On 20 April 2023, Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk retired all legacy blue checkmarks. Musk chose the date because it’s 4/20, get it? 😅 This came after previous threats to get the check marks removed so that Musk could fully roll out the $8 per month subscription service that was launched in November 2022 for those who would like the checkmark, regardless of their celebrity status or job. As with every other decision Musk has made as Twitter owner, there have been lots of other drama before we got here.
I was able to get the checkmark because I’m a journalist, but it also kind of happened by mistake. In 2017, Twitter stopped dishing out the check marks so that they could streamline the process. Before then, it was kind of arbitrary as to who got one and whose request for one was declined and why. Verification resumed in mid 2021.
I was curious, and as one does, I tried it out.
I had about 1,500 followers or less at the time, and so I was certain my application would be rejected. In my mind, only accounts with huge followings and tons of engagement got verified. So I went through the really short process. Then I totally forgot about all of it, only to wake up from a nap one day, get onto Twitter and see a notification from @verified.
I was gobsmacked to say the least. I had done this with Instagram and Facebook just to learn first hand about the process and how they respond to you once they reject your application (they all use corporate-speak and don’t actually tell you why you didn’t make the cut), yet here I was with a newly minted blue check mark next to my name on Twitter.
My first reaction was to try to get rid of it, simply because I didn’t want all the attention. And attention on Twitter as a Kenyan didn’t have any rosy implications in my mind, regardless of their real-world impact. Kenyans on Twitter are the most frightening chimera you’re ever going to come across, I promise you. Like an insatiable beast, once they sink their teeth into your vulnerable flesh, you’re a goner. There will not even be a warm spot where you once were. Once they have you in their clutches, all anyone will be able to do is move far enough away from you to avoid the blood splatter. I’m not even kidding. They instill fear in me like nothing else can.
So to avoid the wrath of this amorphous group, I was, for at least a day, determined to get rid of the check mark because it basically put a target on my back. Like a huge blinking neon sign saying, “Hey you guys, over here! Fresh bait!” But after a few hours I saw the wisdom in keeping it. As a freelance journalist, I thought it could possibly help give me more credibility as I approached editors.
But after two or so years with it, I’m not quite sure if I can quantify if the check mark helped me at all and if so, in what ways. I definitely got more followers but not that many. As a Twitter user who is more of a lurker, that makes sense. And I’m not sure how many editors I’ve worked with over that time cared to check my Twitter account, so I can’t say if I got any articles published thanks to the check mark.
Or maybe I should look at it as a net gain to my reputation. The social currency of a check mark was a point of pride for most. A rubber stamp of approval from the powers that be that you are actually important and what you say matters. Even if it was initially meant as a way of ensuring public figures and organizations could legitimately identify their accounts to the public.
And I believe it’s why I got verified even with my meager Twitter presence and following. At the time, Twitter was prioritizing verifying journalists who could help fight the boat-load amounts of misinformation that thrives on social media platforms.
Nevertheless, whether or not I actually benefited from having that blue badge against my name or not, one thing I’m sure of is that the prestige of having one is about to fade into obscurity. As a paid-for service, the check mark has already begun to take on a pitiable “Wait, you actually paid for Twitter?” sentiment, which will be hard to shake off.
It was fun while it lasted. As I told a friend who pointed out the absence of my check mark, I was always a commoner. I just got boosted temporarily but I’m back where I belong.