The fact that I have so many followers makes me feel like I’ve achieved something – that I’ve appealed to 2000 people enough for them to click follow on my account. But does it stand for anything?
Sure, of course I like that when I upload a photo I get 15 likes in a few minutes – a photo that I’ve probably taken at least 10 times to get the right angle and then edited and filtered and everything-ed to make sure that it’s perfect – but what else happens? What do I really achieve from getting a few likes on a photo? Perhaps a few more followers, so, a few more likes.
This is social media. This is life or death, at least it seems: when my followers can disappear in one click if I post the wrong content – or not enough of the right content – how can I hope to survive? I have more strangers talking to me than ever. I receive notifications for comments and expect them to be from my friends, but instead I get asked ‘can u follow me back’. Now, this makes me feel popular. Someone feels that if I follow them, they’ll become validated, of a sort.
Having that power is intimidating, but makes me realise that I can have somewhat of an influence over my followers. What if I decide to be an awful role model? Would I lose followers or would my followers follow my actions and habits?
Have you ever met a friend in real life who you originally became friends with over the Internet? It’s weird. They don’t speak like how they do over text and you see their faces at angles that you’ve never seen in their photos. They’re still them, but they’re not 100% the same person that they are online. This can be good – or it can be bad. Do people intentionally alter their persona over social media? Now, popularity is based on follower counts, and those with the most followers have the loudest voices. Is it okay for these people to become role models or are they going to mislead younger generations?
There’s no such thing as a perfect life, but there are definitely perfect Instagram feeds: feeds where people pose for perfect ‘zen’ photos, feeds of perfect vegan meals, feeds of perfect exotic holidays. With so much perfection so easily available to scroll through, it’s difficult to feel like our lives aren’t mundane and inadequate. Does social media bring about feelings of inadequacy in both the audience and the content providers?
Social media is always growing and always changing. Next year, Instagram might not be as relevant as it is right now. Or, it could be even more popular. Social media is unpredictable and social media is scary. We’re repulsed by it and yet somehow inexplicably drawn to it too. Is social media inherently destructive? Or is it a tool like any other that can wreak havoc in the wrong hands?
Join the debate! Tweet @FACT_Liverpool using #FollowFACT with your comments. Is Instagram a tool for good, or is it negatively influencing our lives? Can an image change the world, or are our feeds simply taking the high school social order online? Find out more when Follow opens on 11 December. With the support of the Culture Programme of the European Union