Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism. Become a member today »

It’s a playground truism that money can’t buy you friends — but it can certainly buy you social media reach, as proved this week by billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who celebrated the New Year by announcing on Saturday, January 5, that he would pay out one million yen (~$9,200) to 100 people for following and retweeting him. The giveaway ended on January 7, by which time Maezawa had racked up nearly 5.5 million retweets, making it the most shared Twitter post in history. Uh, congratulations?

Maezawa’s act of arbitrary wealth redistribution sort of pales in comparison to his personal net worth, estimated at $2 billion by Forbes, and the success of his fashion line, Zozotown — ostensibly the reason for the publicity stunt.

“Zozotown spring sale is the fastest in history and topped 10 billion yen!!” he tweeted, as reported by The Observer. “With a daily appreciation, I will give 100 million yen (total of gifts million yen) in cash.”

What can I say? If I were a billionaire, buying overpriced Basquiats and chartering flights to the fucking moon are probably the least frivolous things I’d get up to. Probably, when you’re hanging around exclusively in the company of other obnoxiously rich people, like notable insane person Elon Musk, doing weird things with your money becomes a sort of pissing contest. Haha! I just left 10 live alpacas as a tip at Starbucks! I gold-plated my perineum! My favorite shoes are two Aston Martin DB5’s that I ride around like roller skates!

There is, however, something sort of sad and attention-desperate about investing $923,000 in what amounts to a bid for more social media followers. For that kind of money, one would think you could buy an entire army of Russian tweetbots, or an actual life, or, I dunno, feed all the starving children in Yemen, or maybe invest in a LOT of therapy and get to the bottom of those self-worth issues.

But EXCUSE ME, that does not sound like fun, and no one ever got followers by being altruistic. That loser Gandhi lived and died without a single Twitter follower, so that should tell you something about the renunciation of worldly possessions in pursuit of human transcendence from the ravages of desire. Money can’t buy happiness, said Ghandi or someone, but maybe they just didn’t have enough money, unlike Yusaka Maezawa, and his 100 new best friends. They are lucky to know him — he’s about to be the most popular boy IN SPACE.

Well, maybe getting to take that trip into the outer stratosphere will be illuminating for Maezawa. Maybe getting to see the entire Earth from afar, a jewel floating in the void, improbably supporting the hopes and dreams of 7.7 billion human souls (plus more than 1,200 different species of bats!!), will help him to realize that there is more to life than media attention, and perhaps the greatest gift is the opportunity to help others and expect nary a follow in return …

But more likely, he will tweet some selfies to his 5.5 million followers and muse about how much it would cost to buy Australia.

Support Hyperallergic

As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever. 

Please consider supporting our journalism, and help keep our independent reporting free and accessible to all.

Become a Member

Sarah Rose Sharp

Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based writer, activist, and multimedia artist. She has shown work in New York, Seattle, Columbus and Toledo, OH, and Detroit — including at the Detroit Institute of Arts....