“A stalking ground for the sanctimoniously self-righteous who love to second-guess, to leap to conclusions and be offended – worse, to be offended on behalf of others they do not even know.” This is Twitter, according to the comedian, writer and national treasure that is Stephen Fry, who decided to leave the social networking site earlier this year.
Twitter has become a dangerous reflection of real-life sociology. The social media website is a weird mixture of individualism and collective action. We can boost our ego and self-worth by glancing at our follow count and we can bury ourselves in Twitter hashtags, where most of us just adopt the group think within that community. Much like real life, we are individuals, but we can get lost in subcultures and groups. There is the elite and the masses. The 99% and the 1%. In both worlds, offline and online, there is the desire for the majority to experience the life of the privileged few. Now, with the social network creating a form to apply for ‘blue tick’ validation, the doors to Twitter’s elite have now been flung open.
Compared to other sites such as Facebook, Twitter is one of the main social networks which captures the human desire for recognition and social progression. Mark Zuckerberg’s website has always been about friendship, with the main focus being on the connection between two people, as opposed to Twitter, which has since become a game about followers, where everyone longs to get to the top – whatever that means.
In the real world, class and wealth establish the ‘us and them’ rhetoric which creates division in our society. Of course, we’ve also longed for our opinions to be recognised in person, but that’s when Twitter comes in. Opinions and content drive the hegemony online. It’s a factor which leaves users desperate to find the opinions and content which appeals to such a wide audience. Of course, at the top of Twitter’s ‘blue tick elite’ are accounts such as Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, but their accounts are more than just places to promote their latest content, they also use it as a platform for their own opinions. For the 99%, it’s not the content or music we are envious of, it’s having our views and opinions respected by strangers – over 90 million in Katy Perry’s case – which every person in society longs for. Twitter is a soapbox, and that’s what made it successful.
On Tuesday, it was announced that all Twitter users can apply for the verified blue tick, but it was a move which will only confuse people. As BBC’s Newsbeat puts it, the icon is seen to be “one of the ultimate compliments”, but it is also a sign that you’re part of a secret group, up there with other verified accounts in the entertainment industry. It’s drifted away from its original purpose of preventing fake accounts and providing authentication. Instead, it’s a badge given to those whose opinions can appeal to anyone. Twitter themselves say that they are for accounts in “the public interest”, and for an account on the site, that can only be determined by how many strangers a person or business’ opinions can appeal to.
By Twitter opening the doors to join its group of verified accounts, users everywhere are now seeing this as a way to prove to others that their opinions appeal to a large audience and are worth listening to. The desire to force a person’s opinions on others is rooted in society today, and if this isn’t done through the form of civilised debate or discussion, then it turns into arrogance – a trait nobody wants to admit to possessing.
A blue tick on Twitter is no longer a badge of honour. Instead, people take it to mean that the soapbox they’re standing on is respected. No one’s ego should be stroked to that extent.