Digital platforms of social media have been in place for just a few years but they have changed and reshaped the social life of people. Jay Bolter anticipated that social media platforms could change the lives of people through engagement in online activities. Online platforms have changed the cultural ways in which people viewed identity. The evolution of technology in the twenty-first century has popularized social media platforms, which are the major places for the production of digital identities. The relationship between the human and the social networks has caused implications on what people do and engage in when socializing. The human race is social and always utilizes every opportunity to socialize. Most researchers have looked into the social media platform, networking and identity. The essay will be about identity and the five main dimensions of the online persona. The five main dimensions of persona include; the public, mediatized, performative, collective, and intentional values (Marshall, 2010).
The essay will look at the social media practice of influencers. A social media influencer is an internet user who has a large following. The influencer woos followers through the creation of textual or visual compelling articles that show an explicit lifestyle and they are able to convince people that they are leading a happy and prosperous life. The influencers use these platforms to circulate enticing quotes, memes, and other enticing things in return; they integrate adverts in the posts. The work of an influencer starts as a hobby in most cases but graduates to become a full-time career.
The media persona is sometimes different from the real-life of the person. Social media gives a person a feeling of show off to scare other people. Facebook and other social media platforms do not have features that can detect if someone is lying. People live a life they desire on online platforms but cannot achieve such a life in the real world. Once a person gains a huge following, the idea of commercializing the online profile arises. This moment gives rise to social media influencers. The codes of conduct between the social media persona and the real person often differ. One becomes a celebrity and a star that can influence people (Hansen, 2015).
The culture of micro-celebrity started to flourish in early 2010, at this moment the social media platforms had gained popularity among the young generation and people were well conversant with the use of smartphones and the internet. The world population has a majority constituent of youths who spend most of their time online. Instagram had special attraction features that promoted the users to engage in creating the platform they wanted. The influencer industry rose and young people started engaging in the business. For the young people to gain popularity among peers and other social media users they had to portray a life of success. Prior to the rise of social media influencers, the influencers in the industry were football players and other sportspersons. This set the bar high for a person to be an influencer thus making most people start creating portfolios that portrayed them as popular and successful (Marwick, 2013).
The mass media platform had already established influencers who enjoyed the publicity of media. The social media influencers looked for ways to differentiate their work from that of the media personalities. The influencers started to create false hope for the audience and engaging in acts that make people happy. The influencers started to create an illusion of accessibility because they are always online to answer any questions asked by the audience. They used the criteria of telling people what they want to hear but not what helps them to grow and better their lives (Marwick, 2013).
The practice of online influencing is on a rapid rise. The influencers can do anything to ensure that their followers enjoy the online space. The influencers have become micro-celebrities with the ability to convince people. The influencers take part in offering tricks to live, and personal lifestyles that contribute to a happy life. The mainstream media personalities work hard to ensure they reach their goals but online influencers have an enjoyable job because they choose the things to engage in, such as beauty, charms. Since the influencers have people’s trust, it is easy for them to endorse products to the audience.
In the case of O’Neill, she is one of the best social media influencers with a large following. She uploaded a clip showing how the social life of the influencers is not authentic. The factor of the authenticity of life among the influencers is a big question that needs answers. O’Neill was instrumental in revealing to people the life that influencers lead behind the expensive and prosperous life portrayed in their platforms. According to anthropologist Crystal Abidin, the act of social media influencers lacks authenticity and there are no transparent standards in place to monitor the activities of the influencers.
The words in the picture are not real expressions from the United States president. The words are there to represent another person’s opinion. The authenticity of the words in the picture is questionable but most people looking at the image may think the words are from Trump. The influencers can use this image to sell a concept to the audience. The image also gives the influencers an option to appeal to the people who love Trump. In this case, the Trump supporters will have a light response to the next thing that the influencer displays because they have already build a sense of togetherness. The same image can be used by the influencer but with different words to appeal to the people who hate Trump. This proves that influencers make proper use of a situation to pass their information across social platforms.
The rise of memes is another attribute that has improved the way social media influencers work. A meme can be used to entertain and also portray information in a funny way. Most people like funny quotes or funny videos for recreation. The social media influencers ensure that they have the memes, which correspond to the products they require to advertise. The memes have gained popularity in recent times on social media. Most phones nowadays have applications that create memes in just a few seconds.
Authenticity is the truth and openness found on both the outer and inner self of a person or any other item. Authenticity in facebook, twitter, or other social digital frameworks is similar to traditional authenticity. The act of posting forged images and posts on social media is being dishonest. Other than influencers showing the public their real livelihood they display false information that can attract followers. This indicates that most influencers use lies to gain traction and following. The online life of influencers is completely different from their day-to-day life and activities. An influencer can post an image showing him or her in an expensive hotel but in the real sense, the image is forged. According to Nathan Jurgenson, the influencers exhibit digital dualism whereby they live in the public eyes is perfect while in the real world the influencer is struggling (Baym, 2010).
According to Abidin, ‘porous authenticity’ is when the influencers leave loopholes between digital life and real life. The influencers attract curious people to investigate them by leaving scattered holes. The main reason that influencers leave room for investigation is to gain more traction and validation. The authenticity of the influencer is determined through a comparison of the off-duty and on-duty actions. The off-duty information comes from the curious audience who looks for leaks in the life of the influencer. The comparison is difficult and requires enough time and determination to know the truth (Abidin, 2018).
The best case of porous authenticity was on the scandal by the Australian influencer, Essena O’Neil. The influencer created a video that showed the dark side of social media influencers. In the video, she was crying because of the pressure to keep her brand and remain relevant to the audience. She revealed how she was struggling with depression while her social media life showed happiness. The influencer used to post pictures, which she was smiling, and happy but in the real sense, she was depressed and unhappy. She encouraged other social media influencers to stop engaging in lies in order to gain followers. According to O’Neill the commercialization of social media influence was not the right thing to do for a living because of the difficulties it causes to the normal life. She took the step of deleting her website and changing her instagram account to private (Abidin, 2018).
The attempt by O’Neill can be viewed as a way of quitting from the social media influencer world but on a critical view Banet-Weiser termed the act as “commodity activism.” The act of commodity activism gives the activist the upper hand in rebranding and becoming more attractive in the market. O’Neill was on the verge of creating a new way of gaining attraction by closing the gap between the truth and real-life activities. The influencer life is not long enough to last a lifetime because things change rapidly in the social media world. O’Neill was looking for the best way to catch a bigger audience compared to the one she had before. The industry needs well-seasoned influencers and this was a part where she was showing how best she was in turning the events to fit her ambitions. In this case, she was proclaiming to the world that she desires to be real and will continue to be real in her life.
O’Neill’s revelations show that porous authenticity is on the rise and the followers have started to be fed up by the acts of the influencers. People have realized that the vicarious life of the influencers is not real and there is a need for verifications and collaborating truths showing the life of the influencers. The audience needs something real from the influencers, for example, the influencers need to perform the tasks in the real environment while the audience is watching. O’Neill took the chance to show the audience that she was like them, struggling like them and even depressed. This act can gain her new group of audience who are engaged with the truth.
In conclusion, the cry for authenticity in social media is waking to the realities of life. People have realized that the things that trend online are not real in most instances. Sometimes the truth is hard to sell compared to fake. People fake things so that they may get followers. The audience has the right to know the truth and the search for truth has necessitated the rise of porous authenticity. The era in which people believed in facts without proving has now passed and most people have devoted their time towards getting the truth. Those people who yearn for the truth take their time in digging into the lives of influencers and differentiating the facts from the lies. The nature in which the influencers act has to change for them to retain or add followers. In the O’Neills case, she has redeemed herself from other influencers and in most cases, her followers may believe in her when she presents facts. Therefore, authenticity in all facts contributes a lot when one wants to portray facts and attract believers. Social media influencers must embrace new methods that can help them to gain an audience without lying to them.