Love him or hate him, when Kanye West opens his mouth, posts a tweet, comments on Instagram, people sit up and listen. While much of what he’s said in the past year has been ridiculous – scratch that, downright offensive - he’s also made a lot of profound statements, particularly pertaining to mental health. And now, he’s made possibly his most insightful comment yet and suggested we remove the follower and like counts from our social media posts.
‘There are people committing suicide due to not getting enough likes,’ he tweeted, ‘seeking validation in the simulation,’ before asking for a live-streamed meeting between Jack Dorsey (Twitter CEO), Kevin Systrom and Mike Kreiger (former Instagram founders) and Mark Zuckerberg (that guy who was questioned by the Senate for breaching all our privacy on Facebook).
‘I personally want to participate in social media with the option of not having to show my followers or likes,’ he continued, ‘Having your amount of likes on display for the world to see and judge is like showing how much money you have in the bank or having to write the size of your d**k on your t shirt’.
The tweet has since received over 41,000 likes and almost 10,000 retweets, shared by celebrities across various social media platforms. And while it’s hard to support a Kanye West quote, lest you be lambasted next week when he offends everyone with something new, this is one we’re very much on board with.
Social media apps are known to utilisie gambling tactics that in turn make them more addictive, and multiple former executives at Facebook have come out against the very apps they helped create. Earlier this year, Sean Parker, the first president of Facebook, stated social networks exploit our ‘vulnerability’, saying ‘God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains’.
Then, another former Facebook executive, Chamath Palihapitiya, joined Parker by saying he felt ‘tremendous guilt’ for his part in creating a social media that is ‘destroying how society works’. Even Apple CEO Tim Cook said he wouldn’t let his nephew use social media, with early investors like Roger McNamee telling The Guardian that those who run Facebook and Google might have had good intentions, but they ‘have led to horrific unintended consequences’.
Essentially, whether you believe that social media tools were intentionally created to prey on our insecurities or not, executives for various social media apps are aware that what they’ve helped construct isn’t good for our mental health. Why else would Apple and Instagram introduce mindful usage tools for us to track our hours spent online?
That being said, just because we’re now aware of the exact number of minutes we’ve gone over in our suggested phone usage, doesn’t necessarily mean our usage will change. Yes, we might think ‘oh wow, I’ve spent 92 minutes wishing my life was as perfect as xyz’ and decide to cut it down to just 22 minutes, but ultimately, our time on our phone is still spent looking at pictures of people with thousands more likes than us and comparing it to our own. Knowing how bad our problem may be is good, but frankly, according to Kanye, it’s not enough.
Having the option to hide your likes and followers however, that would be radical. Imagine all the money you could’ve saved on avocado’s had you not known how Instagrammable they are? No longer would you be forced to consume something that literally tastes like nothing, all for a good picture.
There is another solution though, that we just go back to basics, to the simpler times when you only had your friends on social media and no one else. Of course, what’s the fun in NOT knowing what Bella Hadid had for breakfast? While we have access to the lives of celebrities, we’re always going to follow them, but it’s the micro-celebrities, the influencers, these seemingly normal people who just happen to have much better lives (also known as lighting and infinite time to take 300 pictures from every different angle) than us that seem to cultivate the most damage when it comes to likes and follower counts.
Think about it, would you compare you’re mundane Monday evening spent at home watching The Bodyguard to Beyoncé’s Monday night at the Grammys? No, because no one expects to live like Beyoncé. Would you compare it to your favourite cool girl influencer who can make poached eggs look like a Cezanne painting? Of course, because why can’t YOU cut perfectly green avocado’s into symmetrical slices and not get any smears on the plate?
Without likes or follower counts, we wouldn’t be inclined to follow any of this, we would still be commenting ‘I own’ under our mate’s selfies and never have been forced to make an acai bowl on a Sunday morning when you really just want a bacon butty but Ed Miliband isn’t really on-brand for your aesthetic.
Of course, this would only have been beneficial to us, the non-influencers, who would never have begun comparing our lives to people doing things we don’t even really want to do. For the influencers that have benefited off of this tool, it would be the death of the career they’ve spent years cultivating.
Gone would be the days where Kim Kardashian could make $500,000 from posting a picture of meal replacement shakes that she doesn’t even use, no longer would beauty guru’s get commission from one cosmetics brand for bashing another, charcoal toothpaste and sugar bear hair would become a distant memory. Brands would never be able to know just how many people they're selling their insecurities back to, at least not at face value.
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Women In Comics
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It’s somewhat surprising then that Kanye’s tweet actually made it online. Not that he wouldn’t tweet it, because Lord knows he won’t be prevented from saying anything he doesn’t want to, but because a significant number of his nearest and dearest make their money via social media.
All jokes aside though, Kanye’s suggestion seems like a very quick and obvious solution to a very big problem. It might not work straight away, because surely influencers would be forced to keep their follower counts public and we would still be able to compare ourselves to the elite amongst us, but all it takes is one mental health minded influencer to start the trend and you never know what can happen.
Having the choice, at least, is a positive step, and whether we follow suit or not, at least you can choose to surround your social media with likeminded profiles of similar hidden follower counts and make your bubble that little bit less negative. You never know, you might even include Kanye West in that bubble if he carries on like this...