If one didn’t know any better, one might think this was the day Don McClean sang about when he said it was the day the music died. Instead of saying “Bye, bye Miss American Pie,” we were all saying our farewells to the last vestige of a twenty-first century caste system: the venerable Twitter Blue Check.
Twitter head Elon Musk removed all legacy verification badges from user profiles, usually in the form of a blue check mark that signaled authenticity. Now anyone on the social media app (not just the notable and notorious) may have a blue check mark if they pay the $8 monthly fee to Twitter.
This move left many once-blue celebrities finding themselves naked and ashamed. Certified celebrity Alyssa Milano warned of the rampant impersonation that might ensue:
“So by revoking my blue check mark because I wouldn’t pay some arbitrary fee, someone can just be me and say a bunch of bul. l… Does that mean Twitter and
@elonmusk are liable for defamation or identity theft or fraud?”
Others, like “Seinfeld” actor Jason Alexander, had had enough already, and signaled the end of must-see-TV:
“Ok everyone. Twitter has removed my verification. I will no longer be posting on this app. Anyone who posts as me is an imposter. I wish you all well.”
Apparently, Twitter turned out to be the complete opposite of what Alexander expected it to be. Will the real B-list celebrity please stand up?
Bestselling author Stephen King, who has been critical of Musk’s plan to charge the $8 fee, was shocked to see that his blue check was still there:
“My Twitter account says I’ve subscribed to Twitter Blue. I haven’t.
My Twitter account says I’ve given a phone number. I haven’t.”
Apparently, Musk has some penchant for charity and comped King’s account.
It’s true, I don’t fully understand this agony. I’ll never know the pain of losing my verification. On my own Twitter account, where I seldom tweet anything, I have never been counted among the vaunted verified aristocracy. Perhaps my snark at all this is due to envy. Regardless, the playing field in this particular social imaginary has been leveled. The social media bourgeoisie can still be bourgeoise if they pay the proletarian fee.
Whether the vacation of blue checks is right or wrong makes less difference than what this whole episode reveals about where our world is. It isn’t only Twitter celebrities that demand verification. It’s everywhere, stamped in our cultural clay. In recent years, especially here in the nation’s capital, it was vaccine passports and masks that served as verification that you weren’t a non-person. We still don’t leave the house without our driver’s license (even though we’ve still paid the fees and taken the tests even if the card is not on us). And have you ever tried to prove your identity to the DMV without bringing your electric bill that’s addressed to you? It’s enough to make us all doubt ourselves unless we have adequate documentation.
In Genesis 3, after the man and the woman had eaten the fruit and realized that they didn’t have any clothes on, they made garments from fig leaves — the couture of the day. Then when God came calling:
“…the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ And he said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.’ He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’” (Genesis 3:8–11, ESV)
Fig leaves make for poor clothing and serve even worse as a cover for our true natures. And perhaps celebrities and nobodies alike put a little too much trust in an icon of blue pixels to validate their standing. As exhibitionist as our world is today, most of us still don’t like being disrobed and left naked, and nakedness is at the heart of this pseudo controversy over a social media company’s labeling system. Too many have allowed artificial verification to be woven into their identities.
To verify something means to make certain that it’s true. Blue check or not, the last time I checked we were all created in the image of God. And that imago dei reflects the truth most brightly when it’s clothed not in a fig leaf, not in a blue check, but in the red blood of Jesus. Paul wrote to the Romans, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”
As they roam around in search of newfound verification, our disaffected checkless celebrities would do well to find that freedom of being brought to nothing. We all would do so well — and that’s verifiable.
Jared Bridges is editor-in-chief of The Washington Stand.
EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2023 Family Research Council.
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