I am a Leader, not a Follower

What if someone has no money but owns 10,000 followers? According to the modern currency system, s/he will gain some cash soon.

Followers

Thanks to the rapid rise of social media use, people now have alternative revenue stream simply by posting something at no cost. Take a look at how bloggers surge to be the top earners in the industry, exercising their power through posting beautiful pictures that bait a lot of likes and a number of followers. Celebrities, being the one carving certain popularity way before bloggers occupy the so-hot right now position, are also on the similar trail—they are paid to post certain products, come to certain events and tweet about their experience. Naturally, the postings are all in a positive, at times excessively positive tone with flocks of people wishing to wear/be/buy the very same items/events.

This phenomenon then gives a rise to “commoners,” letting them acquiring access to cash solely based on the numbers of likes and followers they have. These internet celebrities acquire their own stardom, mostly by feeding the image-fancy readers with artsy, interesting photographs that are in line with the modern taste and current trend. The ones with the most followers and likes in this gregarious digital era are regarded as the tastemakers and thus are entitled to receiving a humongous (thought not always) amount of money just by promoting brands in their accounts.

To be frank, such practice is not new.

Journalism is the real pioneer, after all, boasting certain numbers of circulation and subscribers, alongside impressive demographic to their potential advertisers. Then guess what do they do? They will support the advertisers blindly, voicing arguments in line to the advertisers’ stance and profiling their products/services throughout the pages. Again, although the number of subscribers and circulation appear as different catalysts to the likes and followers, they are essentially the same. These are the people claiming that they have access to this large audience and thus they can be paid for sounding off their “recommendation” because they are THAT influential.

The ones with the most followers and likes in this gregarious digital era are regarded as the tastemakers and thus are entitled to receiving a humongous (thought not always) amount of money just by promoting brands in their accounts.

Revisiting the accounts with a huge number of following, however, leads to an interesting fact: Not all of those accounts have such exquisite taste and or forward thinking. So why on earth would people nod in agreement (in the form of giving their likes and following their every move) to these, pardon us, mediocre accounts? Or is there an invisible form of pattern mapping what people like and what they don’t like?

There are several explanations, followed by a contemplation.

First, the personalities in social media are not thoroughly honest. The poetic tweets you’ve just read? The dreamy mountain view you’ve just seen on Instagram? There is a healthy chance that the person validates their feelings, experiences and even life events in a contextualized manners, those that bring a sense of validation for themselves. A saying of “life imitates art” does not sound more untrue, now that social media has invaded people’s lives, making them living under the expectation of their followers. But it is not so bad for them, because after they have managed to secure a large enough fans, money will come at no time. And this is a form of validation that further justifies the false, idealised portrayal chased after in social media.

Second, how to feed image-frenzy audience is by giving them more images. We are at the age where the production number of images has overcome the number from any period in human’s history. But just like that production line in the factory, the increasing quantity does not necessarily correlate to increasing quality. If this process continues on, then would the biggest image producers win the race?

On top of it all, we are left with another major conundrum about what is going to happen with those who really produce something of high quality. If we are letting those misleading figures continue to reap followers and exercise their influence over, then the premise of a brighter future can be destroyed by current deluding cultural icons. So the contemplation, or rather, a challenge is that: Who will we choose as the leader of the culture shifts, those with massive followers or those with massive quality?

Text: Gabriela Yosefina.
Image is from bigstock, used for illustrative purpose only.