We asked Tobias Forge how much he uses social media and he gave us a mini-lesson in how brains work

Ghost band: Tobias Forge
(Image credit: Travis Shinn)

Earlier this year, we met with Ghost mastermind Tobias Forge (aka Papa Emeritus I-IV and Cardinal Copia) for a long, freewheeling discussion on their latest album, Impera — recently certified gold in their native Sweden — their forthcoming tours and sundry other topics. One issue we raised with Forge that wasn't printed in the original feature, however, was the increasing saturation of social media and whether it should or even could be avoided. For the first time, here are this thoughts - and unsurprisingly, the visionary Swede had some thought-provoking ideas on the topic. 

“I don’t go on social media unless there’s something that someone is pointing at,” he said. ‘Look at this thing!’ ‘Oh, crazy....’ I’d say that over half the time, it’s my wife showing me some artist who’s done something cool. It’s very little. I don’t get my updates from social media. I had a feeling fifteen years ago, around the time that Facebook arrived. I said, ‘That is not good.’ Of course, I didn’t foresee all of the ways that it would destroy mankind and politically or all of those other things that it was going to be used for.”

The problem, he explained, is that we — homo sapiens — are simply not wired to process the limitless number of relationships thrust upon us in social media platforms. “I read a long time ago that our mind — our psyche — has a limited amount of space,” he said. “You mind’s RAM, basically. There’s a limited amount of megabytes in your head and from what I read, you have space for roughly three thousand people in your head and you can have eight relationships. So there are eight chairs around your table and you’re sitting at the head. Four and four. And you have three thousand people in your gallery."

"That worked perfectly fine in the old days because three thousand people was just about how many were in your village and eight people were probably your family; whereas now, the fucking Kardashians take up space in my head! Why? I don’t give a fuck about them! Why do I know...I can’t really tell who’s who, but why do I fucking know this?”

Science backs this theory, although numbers vary according to the study. One popular model is known as the “Dunbar Number.” British anthropologist Robin Dunbar analysed historical, anthropological and contemporary psychological data across different cultures and time periods and determined that an average person tends to have 15 good friends, 50 friends, 150 “meaningful contacts,” 500 acquaintances and 1500 people that they can recognise.

Forge shakes his head and chuckles at some of his friends who have used social media to reignite relationships with old flames. “I’ve been in my relationship for fifteen years so I missed out on Tinder and all that,” he says. “But I always found that since Facebook arrived, friends of mine who were single would be like, ‘I met this girl and she’s really cool!’ Then two days later I ask how it’s going and they’re like, ‘Yeah, um, fuck man, I went on her Facebook and I saw that she just got dumped...’ 

"I was like, ‘Wait, what?’ Imagine going to a bar and sitting there for however long it takes for you to sort of come to the point where ‘I’d like to do you,’ or ‘I’d like to meet you,’ or whatever. Imagine that before Facebook and saying, ‘Look, you seem great. I would love to hang out with you. How about you give me your diary and a photo album and I’ll have a think about it. Cool?’ Then you go home and you’re like, ‘Oh, she went to Turkey. And look at this here! And that’s her old boyfriend!’ It’s crazy. People laugh about it now because we’ve worked out a few of those kinks and you have to take things with a pinch of salt but how many people, who have had no chance to prove themselves, been measured by old pictures from five years ago when they had whatever kind of haircut or before they had a gym card or whatever? It’s not healthy. It’s not good.”

Ghost recently announced a new run of dates for the 2022 North American Imperatour, with support from Mastodon and Spiritbox. 

Joe Daly

Hailing from San Diego, California, Joe Daly is an award-winning music journalist with over thirty years experience. Since 2010, Joe has been a regular contributor for Metal Hammer, penning cover features, news stories, album reviews and other content. Joe also writes for Classic Rock, Bass Player, Men’s Health and Outburn magazines. He has served as Music Editor for several online outlets and he has been a contributor for SPIN, the BBC and a frequent guest on several podcasts. When he’s not serenading his neighbours with black metal, Joe enjoys playing hockey, beating on his bass and fawning over his dogs.