Posted on June 15, 2023 in Technology

Is It Uncool to Be Verified?

Twitter’s handling of blue verification checkmarks is turning into a total mess amongst the people Musk intended as a target audience. When did it become uncool to be verified?

Why Doesn’t Anyone Want to Support Twitter?

Firstly, even people who have no clue who Elon Musk is, or his dozens of scandals, don’t like him on Twitter because his policy decisions have actively made the platform more difficult to use. He’s a political figure, yes, and that alone makes him easy to dislike, but he’s also handling Twitter’s transition very poorly. Two-Factor authentication is now hidden behind a paywall, and the coding choices Musk has demanded in the past several months means that authenticator apps can’t fill the gap he left in security. His layoffs mean service is delayed, too: customers report that Twitter support only responds in a timely manner if they spam them with tickets and messages. Nobody likes slow service! Especially if their account has been hacked!

Even when his decisions don’t break critical functions of the site, they harm its culture. Several beloved joke/meme accounts that used the API to function have shut down because Musk started charging for access to the API, an attempt to curb bots that also doubled as fundraising. Companies that have historically used Twitter as an alert system can either cough up a couple hundred dollars on a monthly basis to keep going or quit while they have a good reason. Many just quit even if they theoretically could afford it. For example, the New York City transit committee won’t be using Twitter to update riders about route changes or delays anymore because Twitter is now too inconsistent.

He’s Not Cool

It’s not only the tech, though. His political leanings are putting him in with a crowd that thinks wearing a suit to school every day is cool. That is to say, when he tweets about his political beliefs or makes jokes, the people who retweet him sincerely are behind on pop culture at best or actively telling everyone how much they hate it and wish it would change at worst. That’s an opinion he welcomes on the platform as part of his push for free speech. That’s one thing, but the kids who like wearing the suit and the kids who don’t are two totally different crowds. Trying desperately to win the favor of the non-suit kids looks desperate. Especially when he doesn’t seem to know how. His memes are outdated. He posted a meme about Harambe, the gorilla that was shot at a zoo when a child fell into the enclosure, months, perhaps years after those memes wore out their welcome. He also famously tweeted ‘let that sink in’ alongside a picture of him carrying a sink into the Twitter offices, and then proceeded to fire huge swathes of the staff.

This is what made Musk uncool after years of being seen as the IRL Tony Stark. This is what made Twitter Blue uncool – it’s supporting an out-of-touch billionaire who’s trying so desperately to be cool but fundamentally doesn’t understand how. He’s basically trying to make ‘fetch’ happen. It’s not going to happen. The kids in suits wanted to buy it, but how much of Twitter’s population do they really make up? Clearly not enough for Musk’s taste.  

Cool Kids Don’t Want to Sit At His Table

As such, the checkmark became a punishment. Generally speaking, your target audience should be excited to get your product for free! And yet nobody getting the check ‘as a gift’ seems to be super happy about it. The gift ones are indistinguishable from the ones that were paid for, so it looks like a handful of people have purchased the check when they haven’t.

Lil Nas X publicly complains about the blue check. Dril, most famous for his funny absurdist tweets, spent at least a day changing his name to break the blue check connection, only for it to reappear next to his name a few minutes later. Stephen King, the man who tweeted the check cost too much and he’d leave if he was forced to pay for it, is being assigned a check for free against his will. Dead folks are getting checks. A parody account of Nintendo’s UK division got assigned a check, signalling another Eli Lilly style fakeout scandal is still totally possible.

These people are getting the checks for free, and nobody can really say why – Musk publicly said he was paying for some of them, but others are seemingly being assigned to users with over one million followers. His actual fans, and the people who would actually be happy to get the check, don’t seem to be getting it at the same rate (although it’s totally possible they are getting the checks and not complaining because they wanted the check in the first place).

This is a sign that even Musk knows that this is not the buyable badge of honor it was meant to be. Gray checks remain a stopgap solution. Power to the people? Free speech? Fraud is harder, but not impossible, under this system. Verification has gone back to meaning next to nothing.