Inside the world of social media influencers
Whether you’re a daily user of social media or not, in one way or another you are immersed in the world of social influencers. As the Netflix documentary Follow Me explores, there’s a story behind the people who are shaping the social media world as we know it.
Asri Bendacha, a filmmaker from Dubai, set out to find out more about the social media space in the Middle East and gain a following of his own to demonstrate how easy (or hard) it is to become a social influencer.
Portrayed in the media to be conservative and strict on what’s shared online, Asri took it upon himself to go behind the scenes with social media influencers who are breaking the mould.
In recent months, it’s come to light the impact social media use may be having on young people, particularly the generation who have grown up with it. The negative effect on mental health, self esteem and confidence has become apparent, as ‘normal’ people strive to live the extravagant lives of social influencers.
Young, impressionable minds are setting impossible standards for themselves, in terms of beauty, achievements and material possessions. But what about the other side of the coin? What do we know about the influencers themselves and how they came to be so important in today’s society?
Social media influencers spend the majority of their time collaborating with brands and sharing important messages on a variety of topics.
Despite popular opinion, they don’t accept every job that comes their way – the majority of influencers Asri spoke to were very clear that they only work with brands they believe in.
They explained that you can’t just wake up one day and decide you want to be an influencer, it’s all about being consistent and growing your audience. The same goes for trying to emulate other influencers – it’s important to celebrate uniqueness and avoid editing images to look a certain way.
Unfortunately, this continues to be an issue across social media, primarily Instagram. Users have become so good at editing their photos, it’s difficult to detect what’s real and what’s not.
Asri answered a question in Follow Me that we very rarely consider as users of social media; how do the platforms make money if we all use them for free?
Social media influencers primarily use platforms such as Instagram to promote products and are paid by brands both big and small to do this. The most poignant part of the documentary was when it became clear what the influencers give up for the privilege: their data.
In this case, it’s not just influencers who swap their data and privacy in order to use social media platforms, it’s everyone who holds an account with Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
As Asri so eloquently put it: “Our online lives are making the owners of social platforms rich.”
Children and young adults are unaware of these issues and understandably aspire to be social influencers, due to the ‘perfect’ lifestyles portrayed online.
The documentary revealed something important in the world of social media – much of what we see is fake. Influencers rent cars and pretend they own them and pose outside luxurious homes to give the impression that they live there.
It was discussed that schools need to do more to adapt to the digital age and ensure students understand what they give up when they make an account.
Instagram, the focal point of the documentary, is so flooded with content that so much of it gets missed or goes unnoticed. Follow Me demonstrated this by sharing the story of a French company who set up a fake profile focusing on a women’s life of alcohol addiction. During the experiment, not one of her followers noticed that nearly all of her images had alcohol in.
If no one is paying attention to what we’re posting, why are we posting it?