The Swift Life, Taylor Swift’s new social networking app, is founded entirely on two simple ideas. The first is that her fans go balls-to-the-wall bonkers whenever Taylor “notices” them on social media by blessing them with a like, share, or comment. As a hardcore devotee who has virtually interacted with the pop star a grand total of three times over the course of a decade, I can confirm this obsession as fact; a few years ago, when she retweeted my praise for Ryan Adams’ full-album cover of 1989, I had the moment immortalized in needlepoint.
Which brings me to the second idea: Taylor’s diehard fans are, as her “long list of ex-lovers” would all call her, insane — they obsessively pick apart and parse her words, and they’ll do absolutely anything to get onto their idol’s radar. Why else would we download yet another social app? Because Taylor told us to, of course.
And because for the past year, Swift fans haven’t heard nearly enough from Taylor on social media — save for on Tumblr, a largely fan-driven platform where she can reblog fan art and comment on lyrical theories and inside jokes without inciting the wrath she often encounters on other social sites. To a lesser degree, she’s active on Instagram; in the weeks leading up to the release of her latest album, Reputation, Taylor occasionally commented on fans’ Halloween costumes and popped into their livestreams.
Basically, The Swift Life combines everything Taylor likes about those two platforms (the fans, the memes, the emoji) and gets rid of everything she doesn’t. (Drama, which she swears she doesn’t love, it just loves her.) Then it throws in a whole bunch of cartoon cats for good measure. She launched the app in the U.S. on her birthday, December 13th, and it’s currently available for iPhone and iPad; Google Play is coming “soon.” (Sorry, Android users, but considering Taylor once voluntarily face-planted on a treadmill for Apple, you probably should’ve seen that one coming.)
As part of the target demographic for this app, as someone who’s spent most of the past week entirely ignoring My Actual Life in favor of living The Swift Life, I can share that the app is moderately to majorly addicting for serious Taylor fans. It is not, however, for casual listeners. Honestly, it’s probably not meant for you unless at some point in your life, you’ve opened Instagram and thought, “You know what’d be cool? If literally every photo in my feed was of Taylor Swift.”
TSL is the latest launch from Glu, the company responsible for Kim Kardashian: Hollywood and Katy Perry Pop. (Ironically, those two stars are TSwift’s alleged nemeses. But to be fair, I’d happily work with my enemy’s business partner too, if it meant I might make $40 million in three months flat.) Unlike both those apps, though, TSL isn’t a game — not exactly. It’s more of a photo-sharing social community that just happens to feature ranks to climb and virtual currency to gather — all with the ultimate goal of getting noticed by the actual, real-life Taylor Swift, who occasionally interacts with fans through the app.
Taylor Swift is a kind of super-user on the site: anything she double-taps gets a heart-shaped “Taylor Like” sticker and a spot on Taylor’s own Swift Life photo feed. But those stickers aren’t easy to come by. On the day I downloaded the app, around 2,500 fans had already reviewed it, suggesting a broad user base was already in place, but there were around 16 “Taylor Likes” total. It wasn’t a particularly promising ratio. A week later, there are closer to 8,000 reviews… and about 20 total likes from Taylor. (Note that I’m not including reshares here, since it’s unclear whether those come from Taylor, her management team Taylor Nation, or the app’s own staff. “Taylor Nation Like” and “The Swift Life Like” stickers also exist.)
One way to increase the chance of Taylor seeing your post is to have other users leave you “SwiftSends,” tiny paper airplane emojis identical to the pendants she and Harry Styles wore when they dated. The catch is that the app allots users precious few of these in the first place, and it takes for-freaking-ever to earn more. So you really have to make your posts stand out in order to get SwiftSends from the rest of the community. Illustrations, collages, and moving personal stories seem to amass these fastest.
Unfortunately, I possess the painting skills of your average 5-year-old, so I decided to share a photo of myself on the “Look What You Made Me Do” throne from last month’s Reputation pop-up shop instead. This got more likes on TSL than it did on my Instagram feed — but sadly, only two SwiftSends. Two! So much for Taylor ever seeing it. The second photo I…