Twitter: Blue Ticks and Overjustification Effect.

So. Twitter is a clusterfuck right now isn’t it?

However, it does serve as an interesting example of one of the key issues gamification faces when done badly (99% of the time) – Overjustification Effect. Put simply, this is seen when the reward for doing a task becomes more important than completing the task itself.

I suffered terribly from this when I was a “power user” on Twitter. I was playing the Twitter game, trying to collect followers and likes, needing constant approval and validation. I was part of a leaderboard for my field, I was using power sharing and networking sites and all sorts of things – anything to get more followers and more likes.

At first, it was fun, I saw my followers increase, my reach broaden and my influence in the field grow and grow. And then it wasn’t fun anymore. I suddenly realised I was producing crap content just to make sure I was pushing content out daily, I was sharing stuff I wasn’t reading, and I was following people I had no interest in. Twitter was no longer social, it was a grind and I was burning out fast. In fact, if I am honest, I was addicted. Nothing about using Twitter was fun, it was all about the rewards of more likes and followers.

This is not a unique story, I know many people who went this route – chasing the rewards that Twitter could provide rather than using it as a social network! Many of us now speak about it, the dark times, when we hated using social networks. Now, we try to use it for more social tasks and try to enjoy it. Of course, we still need to use it to broaden our reach – but we try to enjoy it as well!

However, what has made this come to mind is the debacle of the Blue Tick! I am a verified user, my profile has a Blue Tick. I got this by applying and providing proof that I was a notable person in my field. I have had it for years and now, of course, I am about to lose it because I refuse to pay for the new Musk-approved subscription version. I refuse to pay because the new Blue Tick is meaningless. I would say it is nothing more than a vanity symbol now, but that is a little unfair (although that is what many will be paying for). In reality, it is a subscription service, offering fewer adverts and more functionality. However, because it has been bundled in with the Blue Tick of doom, it devalues it totally.

But this becomes another good example of overjustification. Owning that symbol is now worth more than the work it used to take to earn it. It is also a fun example of how Explorers get the arse in games where they have to earn a reward through effort and then someone can just come along and buy it!

Let’s not even start on the chaos it has all caused!

In your gamified systems, make things of value feel valuable. They need to be earned, not just given away or sold. However, you also need to balance this so that their value does not outweigh the satisfaction of completing the task (where possible). If people are only interacting to get a reward, they are not engaged and the quality of those interactions will be compromised.

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Also published on Medium.

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