Instagram or Insta(crime) ?
Star of social media (mainly Instagram), Essena ONeill aroused the entire worlds attention last month when she decided to retire from social media all together. The end result, she left more than 600’000 followers wondering, what happened? Claiming social media is not real life and revealing that she had been paid by several brands to promote their products with a few of the posted pictures, Essena left the world of social media saying, “if your genes make you beautiful, then you are more important”.
Her actions have been severely criticized, some people are saying she was only doing it to attract more attention toward herself just to get more followers. It is well known that any action going against the general opinion always raises criticism, but lets try to dig deeper and understand the true power of social media. What if Instagram was actually secretly committing some instacrimes?
We can see the qualities of an instacrime through many different lenses. We can first witness it in the murdering of spontaneity which is particularly revealed by Essena when she describes the painstaking work involved with creating what seemed to be a spontaneous moment. We could see spontaneity as the guard of a certain frankness, similar to our guarantee of truth in social relations. Therefor the creation of a fake spontaneous moment and the constant self promotion contributes to falsify our social relationships. This is a bit like playing a game where everybody is cheating but no one denounces it, in fact, everybody seems to willingly accept it. Could it be possible that the influence of a consumer society made everyone constantly want to sell themselves?
A second instacrime can be found in the cult of consumption which envelops us. Yet we hardly seem aware of it. A cult induced by brands in a more or less direct way which dictates out habits to consume. Thus we develop a sense of consumption and a manner of conducting ourselves without really being aware of it. When brands pay a generous sum of money to Hollywood actors or other well-known people (who can be seen as real opinion leaders) to complete the first part of a promotion, they gain the ability to keep control over the products through agents such as ONeill. Therefore, these young social media stars are promoting products to their mainly young and innocent followers who are absolutely unaware of the fact that they are being targeted by a company. We can actually consider these thousands of followers as the democratization and the consolidation of our consumption habits. Many people are brought to reiterate a behaviour which has been validated by a sufficient amount of likes, that lead to a certain popularity, that push people to act the same in a more or less conscious way.
In addition to the promotion of products, brands are also pretending to apologize (which is not really new) for values such as a certain type of beauty in the form of thinness, youth, and wealth, which are typical of western ideals. The young and thin blondie O’Neill speaks about a brainwashed generation … It seems that we are not very far from it.
Whilst this showcase of social media is becoming essential to some people to grasp their fellows, we should remember that 62.1% of the world population has no access to internet.
According to Nathan Jurgenson, a researcher at Snapchat, Identity performativity isnt new, but how we do it is new . Indeed, this race of likes, as if we were all permanently on a presidential campaign will for sure mark the era in which we live. While some try to go against the tide like Essena O’Neill who claimed, “Never again will I let a number define me”. The question remains still. How else can we be define this era in a more relevant way than through numbers ?