A few days ago, after months of wanting a Nintendo Switch but taking care of other financial priorities first (car repairs, loan payments, putting aside half a grand for an autographed copy of Eminem’s Revival), I finally got my Switch. I excitedly set up my Super Mario Odyssey machine and managed to not completely screw up putting a screen protector on it, and there was much glee.
This weekend, though, instead of spending every conscious hour enjoying what is arguably the best game of the year (Yes, I hear you, Zelda fans), I only spent most conscious hours on it. The rest of the time? I tried making some one-pan mac and cheese from scratch for the first time (it turned out fantastic), did some Christmas shopping (I bought myself purple sneakers, on sale for $19), and dove headfirst into the ultimate Taylor Swift lifestyle thanks to the new “The Swift Life” app.
The app was announced back in October, but what is it?
“We’ve worked closely with Taylor and her team to bring her creative vision to life,” Glu Mobile President and CEO Nick Earl said of the new Swift-centric social network app. “The result is a deeply social environment where Taylor and her fans are able to better connect with one another while expressing themselves in an interactive community.”
Functionally, it’s Instagram meets a cheap, scatterbrained mobile game that has too many different types of currencies and rewards systems to make sense of. I decided the best way to figure out what’s even going on here, though, would be to spend three days as a devoted Swiftie and really engage with the app, so that’s what I did.
After I downloaded it and signed up for an account, I was greeted by a brief video from Swift herself: “Hey guys, it’s Taylor. Welcome to The Swift Life,” she said. Once you’re all signed up, you can start exploring the app, which looks like an Instagram knock-off and has five primary screens:
- My Feed: As you’d expect, this is a feed of posts from Swift herself and other users that you follow.
- Taylor’s Feed: This is a direct link to Swift’s personal The Swift Life page and all her posts and reposts.
- Scrapbook: This is where you create posts with photos, text, stickers, and Taymoji (more on that in a minute).
- Swiftsend Feed: Users have a limited amount of “Swiftsends,” which they can use to boost posts they like so they’re more likely to catch Swift’s eye. This is where the most Swiftsent posts show up.
- News Feed: You’ll find your notifications here.
There’s nothing here that breaks the mold: It’s Instagram if all the pages you followed only discussed which Taylor Swift era is the best and how much they want to hang out with her. However, The Swift Life is different in that it’s very gamified: When you like posts, you work towards filling a Taymoji pack, and when you fill it, you get Taymoji, an in-app currency and collectible that you can leave on other users’ posts. The first Taymoji I collected looks like a medical textbook illustration of a human heart, and since then, I’ve collected 27 of the 292 different Taymoji, which include photos of Swift and other her-referencing imagery.
There are also picks (as in guitar picks) that you can get (I honestly forget how, though), and that unlocks other stuff (I honestly forget what, though). The primary social media feed features are pretty straightforward, but beyond that, it can get a little convoluted. It also took me about 45 minutes too long to realize that I could mute my phone and shut off the repeating 45-second loops of “Ready For It” and “Look What You Made Me Do” snippets that automatically play.
For the record, you can connect your Spotify account to hear the full songs.
Oh, and there are a lot of cats. 3D cartoon cats will randomly walk across your screen sometimes. One of the most followed users, MrMeow, has over 31,000 followers and seems to be a cat, which I guess makes sense because cats are getting pretty good at using phones.
So that’s the form, but what’s the function? It seems to me that among users, there are two main motivations for using the app: It’s a great way to connect with other people who are obsessed with Swift, and there’s a strong hope among fans that by using the service effectively, you’ll get some honest-to-goodness recognition from Taylor herself, whether it’s a comment, like, or repost. Across the network, there’s an intense desire to get even the slightest bit of attention from Swift, and to put it as non-disparagingly as I can, I can’t relate to it and it seems odd. The intricacies and effects of celebrity idolization is a whole other can of worms to open, so I won’t get into that here.