)
So for my favorite moment, I’ll go with an occasion of personal triumph. In 2013, an essay I wrote for The Awl (RIP) blew up on Twitter — the first time I’d experienced some mini-version of virality. Many people I admired but did not know read and liked it. The episode served as a reminder of Twitter’s positive attributes: I’ve made several actual friends, cultivated important professional relationships, and been exposed to some very smart and very funny people I wouldn’t otherwise have known about. For all of its downsides — the insularity, the grinding groupthink, the bias toward doom and gloom, the utter addictiveness of the product — Twitter is often both useful and, dare I say, fun. Maybe this is rich coming from someone who has complained about the place a lot (that Awl essay was about Twitter annoyances!), but the fashionable stance that it’s an irredeemable “hellsite” isn’t just wrong but extremely dull. I just hope Elon Musk’s stewardship doesn’t prove the naysayers right. —Benjamin Hart
When I started my career, President George W. Bush was waging war on the press, but it seemed fairly unlikely that he would pop into the Jezebel comments section to inform me personally that I was a “pathetic reporter who doesn’t want to know the truth,” as Donald Trump once said of a New York senior journalist. For a while, Trump had an axe to grind against New York, and he did a lot of it on Twitter. In 2013, shortly after I started at the magazine, Trump tweeted and retweeted attacks on @NYMag and its employees 42 times, according to the Trump Twitter Archive. Thanks to Twitter, I knew Trump had called for people to cancel their subscriptions to the “failing, boring abd [sic] totally biased New York ‘Ragazine’” which he felt was “lifeless and dead” and full of “Bad people, false writing!”
Luckily, much like Trump’s obsession with Robert Pattinson dumping Kristen Stewart, his interest in New York was fleeting. Although he relentlessly attacked countless other media outlets and journalists during his time in office, for some reason @NYMag was spared. Now that he’s gone, I can go back to enjoying Trump’s brilliantly backhanded compliment to my employer: “.@NYMag is a piece of garbage but I think it is very nice & charitable that they employ the no-talent illiterate hack @jonathanchait.” (When asked how he felt about it, my colleague Jonathan Chait said, “His tweet should have had an ‘and,’ not a ‘but.’ Otherwise, no notes.”) —Margaret Hartmann
As opening gambits go in the history of literature, few lines resonate more than “Y’all wanna hear a story about why me & this bitch here fell out???????? It’s kinda long but it’s full of suspense 😂😭” Like lots of great writing, this was a revision — the famous “Zola” Twitter thread, by Aziah Wells, was actually its third publishing attempt. (The first two times she posted, “no one cared,” Rolling Stone reported.) It’s incredible, electrifying, stylish — and made for a wonderful movie. But you already know what Twitter’s single greatest contribution to American literature is. And, like the Zola thread, it’s about women and men, and Twitter’s format is integral to the storytelling. It’s an essay that needs to be a thread; it needs the pacing of the scroll. You can hear the speaker take a breath and the modulation of his volume (particularly when he cites Proverbs). Written by Solomon Missouri, a (divorced) pastor at the Kyles Temple A.M.E. Zion Church in Durham, North Carolina (which is not for sale), this Twitter thread is so hard-engraved in the literature of our time that a perfectly punctuated tweet of a single word can bring the whole original rushing in: “Tulum??????”