Social media… will it bring the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end?
One thing no one can avoid is to change. And that’s exactly what happens every day. We change. Our fears, hopes, and dreams change. Technology and our relationship with it changes. The world and the way it operates change. Some would agree that the one new development, perhaps even considered the most significant change of the 20th century, was the introduction of the internet. And as it continued to grow in the 21st century, appropriately dubbed the ‘Digital Age’, it became accessible to almost everyone, causing a change in us and the culture surrounding us.
But enough with the history lesson… and the repetition of the word change! We all know how social media has impacted the younger and older generations, having lived through it, maybe even getting personally affected by it. Nowadays, countless kids find that becoming famous is the only career worth pursuing. Whether or not they know they want to become famous doesn’t seem like a priority for them, a factor they can figure out later. And we can all agree that trends, whether fashion trends or even food trends are changing at a rate so horrifically fast that trying to keep up seems more and more impossible by the day.
Now, in a world where pop culture is so deeply tied to social media and celebrity culture is evolving in ways never thought possible before, how are these cultures shifting, and how might that affect us as entertainment consumers?
The Introduction of Influencer Culture
I think, at this point in time, everyone has some understanding of what an ‘influencer’ is. Maybe you even follow some on Instagram or wait for their weekly videos on YouTube. But when it comes to defining an influencer, some find it difficult, not knowing who exactly to place under that term. So, let’s instead try to define influencer culture.
The idea here is that people with large numbers of social followings could endorse products, ideas, and organizations, influencing followers and viewers to do the same. What might surprise you is that the concept of an influencer is nothing new. In fact, it’s believed that the first ‘influencer’ appeared during the 18th century when a queen gave her stamp of approval to a potter’s tea set, accordingly increasing his business’ success.
What’s different now, with the availability of social media, is that everyone can become an influencer. Gone is the idea that only a select few can be celebrities. Instead, if you have a working phone and an easy-to-use editing app, you can create your own content, build an audience, essentially your fan base, and become famous. This is what former Youtuber Emma Chamberlain discusses on her podcast Anything Goes.
But should we consider that an advantage or a disadvantage of what the internet brought?
In a world where you can view what thousands of strangers are doing by staring into a device the size of your hand, getting a peak into their lives, what could the possible effects of influencer culture be?
The Influence of Influencer Culture
While the internet and social media have allowed many to make a good living, offering new opportunities and job roles, it is not always the best place to be/ constantly visit. Just like eating too much of a dish might make you sick, digesting too much online content can be harmful.
With the rise of the social platform TikTok encouraging more video format content, it seems that every time you open your phone, you get a more and more intimate look at a creator’s life. And while we might never bore of these videos, using them to escape the stress of our lives for a while, absorbing so much of the lives of strangers can never be healthy.
When will we start living our lives if all we do is watch others?
Furthermore, the content created by individuals who strive to become famous (in any way) can be very unrealistic. This could be in the lifestyle that they fabricate or their exaggerated behaviors. At the end of the day, it’s all for the gram as they say. And as their followers grow, they become convinced that this is the life they should have to be happy or the way to behave to get what they want.
Yes, anyone can post a video or a picture and have the chance of becoming viral, but should they?
It doesn’t look like influencer culture is going away any time soon. And in some ways, that might be a good thing, with several internet celebrities using their platforms for good. They do this by spreading positive messages, talking about real, difficult issues, or increasing viewer’s knowledge about specific topics and cultures not many know of.
But in some ways, the permanence of influencer culture with their chokehold on trends, how they are created and transformed, and the significant impact they have on their audiences, even if it’s unhealthy, can be rather terrifying.
How will influencer culture and the content they create evolve? Which platform will be the go-to for potential internet stars? No one can know for sure, but what we do know is that social media is here to stay, so let’s make sure to use it with caution and put our mental well-being first.
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