Antonio Forjaz – Instagram, Influencers and the rest of us.
Instagram announced earlier this week that it was running a test. It consists of removing visibility to users of how many likes a photo has (except if it’s your own photo). I have been saying this was bound to happen at some point. Social Media platforms are finally (trying) to look into deeper societal issues rather than just promoting their user base & engagement growth (which brings $$ from advertisers).
I have been quite vocal about the positives and the negatives of social media. I think they are great, but only when used in the “right” way. Having a true understanding of what social media addiction is and how we can cope with the pressure of a 24/7 online life is crucial for keeping a grip on the levels of anxiety this world is on. The sentence “We are more connected than ever” is truer by the day and it does not seem to be going away. Nor should we necessarily want it to.
I am quite critical about the amounts of pressure social media companies put on people. It’s all about keeping up, trying to be everyone and do everything, getting more likes and more followers. Even features that were initially designed to create interactions and connections (such as likes, comments, shares…) are now used as a scale of fame, validity and recognition. It is known we release small amounts of Dopamine when we get a new like or a new follower, and it’s about time we tackle these issues.
Because of their reach and usage, likes, followers & other interactions have become a barometer of how cool/successful/different someone is. No one with 300 followers can ever be as cool as the influencer with 100,000. This, for me, is a huge problem not only because it is not true (even though rationally we all know that, our unconscious tells us differently), but mainly because it sets people apart. It creates differences where there shouldn’t be any.
I am not saying I do not respect influencers. I do. Not all, but many. I do think that in many cases, there are good motives behind their stories. They want people to be fit, to work better, to be happier, explore the world etc. and that can be inspiring, touching and motivational. The problem is not influencers, but the model behind them. Fast growth, no necessary talent or ability and an arguably “easy” way to a much “better” and “cooler” life are some of the premisses of this newish industry. But how many of them are happy? Satisfied? How many of them aim to improve, to some extent, their followers’ lives? Or do they do it to fill their insecurities?
We are creating different “leagues” of people and our league is defined by our likes and followers. Next time you’re with your influencer friends, ask them if they would do their job if they could not see how many followers or likes they had (even if they kept the revenue)…
The industry is still young and is maturing. Influencers will find their space, and they will keep contributing positively to society. My only wish is that they won’t do it at the cost of millions of people who only feel worse every time they scroll down their Instagram feed.