I used to love my blue tick – now I’m glad Elon Musk has taken it away

Elon Musk has changed things on Twitter, and not for the better (Picture: Getty)

When I first secured my verified status on Twitter, it was like Christmas had come early. Literally.

Facebook memories tells me it was on December 18, 2015 when I was given that next-level (self) importance, and I can remember clearly being genuinely, tragically, thrilled. 

I’d been working as a journalist for about three years at that point, but even before that, I’d been an obsessive user of Twitter, and I knew from the beginning that the blue-tick was the ultimate prize, putting me up there with real writers, celebrities, and the man who for a decade felt like the King of the App, Stephen Fry.

So it was strange, and more than a little sad, that last night, as the deadline arrived for Twitter boss Elon Musk to remove ‘legacy verified status’, I found myself @-ing him to demand he hurry up and get on with taking it away.

This status symbol, this ultimate seal of journalist approval, this thing I’d bored people with in the pub, this brag I’d even, shamefully, once put on my dating profiles, was now a millstone around my neck.

I wanted rid of it, and quickly, lest anyone assume that I’d been sad enough to pay the billionaire 11 quid for the privilege of the blue tick (though us real geeks know that the tick is in fact white, on a blue background). 

Of course verified status matters to me – but verified status matters full stop

It’s a sign of just how much the app has just changed for the worst under the stewardship of the erratic Tesla boss, and not just because it harms my ego. 

From the removal of Twitter’s ethics and curation teams, to Musk’s constant flirtation with right wing influencers, to his pathetic, childish, sense of humour (removing checks on 4/20, the weed number, what jokes!), the app has gone rapidly downhill since he completed his takeover less than six months ago.

While we’re all rightly joking through the loss of verification, and poking fun at those who have parted with the money to remain part of a club that now has the vibes of an afterparty at a Bitcoin conference, these decisions have real-world consequences. 

Obviously, I would say that, and I don’t deny it – I have a personal and professional stake in the future of the app. 

When I called myself an obsessive user earlier on, that wasn’t hyperbole – Twitter is where I get the vast majority of news, keep track of discourse, sporting updates, and find out about everything from gigs I want to see, to those classic ‘personal news’ announcements that are the envious bane of every journalist’s online life. 

The app helped me find more work than I can count, including at Twitter itself (Picture: Ross McCafferty)

More than that, over the course of, my God, 160,000 tweets in 14 years, it’s allowed me to meet friends, get dates, find communities, and it was how I got my first break in journalism, DM-ing a newspaper to ask if they liked my funny posts and whether they would consider taking me on. 

It’s helped me get more work than I can count since, including at Twitter itself, where I worked more hours than is healthy during the 2020 US election, helping debunk wild fraud claims and ensure that users weren’t fed false information.

So of course verified status matters to me. But verified status matters full stop. It wasn’t perfect, and there were plenty of undeserving or bizarre people who found themselves blessed with the blue tick.

But it was still an incredibly useful tool in battling misinformation, and as we’ve seen with things like the attack on the US Capitol in 2021, misinformation can have real-world, deadly consequences. 

During Covid, as rumours swirled and conspiracy theories exploded, something as simple as a ‘filter by verified’ search on Twitter would be able to help both journalists and members of the public determine the veracity of the information they were seeing. 

When I said I was a Twitter obsessive, it wasn’t hyperbole (Picture: Ross McCafferty)

The impact of removing these ‘legacy checkmarks’ is already being felt – there are of course people pretending to be celebrities, but other, more serious examples. 

New York officials, sporting a grey ‘government’ tick, tweeted ‘this is an authentic account representing the NYC government,’ only for another account with a similar name to reply ‘no you’re not – THIS is the account representing the NYC government.’

It’s childish, confusing, and of course, a wee bit funny – but you can see how things like that could become a problem in a genuine New York emergency. 

So I might not have necessarily mourned my blue, sorry, white, tick when it was finally removed, but I do mourn the loss of what it stood for.

Not just because, as this article has made abundantly clear, I’m achingly uncool, but because a platform that I love, which has genuinely changed my life, and which I honestly believe can be a huge force for good in the world, is being purposely ruined so one rich man can massage his fragile ego.

Unless there’s some impostor out there determined to pretend to be the ‘real’ Ross McCafferty and share their own tepid takes on politics and Scottish football, then I doubt the loss of verification will have many consequences for me. 

But the junking of the verification system, and the general wrecking of Twitter, will have plenty of consequences beyond the world of the bird app – and few of them will be good.

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