How Kylie Jenner should really use her power

On Thursday, a single post on social media was blamed for ...

Posted: Feb 24, 2018 10:23 AM
Updated: Feb 24, 2018 10:23 AM

On Thursday, a single post on social media was blamed for costing Snapchat $1.3 billion in market value. The tweet wasn't from a head of state threatening to ban the app, or the company itself announcing major losses. It was from a reality TV star who doesn't like the platform's new layout.

"sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me... ugh this is so sad," Kylie Jenner tweeted the day before.

The episode is just the latest evidence that celebrities wield way too much power on social media -- and that the platforms themselves need to help fix the problem.

The influence celebrities brandish on social media today is staggering. Consider this: Katy Perry and Justin Bieber have more followers on Twitter than President Donald Trump or former President Barack Obama.

Earlier this month, Jenner's picture of her baby Stormi got more likes than any photo ever before on Instagram. And celebs don't just capture the attention of America on social media. They also profoundly influence behavior. A 2014 study by Defy Media found that 63% of millennials would take a YouTube celebrity's advice to check out a company or product.

Of course, the relationship between celebs and social media is symbiotic. Stars wield huge influence -- and sometimes earn lots of money for sponsored tweets -- thanks to the social media platforms they use.

Last year, a study by Whosay found that "tier 2" celebrities like the actor Nick Cannon and the model Kimora Lee Simmons are on average paid $32,400 for each post they make on social media for brands. At the same time, the astonishing Snapchat stock selloff shows just how reliant social media platforms are on celebrities.

It shouldn't be this way. The promise of social media was to democratize our public debates by giving everyone a voice. In an open letter to his daughter in 2015, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote that he aspired to "connect the world so you have access to every idea, person and opportunity." But if her Facebook feed is primarily filled with posts by the likes of Perry, Bieber and Jenner, that won't be happening on her dad's platform.

Celebrities also aren't usually our best sources of information. For example, celebs who talk publicly about health issues sometimes lead people to make decisions that medical professionals wouldn't advise.

Take Angelina Jolie's public announcement that she has the BRCA gene, which puts women at higher risk of breast cancer. After Jolie revealed this an article in The New York Times, and discussed her preventative double mastectomy, there was a spike in women getting the BRCA test, but more women didn't undergo mastectomies, according to a Harvard study-- suggesting that Jolie's announcement caused stress but didn't help identify the people at true risk of the disease.

Wouldn't it have been better if all those women had instead gotten their information from doctors?

And while celebs sometimes talk about social issues on the Internet, regrettably, it isn't their usual focus. Wouldn't it be better if our conversations on social media focused on things like what our country should do about health care, immigration and the opioid epidemic, rather than what brands celebs like Jenner are wearing?

To encourage this, social media platforms should build algorithms that prioritize the posts of the people to whom Americans should be paying attention, like politicians, people tackling social issues, and local members of our communities. Platforms can do this by making posts from such people appear more prominently and frequently on users' feeds.

Social media companies should also pay more attention to users themselves. Well before Jenner's tweet, more than 1.2 million people signed a Change.org petition letting Snapchat know they didn't like its new layout. If Snapchat had responded to these people faster, the company wouldn't be facing the losses it just experienced.

On Thursday, Snapchat became a victim of the undue influence Jenner wields in America. But companies like Snapchat are also part of the solution. They and all of us need to start paying less attention to celebrities and more attention to the people in our society who really matter.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 489116

Reported Deaths: 6614
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1014901592
Ramsey43327810
Dakota36619394
Anoka33496391
Washington22208262
Stearns18822202
St. Louis14887265
Scott13403107
Wright12609116
Olmsted1185990
Sherburne878574
Carver787641
Clay695588
Rice677691
Blue Earth601035
Kandiyohi581274
Crow Wing523582
Chisago501745
Otter Tail486071
Benton450990
Winona419749
Mower410831
Douglas394568
Goodhue389069
Nobles387247
Polk345063
McLeod341250
Beltrami338951
Morrison327747
Becker314842
Itasca314646
Lyon313845
Isanti309456
Steele303611
Carlton300449
Freeborn286424
Pine283216
Nicollet262441
Todd249730
Brown248237
Le Sueur238120
Mille Lacs229447
Cass221224
Waseca210417
Meeker208134
Martin190829
Wabasha18733
Roseau181017
Hubbard161041
Houston158214
Dodge15404
Renville152640
Redwood147127
Fillmore13969
Pennington138716
Chippewa136935
Cottonwood136020
Wadena131420
Faribault124917
Aitkin119133
Sibley118310
Watonwan11828
Rock116314
Kanabec108820
Pipestone101824
Yellow Medicine97717
Murray9548
Jackson94610
Swift87818
Pope8165
Marshall78615
Stevens7478
Lake74218
Clearwater72014
Lac qui Parle68716
Wilkin67711
Koochiching62111
Big Stone5173
Lincoln5122
Grant4928
Norman4798
Unassigned44768
Mahnomen4437
Kittson41021
Red Lake3615
Traverse3115
Lake of the Woods2221
Cook1190

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 337676

Reported Deaths: 5494
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk52087560
Linn19512317
Scott17167212
Black Hawk14970293
Woodbury13847214
Johnson1317075
Dubuque12450196
Dallas1022593
Pottawattamie9897146
Story965045
Warren514976
Clinton502684
Cerro Gordo501383
Webster495788
Sioux480369
Marshall465273
Des Moines428461
Muscatine426393
Buena Vista413237
Wapello4059110
Jasper387767
Plymouth368978
Lee354653
Marion341571
Jones285155
Henry279837
Bremer270555
Carroll266948
Crawford253635
Boone244330
Benton241154
Washington239547
Mahaska215746
Jackson210339
Dickinson204240
Tama203065
Kossuth198655
Delaware186240
Clay184425
Winneshiek183628
Fayette179335
Page178119
Buchanan177829
Wright174531
Hamilton173942
Cedar172723
Hardin170239
Harrison167670
Clayton160254
Butler159331
Mills148520
Floyd148141
Poweshiek148030
Cherokee146236
Lyon145741
Allamakee144848
Madison143218
Iowa140723
Hancock138030
Grundy132430
Winnebago130531
Calhoun129611
Cass129651
Jefferson128634
Appanoose123247
Louisa122644
Mitchell120740
Chickasaw119915
Union119331
Sac118818
Shelby117634
Emmet115340
Humboldt113725
Franklin109719
Guthrie109628
Palo Alto101721
Howard99722
Unassigned9720
Montgomery96936
Clarke95120
Keokuk92429
Monroe90028
Ida81832
Adair81630
Pocahontas80919
Davis76623
Monona76527
Greene73110
Lucas72221
Osceola68315
Worth6678
Taylor64112
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Fremont5619
Van Buren53718
Ringgold50620
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