Grinding for Elon bucks

Read to the end for emo Arthur

Garbage Day Live Is Tonight!

If you haven’t picked up tickets yet, we still have some available, which you can buy online here or at the door. Doors open at 6:30pm EST. I have a little gift for folks who show up early 👀.

For those of you who aren’t coming and/or aren’t in New York, thanks for putting up with all the show promotion over the last few weeks. The idea of converting this newsletter into a live show started as a pandemic lockdown fever dream a few years back and I’m really excited about finally debuting it. But I also realize that probably not everyone on this email list wants to hear about it. So again, thanks for bearing with me. Also, weirdly enough, according to the scant few audience metrics Substack supports, I think I actually have a bigger audience in California. (Maybe we go there next???)

Some Fascinating Emergent User Behavior

I’ve noticed a bizarre new trend on X that I’ve been looking for a good example to include here and I think I finally have one for you. I’m going to call it a Verified Meme Dump. And it’s sort of a perfect example of how paid verification and user monetization has broken a platform that was primarily powered by conversations. Here’s how one of these meme dumps starts.

On Monday, a verified meme account called @insultsrare, which mostly just posts old viral screenshots, shared this:

The tweet received 17 million “views,” about 14,000 retweets and around 500 replies. But the replies aren’t what you’d normally see on Twitter pre-Elon Musk’s takeover. Instead, they’re almost exclusively from other verified accounts, who aren’t even attempting to actually reply to the post. This is especially pronounced on mobile, which more aggressively promotes verified replies. Also, careful scrolling through the replies because there’s a decent amount of porn in there.

The majority of the replies underneath this post — and many posts like it — are just completely random memes. Even weirder, some of the accounts replying underneath this post appear to be trying to start a completely different reply thread. Like this post from verified cricket fan account called @sammyX39:

How rude! Imagine you’re trying to post weeks-old Reddit memes to grind away a couple Elon bucks and someone starts doing a viral prompt thread inside of your replies?! Ridiculous.

The only real theme you could even claim that the majority of these off-topic replies have is that they’re sorta kinda related to sex and relationships, which explains the amount of sex workers replying to the thread. There’s also a meme in that thread from a verified account impersonating the Boss Baby that is, well, certainly not something the real Boss Baby would tweet.

I started clicking around on the verified accounts that were meme dumping in this thread and I noticed a couple interesting things. First, almost all of them are older accounts. They all started using Twitter back when it was still Twitter. Which surprised me. Second, many of them appear to be run by users that are outside of the US. An overwhelming amount of these accounts, when they aren’t replying to viral threads, are posting about Bollywood, Tollywood, or South Asian sports teams. But many aren’t really posting anything other than replies anymore.

Now, there are a couple trends from pre-Musk Twitter that this reminds me of. The first are viral Black Twitter threads, where it was common to see replies full of funny reaction GIFs and, later, video clips and memes. The second thing this reminds me of is tweetdecking, which was a problem that Twitter struggled with moderating for years. Basically, novelty accounts would post low-effort content and then use a network of connected novelty accounts to mass-retweet it. And I’m sure that many of the accounts meme dumping in the @insultsrare thread are owned by the same person. But in the case of a popular Black Twitter thread, the memes and GIFs were meant to build on the existing conversation. And in the case of tweetdecking, the point was to create the illusion a conversation. That’s not happening anymore.

On Twitter, the incentive to be funny or interesting or informative was retweets and likes, which if you gained enough of you might get a media job, or a book deal, or get laid. On X, Musk’s pay-to-play model of virality has turned the site into an environment of pure capitalism where conversation simply gets in the way. And after scrolling through enough of these Verified Meme Dumps, I slowly realized what they actually reminded me of. These replies are just galleries of refried edgy memes with no coherent theme, posted by scammers and weirdos, surrounded by ads for brands I’ve never heard of and products that probably don’t exist, with poorly-aggregated headlines sitting next to them on the sidebar. It’s 9gag. Elon Musk paid $44 billion to make 9gag. And his big plan to improve it, according to Fortune this week, is to start charging new users $1 a year to use it.

The following is a paid ad. If you’re interested in advertising, email me at [email protected] and let’s talk. Thanks!

A Very Special Episode’s new album, Freak Me Out, is out now everywhere on Hidden Home and EWEL Records. Get into the spooky season spirit by experiencing the analog horror inspired music video “Petals”. And you can buy the record on vinyl or streaming via Bandcamp.

An Important Question

Some Very Serious People Were Sharing This Really Horny Guy Pretending To Be An Al Jazeera Reporter

Related to the general noxious vibes on X that I wrote about above, an account called @_Faridakhan went viral this week after it claimed to be an Al Jazeera reporter. The account posted that Al Jazeera was lying about the reported bombing of a hospital in Gaza and, obviously, was reposted thousands of times — including reposts from accounts that should absolutely know better.

The account was only created last month and is now banned, but not before people could screenshot what it was posting aside from fake tweets about Israel and Palestine. Most of it was Hindu nationalist propaganda, but there were a few other interesting posts. For instance, this is what the account replied underneath a picture of the actor Sydney Sweeney.

Bluesky Is Still Very Small

This comes from, who runs the very handy Bluesky statistics page. According to their metrics, almost half of Bluesky users, of which there are only about a million, have never posted before. Which is a pretty wild number.

I was curious about how this lined up with Twitter. And it turns out, pretty well. As of 2014, 44% of Twitter users had never sent a tweet, and as of last year, about 49% of Twitter users were tweeting less than five times a month.

Which means there’s actually an optimistic way of looking at Bluesky. Yes, it is small, but it’s roughly reached the same ratio of lurkers and deranged super posters that Twitter had in 2014, which, as the years have ticked by, feels more and more like the site’s actual peak. Though, just for prospective here, Twitter had just under 300 million monthly active users in 2014.

Relatedly, comedian Kathy Griffin says she’s leaving Bluesky and going over to Threads because she’s not getting any engagement. Most users are excited about this.

I Lost The Trust And Safety Game Almost Immediately

I’m not kidding when I say Trust & Saftey Tycoon is a tremendous achievement. It’s a new web game created by Techdirt’s Mike Masnick, along with the Hewlett Foundation, and the Atlantic Council. You play as the head of a Trust & Safety team for a growing social network and it throws a bunch of chaos at you to see how you navigate it. I’ve done this job irl before and this is shockingly realistic. I also lost almost immediately lol.

For those who go play it and are curious why I lost with barely one star it’s because I exhausted my moderation speed by largely focusing on a patient wait-and-see strategy, which tanked my CEO confidence rating. Wow! Just like in real life!

The YouTube Funny Song Man Collab Of The Century

Tom Cardy, the Australian mustache man in a tank top that makes funny songs, teamed up with Brian David Gilbert, the American beard man with a man bun that makes funny songs, and, you know what? They made a pretty funny song!

Some Stray Links

P.S. here’s emo Arthur.

***Any typos in this email are because I’m busy practicing for Garbage Day Live***

Join the conversation

or to participate.