This posts going to be about Twitter. Yes, I know; another one out there. It’s also going to be a bit speculative in nature, so feel free to skip it if you like.
I’ve been reading the coverage over the “retirement” of the legacy verification system, both in the news and on the socials. And what I find interesting about this whole affair is all the new Twitter Blue subscribers complaining about people that had the checkmark choosing not to sign up.
Their displeasure comes through in their tweets on why they think these people choose not to subscribe. Many tout money (these people are too stingy) or logistics (write it off as a business expense). But they don’t give a reason as to why they care. Surely money or logistics is their problem to sort through. Why should you be unhappy that they chose not to join Twitter Blue? I haven’t seen any tweets answering this question.
I’m not surprised by that. I wonder if the reason is that many of those that have acquired a checkmark saw the those with a verified Twitter handle as being part of the in-group; members of an elite club that you cannot get a membership for1. Naturally they wanted to be part of this in-group, and when this new Twitter Blue subscription offer rolled out, they saw an easy opportunity to gain entry.
But the thing about status symbols is that they’re only valuable if the in-group chooses to keep them. When all these formally verified people refuse to sign up to Twitter Blue, and their checkmarks were removed from their handle, so too did the checkmark loose it’s value as an indicator of worth. The checkmark no longer a signals status.
Even worse is this in-group has changed their position to one where not having the checkmark is the sign of status. Suddenly, those that have signed up to Twitter Blue found that their attempts to buy their way in was for naught. And that’s what I think they’re angry about. Their new checkmark doesn’t impart status anymore, since those that had it don’t want it. Now it’s just an indicator that you’ve paid $8 a month, with maybe a hint that you found the symbol important in the first place.
That’s also probably why Musk saw it fit to “pay” for Twitter Blue for accounts with more than a million followers, trying to prop up any remaining status this indicator once had. This raises more questions though. Surely he would have seen that allowing anyone to verify their account would dilute the intrinsic status that came with it. I guess he thought that those with the checkmark felt it important enough to keep it, and it will retain its value as a status indicator.
Anyway, this could be all pretty obvious to a first year psychology student, but I found it all very revealing. It’s certainly interesting seeing this play out over the last couple of days.
I know that’s not the point of this verification status, but it does seem like many saw it as an “I’m an important person” signal. ↩︎