I know it’s mostly meaningless, and a little silly, but that blue checkmark on Twitter is so appealing.
The blue checkmark means you’re “verified.” Being “verified” means, well, it means you are who you claim you are. I want people on Twitter to know that I’m me. But Twitter apparently thinks that isn’t necessary.
See? I told you it was silly.
But it’s not totally silly.
If you don’t know, the idea behind verification is that prominent people — actors, musicians, athletes, politicians, etc. — can have “official” accounts so users know they’re actually following the real person. As in, with a blue checkmark, people know they’re following the real Cam Newton and not someone who created a fake account pretending to be Cam Newton.
I realize there’s probably not anyone out there pretending to be Jason Foster. I’m not famous. However …
Celebrities aside, Twitter also verifies accounts “of public interest,” including those of journalists. (Hey, that’s me!) It’s not at all uncommon for reporters/columnists/writers to have verified accounts, regardless of the size of their news outlet and regardless of their number of followers. The idea, again, is that when these accounts tweet news or other information that it can be trusted because it’s coming from the real reporter you see on TV or read in the paper or online.
In other words, the blue checkmark adds legitimacy and credibility — both important qualities in public-facing journalism.
This is where my silly, ongoing verification quest comes in: I’ve been rejected for verification five times — and I have no idea why.
(This is the part where I brag a little. Sorry. I really do feel weird about it. Trust me.)
Despite having been a working member of the news media for more than 16 years, having worked at publications large and small, having won multiple journalism awards and having had stories and columns read and shared literally hundreds of thousands of times, each of my five verification attempts has been met with a form email that says, “We reviewed the account, and unfortunately it is not eligible to be verified at this time.”
Huh? Not eligible? I meet the criteria. I’ve followed all the steps. Plus, I figure members of legit media outlets should be a slam-dunk for verification. Like, it’s not even given a thought. Automatic. But no.
There’s no reason given for your rejection, no you’re real close, but we just need this last piece of information prompting. Nothing. It just leaves you to guess and try again in 30 days.
Because I have no idea what they’re looking for, or what I was missing when I applied, I’ve tried various ways of appearing more verifiable to the Twitter Verification Board or, more likely, the Twitter Verification Algorithm. I’ve tweaked my bio in various ways (all the advice says to make yourself seem as important as possible, while obviously remaining truthful about what you do), I’ve changed my header photo, I’ve used different links in the show us links that indicate why we should verify you section, and I’ve changed things up in the 500-character use words to explain why we should verify you section.
Still, nothing. Five times.
This is where I usually tell people that I’m aware there are no real benefits to being verified. I know this isn’t a big deal at all. I can still tweet the same way whether I’m verified or not. I don’t need a blue checkmark to break news or write good columns or be an entertaining follow for readers. I know! I get it! Like I said, I realize this is a silly quest.
Is it an ego thing? Maybe a little. Maybe a lot. I honestly don’t know sometimes. I’m even undecided on whether writing this column is pathetic, sad, funny, justified, helpful or some combination of those (I lean toward pathetic, but whatever).
At this point, though, after five denials, I really just want to know what the heck is going on. It just doesn’t make sense. Why do I keep seeing all my colleagues at other outlets — again, the publication size doesn’t seem to matter — get verified by the bushel?
Did a human being really read my request, see my rationale, look at my links and then laugh and give me a “Gladiator”-style thumbs down? Or it is something more technical? Along that line, I think I might have figured it out.
The verification instructions say you need to upload an official photo ID as part of the process. But on my computer(s), there’s no place to do that. I’m told this happens to others, too. Meanwhile, other people report having no problem uploading a photo. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the whole thing.
In case you’re wondering, my sleuthing has revealed that Twitter’s @support account is almost useless, and there aren’t any helpful email addresses. So I remain Jason Foster, an unverified and unvalidated Twitter user and media member who you can believe and/or take seriously at your own risk.
It’s been more than 30 days since my last rejection, but I’m unsure when I’ll try again. I’m 99 percent sure the photo thing is the reason for the denials. So, until that field magically appears on my screen, it might be a pointless endeavor to try again.
If I eventually get that blue checkmark, that validation that I am who I say I am and can be taken seriously on matters of sports and life, I’m sure I’ll feel just like I did after the Braves won the 1995 World Series and after I graduated from college: So that’s it? I thought I’d be more excited.
I’ll keep you posted.
UPDATE: 1/27/17: I woke up today to an email saying I’d been verified — without ever having uploaded a photo. I don’t think this column had anything to do with it, as only one person has ever clicked on it. Thankfully, though, this great crisis is finally over.