Blue Check Homes Popularity Reveals How Far People People Will Go to Reach “Elitist” Status (EDITORIAL)
But at what cost?
February 19, 2021
To begin class in Achona one day, our teacher displayed the website Blue Check Homes (that launched on Saturday, Jan. 30), which provides a verified blue badge on the homes of an “authentic and notable [person] actively living in the house,” such as executives, leaders, influencers, authors, journalists, and more for a fee of $2999.99 — as of now exclusively for houses in the San Francisco Bay Area but “with plans to expand to other cities this summer.” There is an application and interview process prior to receiving the verified blue badge in order to ensure one’s celebrity status.
I wasn’t surprised, but why would I be? I, like many others, have been exposed to the coveted verified blue check-mark next to a celebrity’s profile name since joining social media, and in 2018, Instagram (similarly to Blue Check Homes) permitted users to apply for a verified blue check. Twitter will soon do the same in 2021, after what NPR describes as a “three-year hiatus.”
However, what did catch me by surprise was the disclaimer at the bottom of the page titled “WTF IS THIS REAL?” in which the artist, Danielle Baskin, reveals that she creates satirical works of art and Blue Check Homes is one of her latest viral works. Yet, despite the disclaimer, Baskin states she received 495 applications for a verified blue badge.
Danielle Baskin, the SF-based artist behind the prank, had no idea the website she crafted to back up the fake service would receive 495 applicants, all hoping for a crest of their own. https://t.co/6TVRzMHWt2
— SFGATE (@SFGate) February 2, 2021
She wrote, “If you thought this was a full-fledged service, please investigate the things you read on the internet! And if you’re an artist making jokes on the internet, we should consider adding disclaimers like this, because not everyone understands your commentary and will share your jokes as fact.”
Baskin’s Blue Check Homes has further revealed and made individuals examine how much people are willing to pay to reach an elite status.
Lauren Donofrio (’23) said, “I think it would be cool to have a blue verified check mark because the famous people have it.”
It is important to note that verified blue check marks in-of-themselves are not an issue, but are in fact a way to differentiate credible, real accounts from fan or fake accounts, for example. However, the lengths taken — by the use of money — to obtain the blue mark of influence should not be condoned as it distorts the very essence of what it means to be influential and famous if the means to obtain such a status can be bought, rather than earned.
The Psychology of Social Proof promotes the idea of buying followers as “people follow the actions of the masses,” yet the concept is not a recent phenomena but was first introduced by Psychologist Robert Cialdini in 1984 who, in his book “Influence” writes that “people copy the actions of others in an attempt to conform to what is perceived as appropriate behavior.”
AP Psychology Teacher Dana Nazaretian said, “Group think is the official psychological term, not social proof, for this. For example, during the insurrection at the Capitol, maybe some of those people did not want to commit acts of violence, but they engaged in what’s going on around them and conform to that group activity. Then, they think it’s okay because everybody else is doing it — a mob mentality. That’s what makes it so dangerous, whether it’s a positive or negative thing, because you want to be able to think in your own terms and not be swayed by this mob or group mentality so that hopefully you can analyze a situation better.”
When you come across an Instagram account with a lot of followers, you assume that person or brand is well-received, and it makes you want to be a part of it. It’s your innate herd mentality or textbook snowball effect.
This thus explains the choices of many aspiring celebrities and current ones seeking to garner more of an influence as people perceive more followers with credibility and “elitness.” The company Devumi (which “was dissolved in 2018” and settled with the Federal Trade Commission to pay a fee of $2.5 million), for instance, has collected millions in revenue from committing social media fraud by selling “Twitter followers [called bots] and retweets . . . views on YouTube, plays on SoundCloud . . . and endorsements on LinkedIn” to its clients who range from celebrities, to businesses, to regular people.
“I think getting the blue verification check symbolizes that you’re at like an elevated status, and more people know who you are and actually care,” said Olivia Book (’23).
Notability equates to having large amounts of followers and likes as Instagram, for example, describes under its requirements for applying for a verified badge: “Your account must represent a well-known, highly searched for person, brand or entity. We review accounts that are featured in multiple news sources.”
Subsequently, many people’s solution to meeting this requirement is by purchasing followers and likes in order to garner enough “fake attention” to reach celebrity status or even use it as a means to bring more attention to their brand — many of whom are recognizable today, including the former wife of the Treasury Secretary, Louise Linton, who bought followers because she wanted to gain attention as an actress. The New York Times also reported that the following people also have Devumi followers: John Leguizamo, Michael Dell, Ray Lewis, Kathy Ireland, Sonja Morgan, Akbar Gbajabiamila, Hillary Rosen, and more.
“Everyone does it,” is what actress, Deirdre Lovejoy, said after revealing she herself has purchased followers. However, Olympic Gold Medalist James Cracknell said he admits to purchasing 50,000 followers from Devumi, but he instead denounced it as “fraud.”
Amanda Stephens (’24) said, “I’m not surprised that some celebrities buy followers [because] they want to get more popular and [this is a way] to jumpstart their following. If you have more followers people pay more attention to you and think your brand is more credible than somebody with less followers.”
— DatBoiJug (@TheOnlyJUG) February 16, 2021
Yet, the effects of bots extend beyond changing one person’s life, but has the ability to alter political debates and more. Facebook’s Vice President of Analytics Alex Schultz stated in May 2019 that, despite measures from the social media company to delete bots, about five percent of its users — which equates to more than 90 million users —are fake.
The truth behind these markers of status has thus prompted the question — is money ruling everything?
Beyond in global society, however, symbols of status via the number of Instagram followers someone has and the material possessions a student owns are also prevalent within the Academy community. It began with the YETI cup, then the Swell water bottle, and now the HydroFlask — which Kaela Ramos (’21) accredits to social media.
She said, “I think it all has to do a lot with TikTok, but it just encourages a lot more drinking water so I don’t think there’s anything wrong with following that type of trend, but I do think it has a lot to do with social media and what other big TikTok [star] are promoting and what they’re drinking from.”
Through money, students are able to be on point with the trends and thus be “popular,” well-liked, or be a source of envy — subsequently revealing that people don’t buy these things solely to be trendy, but also to demonstrate that they have the means to be trendy, which further exposes that money can be the driving force behind “celebrity” status on both the local and global scale which inherently excludes those of low-income.
No one will take you seriously if you don’t have a noteworthy presence.
— Economist Jason Schenker
Ramos said, “I think some people have been, but I don’t think they see it as really being excluded. They probably can’t afford it because they’re so expensive, but there are other kinds of water bottles that are a lot cheaper. However, I think [being trendy] is very sporadic within the [AHN community], but there’s always that one group of people that is more popular and usually has more trendy things.”
Julie Bolling (’21) added that their could be a link between wealth, popularity, and staying up to date with the latest trends at the Academy.
“I don’t really want to spend that amount of money on a water bottle, so I guess you could say that some people are excluded. It’s just a matter of how willing you are to spend money on a water bottle versus other things. In a sense, popularity and staying trendy is one-in-the-same a little bit.”