Almost every single time I log into Twitter, I think about this tweet from @robwhisman: "i would legitimately pay $5 a month for a premium feature that lets you toggle the visibility of all numbers on this website." Research already suggests that humans can look for signals in order to fit in better with a crowd. More and more, I feel this applies to social media, where we ascribe a lot of value to posts, whether on Twitter or other social media platforms, based on the amount of positive feedback we can see that it's received.
But what if that changed? Grime legend JME posted a video on Twitter Thursday proposing a solution: 365 days on social media with no statistics: "No friend counter, no like counter, no view counter, no numbers," he says in the video, streaming above. Not every part of his argument is airtight: our IRL fraternizing, whether it's a hook-up or friendly, can be influenced by the personal attractiveness they have the wealth to project, or the social capital hanging around them can give us. But his central argument, that social media and their statistics are affecting a lot more than just our superficial internet experience, is indisputable.
JME's statement on the dangers of following the pack is all the more brave and vital considering his iconoclastic career. "Social media, online, we're governed by numbers, and it's so hard to ignore them," he says, using the example of how a song he loves with a low YouTube view count can even have a singular artist like him questioning his own judgement. Spending a lot of time online can be alienating to your sense of self when first week sales, net worths, and the numbers below the viral takes are priorities when determining a work's worth. It's heartening to remember it's not a personal failing when that disassociation happens.
And there's a happy ending to this post: As I found out during writing, there are actually browser extensions that allow you to block stats on Twitter: Ben Grosser's Twitter Demetricator, available in the Google Chrome webstore and on Firefox.