When almost anyone can get verified on Twitter, is it worth being a verified account anymore?
One morning in August 2012, I woke to a very weird email. The email was from Twitter, and it was alerting me that my account had been granted “verified” status. I knew what verified accounts on Twitter were, but I hadn’t applied for one. It just simply appeared one day.
(Yeah, I kept the email. Thanks, Gmail.)
Fun fact: Only about .00001% of all accounts on Twitter get verified status
I can remember the moment my account got verified like it was yesterday.
At first I felt confused: who was I to get the same elite verification status as celebrities, athletes, and other noteworthy people? In our weird modern world, Twitter verification signals success of some kind, and I didn’t necessarily feel on par with others who’d been verified. But then I felt extremely proud. I had taken a wild idea (IWearYourShirt), turned it into a business, and made people take notice of it. Twitter noticed!
For years, I would visit my own Twitter account and look at the blue verification badge with pride. I earned that. Yeah, it was just a silly blue icon, but it was a silly blue icon that validated my hard work and my unique idea.
In 2013, when I officially pulled the plug on IWearYourShirt (after it dragged me $100,000 in debt), I remember wondering what I would do with my @iwearyourshirt username on Twitter. At the time, I didn’t have another online identity or brand to switch it to. I was in my first year of living with a crazy last name (Jason Headsetsdotcom), and because that was only a one-year deal, I knew it didn’t make sense to change my Twitter username to that. Then in 2014, I had another new last name (Jason Surfrapp) and had just begun to focus on building JasonDoesStuff.com into my new virtual home. For a few years I was in a kind of virtual limbo, with nothing to change my username to and no longer relating to the one I had.
Now, granted, this wasn’t my first Twitter handle. I actually joined Twitter in the beginning of 2007 with the username @thejasonsadler. I created the second username @iwearyourshirt because I figured it made sense to keep my personal name account separate from the account I made for my business. But now here I was with no business attached to my username and no idea what to do next.
If I’m being honest, I didn’t want to let go of the verified badge.
While my IWearYourShirt business was done and over with, it was still the thing that most people knew me for. It was what defined me as a person (I thought). So I hung on to the @iwearyourshirt username on Twitter and continued to allow a small blue icon to play mind games with me.
The past year was the first year I felt really confident about JasonDoesStuff as a business. Not that I didn’t believe in the other businesses I had started since 2013, but I didn’t feel like any of them defined me or fully encapsulated what I was doing with my life.
A few people began asking me about my @iwearyourshirt username and if I had thought about changing it. I gave them the honest answer: I hadn’t changed it because I’d lose my verified status, and I felt like that was some small advantage I had as a completely online-based business owner. Reading that back now, I can see how silly it sounds. But it’s amazing the lies we’ll tell ourselves to avoid difficult decisions.
Then I got a message from my good friend Jeff Sheldon:
After reading his message, I opened up my Twitter profile and looked at it for a minute. I just stared at this page on my laptop. Then, I made a decision and wrote Jeff back. (Sorry in advance for the language.)
I clicked over to my Twitter settings and could feel my heart racing. It feels so dumb to write that, but it’s the honest truth. I was absolutely a nervous wreck while changing my username. It was the last remaining relic of my previous life, and it meant letting go of something that gave me validation.
I hit the delete key a bunch of times. I typed in “jasondoesstuff” as my new username. And I clicked the save button on my Twitter settings. My new and more appropriate identity now replaced the one that gave me my entrepreneurial start. And my blue verification symbol was gone.
I’ve written about letting go of other parts of IWearYourShirt before. I definitely carried the weight of imposter syndrome every day I looked at my Twitter username as @iwearyourshirt. I knew that if someone had a similar situation and asked for my advice, I would tell them to change their name and leave the tiny blue verified badge behind. But it was way easier said than done.
Letting go of things, even virtual ones that make you feel something deep inside, is really hard.
So I made the change. I finally ripped off the bandaid. And a few moments after clicking the save button, my girlfriend, Caroline, walked into the room. I told her that I’d finally changed from @iwearyourshirt to @jasondoesstuff, and she said something to the effect of, “In a week, you won’t even care. It’s a lot like when we started with minimalism and it was hard to let go of our physical stuff.”
And Caroline was totally right. When we started embracing minimalism as a lifestyle (our flavor of it), it was an emotional rollercoaster to get rid of the dumbest stuff. Old shorts I wore in college. Electronic gadgets that I never used. And of course, boxes of things related to my IWearYourShirt business. It was, and is, hard to let go of stuff because you immediately think to yourself, What if I need that thing? What if I miss it? What if it’s gone forever and I regret my decision?
Then you just have to remind yourself, It’s just stuff. And a stupid small blue icon next to my name on Twitter? Am I really going to let that define who I am and dictate how I feel about myself? No. I’m not. Not anymore.
A few people made the change even easier with their support:
@jasondoesstuff gasp!!! great scott man, you've gone mad! Na, I agree, it means nothing but totally would have felt the same way about it
— Mike Stephen (@essentiallymike) April 21, 2016
@jasondoesstuff The bandaid pain will last for a second and then you'll wonder why you waited so long. 😉
— Adele Miller (@dellie) April 21, 2016
In a week, I won’t care. A completely made-up digital status on a social network does not fully describe who I am as a person and what I’m capable of. It was difficult to finally muster the mental strength to let go, but now I can completely move on and close that chapter of my life.
What about you? Is there something you’re holding onto in your life?
Some physical or digital relic that you grant some form of control over you? Something you need to let go of so you can fully move on?
It probably won’t be easy to let go, but I’m 100% sure you’ll be glad you did. Because I’m glad I finally did.
Update (two weeks after): Well, I survived. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t check my Twitter account a few times to see if the blue verified badge had reappeared. But that badge was simply a digital vanity metric, and one that doesn’t matter anymore. Besides, I’m busy. I’ve got stuff to do.
Been almost two weeks since giving up verified status. Believe it or not, the world continued to turn. You guys are still here ?
— Jason Zook (@jasondoesstuff) May 2, 2016