Kanye West is out here asking the tough questions about the real effects of follower culture and basing our self-worth off how many likes we get on social media.
West posted a series of screenshots of conversations on Instagram he’s had with heads of major social media platforms, including Twitter and Snapchat. In each, the sender reflectively questions what vanity metrics, visible follower counts, and the constant contest for the “perfect life” has done to society and people’s mental health. “Us making that number bold and big incentivizes people to want to increase it, and feel bad if they couldn’t. That’s not right,” wrote Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. “We want to incentivize contribution to the global conversation and consciousness.” In another conversation West had with Snapchat’s vice president of partnerships, Ben Schwerin, the tech mogul confessed that this toxic culture of likes and followers was part of the reason why they left publicized follower counts and likes out of their app. “I think constantly comparing yourself to others’ ‘perfect’ lives and feeling like you’re in a perpetual popularity contest can be a very negative experience,” Schwerin texted to West.
West brings up a good point. “Seeking validation in the simulation” is proven to have negative effects on our mental health. West himself has struggled with depression and anxiety. We are conditioned to engage more the more likes we get. We might not have known that when the apps were created, but we know that now. “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,” West texted in another screenshot. But is he doing it all in the name of promoting his newest music project?
West’s musings on the toxic nature of social media are important and timely, but it seems a bit counterintuitive to promote a new project with posts getting hundreds of thousands of likes and billboards that command the attention of everyone who passes by. The authenticity of the conversation is lost when it is used for self-promotion.
It seems like one giant, confusing oxymoron, and that’s probably what West wants. There are a lot of parallels in this sort of promotion to West’s media frenzy-inducing statements that caused a commotion around the release of Ye earlier this year. Rather than igniting a discussion around politics, this time West has chosen technology. He’s traded a divisive topic for one centered around devices. After all the pushback he received from his Trumpism, this time around he at least seems to be sticking to a more positive arena in which he wants to effect some change.