In my time mindlessly perusing Instagram, I’ve noticed that the most non-relatable people in the world of social media are the ones that we engage with the most, Social Media Influencers. As a fairly normal person myself, I can admit that my life in no way resembles what an influencer presents as their norm. Influencers are not supposed to be just like us, however. They are better versions of us, with perfect table settings and a full-face of make-up at all hours of the day. But I can’t help but wonder, why do us normal people continue to engage with these unrealistic influencers?
Influencers build their brand on being better than other people, and yet, we continue to support them so much so that they can build entire careers on just being this version of themselves. Although you could claim that salespeople have been doing this since the beginning of time, Social Media Influencers have discovered how to appeal to our most basic desires, human connection, and exploit it.
I took some time to follow some of the bigger influencers on Instagram to seek to understand why they have such an emotional pull on us ‘normal people’. Since Instagram shows you the comments and likes of your own followers/following list first, I noticed that one of my own Insta-followers was such a devoted influencer-fan that they liked and commented on every single picture this specific influencer posted.
I did what every curious writer would do and I continued to keep up with the influencer account to see if there was a trend in engagement with this one follower of mine. What struck me as the strangest part about this phenomena was that the conversation was completely one-way. This person was commenting on every post this influencer made; complementing their wardrobe, hair, and make-up in a way that felt as though they were talking to a best friend. And yet, the comments are just one of thousands in a completely unreciprocated, one-way relationship.
Influencers are the best friends we don’t have.
Influencers have found a way to nestle themselves into our lives via our desire for human connection. As the world begins to focus more on technology, and our interpersonal relationships become more isolated, we lack the feelings of closeness that we once were able to gain from participating in organizations or groups.
This theory gets even more broad, with political scientists and sociologists theorizing that we are socially disengaging further and further as time goes on as a result of our increasingly isolated existence. In his book Bowling Alone, Political Scientist and author Robert Putnam describes this phenomenon of disengagement, explaining:
“bowling in organized leagues plummeted in the last decade or so… the broader social significance, however, lies in the social interaction and even occasionally civic conversations over beer and pizza that solo bowlers forgo”.
Although bowling may have been a fad of yesteryear, Putnam hits the nail on the head: we’re not talking to each other anymore.
Now enter the influencer. This perfect person pops up on your social media feed, and they have something you want. Whether it be perfect hair, skin, or clothing, you see something within them that you wish you could see in yourself. The relationship between you and this influencer is completely one-way, but it feels validating to contribute to the sea of comments, which forms the kind of community that is missing in today’s day and age.
As a freelance writer myself, it would be hypocritical of me to bash influencers. We both have a similar goal of finding a following of people to read and buy into our opinions. But the rise of the influencer does still concern me; with social connection being as accessible as logging on to Instagram, will future generations be less inclined to connect with people face to face? This possibility gives us yet another reason to turn off our phones and seek genuine experiences and relationships in our daily lives.