In a day and age where YouTubers give away houses and Kanye can be “cancelled” one day and have a number one album the next, it’s hard to understand the true power of social media.
How was it possible that Kanye’s comments were able to enrage people to the extent that there was an outcry to boycott his album and yet, when the album came out, it was able to reach the number 1 spot on the charts?
How is it possible that speaking out on social media led to the birth of powerful movements such as #MeToo or #BlackLivesMatter?
During Kanye’s supposed cancellation, he released the Pusha T album that he was the producer on. On this album was a song directed at Drake due to an ongoing feud between the two artists. In true Drake fashion, he replied to the song twice in less than 48 hours. This naturally had social media in a frenzy. Most of the messages seemed to be people not only shocked by Drake’s songs (which were directed at both Pusha T and Kanye) but also at the fact that he was able to have them ready and released so soon after the album had dropped. Pusha T responded a few days later and his song had people immediately losing interest in Drake’s. Drake didn’t respond after this (supposedly because he was advised by J Prince not to do so) but he did find himself filming a music video to one of the songs with some of his former “Degrassi” cast-mates. In fact, the video had people so nostalgic for the show that they seemed to forget the fact that Drake still hadn’t replied to Pusha T.
All of this begs the same question. What is the true power of social media? Especially for an online community that moves distractedly from one fad to the next.
From a strictly musical standpoint, social media has changed the way that artists create. People who had their starts on Vine, YouTube and even Instagram are now becoming chart-topping radio stars as we’ve seen recently with Ella Mai, Queen Naija, DDG & Ar’mon & Trey (to name a few). These are just some examples of people that have gone from being everyday “social media influencers” to Top 20 artists on Apple Music and Tidal and signing to historic labels.
Being a social media influencer has become a full-time job with people now able to earn a stable income making videos on YouTube and posting pictures on Instagram. Of course, some people will argue that creating YouTube videos is an easy job, but the reality of the situation is that these people have learned to film and edit and have gone on to build followings of millions of people.
They acquired a skill set that allowed them to not only create a platform for themselves, but then use it to create another source of revenue. People truly have found a way to make a living from other people watching them make a living.
People have realised that the real money is in creating the illusion that people know you, even if they don’t. They feel a connection to you and are more willing to watch your art and share it too.
This, of course, works out differently for different people. Not all YouTubers can boast large followings but those who can are also often seen to be travelling or purchasing lavish items including vehicles and property. People want to know how it’s done and be able to do it themselves.
The real power of social media, of course, comes from the people. Social media was instrumental in helping to establish The Common Sense Network so it’s clear to us that it’s a tool that can change lives.
That being said, I’m not holding my breath that I’ll be buying a mansion any time soon.