“Oh my God! You’ve got the blue check mark?!”

If you’ve ever been out with a group of friends and asked for somebody’s Instagram, you’re sure to have heard something like this in reaction to a verified account. Having a blue tick on your account is almost a status symbol – you are somebody, you have done something, you likely know other people within an elite circle. That is until recently. 

The genesis of the shift, of course, comes from Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter last October. Soon after, he decided he would begin charging users for checkmarks through its subscription service Twitter Blue. This week, Musk tweeted the “final date” for removing legacy checkmarks would be April 20. That deadline could change: users were supposed to start losing their badges at the start of this month, and for the most part, have not. 

What has further disappointed social media users’ relationship to blue ticks is that other social platforms have appeared to use the chaos as an opportunity to rethink their own verification systems. Last Wednesday, LinkedIn jumped into the fray, rolling out three new options to verify users’ identity and where they work, such as by providing a work email address or government ID and phone number. LinkedIn isn’t trying to make a buck directly through these new offerings, at least not yet. “Through all these new, free features, we’re helping give you the confidence that who you’re connecting with and the content you come across is trusted and authentic,” the company said in a blog post

Furthermore, last month Meta Platforms introduced Meta Verified in the States, offering subscribers a blue checkmark, extra protection from imposters and customer support for an $11.99 monthly price tag, or $14.99 on mobile. 

As a result, users who organically gained a blue tick through merit are feeling they have been stripped of something.

“You can’t tell the difference between Taylor Swift and somebody with 200 followers who just paid $15 a month,” Dalton Smiley, a creator with 636,000 TikTok followers and 160,000 Instagram followers said of Meta’s current system. The Meta spokesperson said it plans to explore additional ways to signal when a verified account is from a well-known person. 

Smiley thinks Instagram should differentiate between who’s paid for verification and who’s been verified for being a notable figure, such as by using different coloured badges. Twitter, for example, uses a gold checkmark for organisations. 

Over the past few years, a blue tick has become a symbol of clout on social media and now the platforms themselves are degrading its power.  

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