The Blue Check Scandal

Every move Elon Musk makes on Twitter seems to cause the little birdie to fluff his (or is that her?) feathers. I must say, there have been one or two moments where I’ve noticed myself smiling.

When Elon Musk moved to buy Twitter, he lost his left-bending trophy. When Musk announced a more even handed Twittersphere, voices tweeted that they would abandon the social media platform…they haven’t.

Twitterers are once again squawking out loud and threatening to fly away because of  Musk’s latest announcement that blue check accounts will be accompanied by a monthly fee of $8 (the price of 1 ½ coffee in Melbourne). 

The blue check accounts are meant to signal importance and substance. They are supposedly verified accounts as opposed to the mindless bots that attach themselves to all manner of Twitter threads and accounts.

According to Twitter, “The blue Verified badge on Twitter lets people know that an account of public interest is authentic. To receive the blue badge, your account must be authentic, notable, and active.”

In practice, the blue check has morphed into a status symbol, elevating popular Twitter accounts into the stratosphere of importance and self definable class snobbery. Social media followings, like sneakers, handbags, and the car you drive, are all status symbols, elevating one’s worth above the peasantry. The worth, in this case, may be little more than popularity. And sometimes it’s the pretentious megaphone of opinion making: ‘Look at me, I have another big, bold, or brave 280 characters to spell out to you, so listen up!’

I guess people are willing to pay for status. While a lot of blue checkers are complaining about the $8 Elon charge, as do virtue signallers whine about everything from Van Gogh paintings to the cost of buying a Tesla, I suspect most will eventually pay up. Status is, after all, something many a person is prepared to sell their soul for. To be wanted, to be respected, to be influential, are ambitions coveted by human beings since the dawn of the age. 

Twitter has always been and will continue to be a wild land where all manner of crazy things are said and suggested. And yes, at times quite appalling and wicked things appear. Twitter has never been a magical land of propriety and constructive social engagement. I’m sure there are examples of this and I have benefited from such moments, but the fuel is almost always outrage and oneupmanship.

There is an entire industry today dedicated to influencing and changing the world; sometimes known as Instagram or TikTok, If Instagram exists like a fashion label and TikTok designs lifestyle envy, then Twitter serves to promote ideas and information that shape, challenge, or irritate the mob. 

Social media is of course a fool’s paradise. In his book, ‘How to find yourself’, Brian Rosner explains, ‘Social scientific research indicates that “increasingly, many young people are sourcing their identities from social media and advertising, and in the process losing their self-esteem”.

I have no plans for ditching Twitter and other social media. It still serves a purpose to share events and ideas, and to find out about events taking place in our world. We should, however, should at least lower our expectations and not connect our own value or the benefit of our views by coloured buttons and the number of engagements and followers. We’re not meant to be like a flock of seagulls fighting over some tossed out chips. 

Let the blue chips have their $8 price tag. Most of them are probably spending more on their coffee every day. 

It was Jesus who said, “the meek will inherit the earth”. It was Jesus who said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. The confidence and attitudes and manner flowing from the Beatitudes won’t win you many arguments on Twitter and it probably won’t gain you much for following either. That’s okay. Avoiding the hyperbole of both left and right is the Jesus way. Steering away from cheap shots and nasty caricatures is a better way. Presenting a different kind of conversation is by far more interesting than the taunts and shouts being lobbed between the blue chips. Grace-filled truth; that’s something worth tweeting about. It probably won’t trend and grab the attention of the self appointed Twitter royalty, but it may well reach that one person who needs to hear good news.