Another day, another blue check

I just got a blue checkmark on Instagram, but it doesn't mean what it used to.

A photo of an Instagram with a blue checkmark.

I’m verified on Instagram now. I guess that’s pretty cool. A few years ago, I would’ve dropped my phone if I found out Instagram added a blue check next to my name, but not any more. I even showed one of my siblings to see if they’d be amazed by it, and their response was simply, “did you pay for it?”

The answer is yes, yes, I did. Meta, Instagram’s parent company, began rolling out its new Meta Verified program in the U.S. last month. It’s similar to Twitter Blue in that for a set price each month, you get a verification badge next to your name–this time on Instagram and Facebook–along with a handful of other “premium” features.

Am I famous a real person now?

But also like Twitter Blue, the checkmark on Instagram and Facebook doesn’t mean much anymore. It’s not a sign that you’re an influencer, a celebrity, an important person in the eyes of Meta. It just means you pay $11.99 per month (or $14.99 through a mobile app), have two-factor authentication on, and you sent your government-issued ID to Meta for verification.

In this alternate world, I suppose that’s a practical use of the verified marker. Bots have become increasingly more troublesome across social media, with spammers creating hundreds of fake accounts to inflate follower counts, likes, and more, falsifying the popularity (or disapproval) of many celebrities and public figures. They can also pose a threat to elections, artificially widening a candidate’s messaging efforts or promoting information about their opponents that isn’t true.

Twitter has taken the strongest stance against bots so far, with new owner Elon Musk going as far as to limit the reach of all accounts that aren’t verified through Blue. That obviously will limit the reach of those who don’t want to pay, but there’s no question it’ll greatly slow the spread of bots and spammers.

So far, it’s unclear if Instagram and Facebook will follow the same principle. It seems that, for now, they just want to verify as many people as possible and prove they’re the person they claim to be. With these new blue checkmarks, you’ll even get a direct line to customer support at Meta, as well as “proactive impersonation protection” to safeguard your identity. (That’s in addition to a few extra stars each month for tipping Facebook creators, as well as extra stickers in Instagram Stories and Reels.)

Of course, Meta isn’t just in the business of protecting users’ identities. A big reason why there’s a paid version of Instagram and Facebook is to reduce Meta’s reliance on its ads business, which has shrunken significantly since Apple took on the poor data privacy tactics of ads with App Tracking Transparency in iOS. This caused the effectiveness of Facebook’s advertising, in particular, to be widely reduced, leading to a smaller revenue stream for the social media giant, and where there’s less revenue, there’s a room full of executives figuring out a way to make a buck. So, Meta Verified.

You might be wondering: where’s the pizzazz? Where’s the majesty? Where’s the “oh my god I’m verified!” reactions from people signing up for the program?

It’s simple: it’s not here, and it’s not coming back. The blue checkmark, once believed to be a pinnacle of success in one’s journey to becoming an influencer, is now a badge that simply says you’re not lying about your name. Anyone can sign up, anyone can buy one, and it’s not cool anymore.

It’s a complete reset of what being verified on social media means. Instead of being important enough to have your identity protected, you can now directly pay to have it protected instead. Does it suck that you’ll be paying $15-$20+ per month just to have a blue check next to your name online? Yes, but that’s the direction verification has gone, and there’s no going back.

So, who’s next? Snapchat? Tumblr? LinkedIn?