WRITER: TEODOR IONITA- RADU
PHOTOGRAPHY & STYLING: ALEXANDRA ROMAN
I was swiping through some instastories while being bored to death and crazy tired in Dubai’s uglier part of its international airport, when I stumbled upon one of my old friend’s instagram profiles. I used to know him really well. He was a good, decent guy - maybe a bit too much on the selfish side.
But here he was with over 17k followers and no trace of the boy he once was: "An Instagram influencer”, that's what the world would see. Me? I was seeing a failed collage of different personalities, all borrowed from artists or other influencers; a cold, distant and repugnant moral Frankenstein.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not judging him - just objectively observing. Lying is the bread and butter of our generation. Everybody does it and that’s why social media is so popular. Using masks is what the contemporary society forces us to engage in, and as sick as that sounds, that’s ok. In a world saturated with imitation and starved of creativity, this is what I would expect from people who seek fame and riches above anything else. So this depersonalizing process that my friend went through for the sake of likes didn’t startle me at all. After all, I saw one too many influencers to recognize the pattern
What did startle me though was his belief that he was above others; a monument of originality; a unique individual who found his true self, while the rest of us, mere ordinary citizens, were living in a lie. His impulse to preach how people should find their purpose through his methods - this absurd claim that he had all the answers stunned me. How can one become so hypocritical? Or maybe was hypocrisy replaced by delusion?
To answer these questions, we need to see how our unfortunate example (and many others like himself) has lost himself during the imitation process to a pure, rather primal human flaw: Vanity (Al Pacino’s favorite sin in the “The Devil’s Advocate”). This little prince of darkness is ripping holes in modern society and in our generation’s sanity. It contaminates minds faster than any virus if given the right channel to spread, such as social media.
Getting back to analyzing our fine specimen. How did this good guy reach this advanced, chronical stage of influentianism? Let’s see how his narcissism evolved. The first step was failure. Failure to get into any of the universities that he wanted. The second step was shifting the blame. This was not his fault, it was society, the system, the whole world that were to blame. They were wrong, not him. Third was his coping mechanism. A full blown outbreak of egotism: he is special, he is chosen, he is not part of the flock. Final step: reinvents himself by copying all of Kanye West’s persona; he is a misjudged philosopher, a preacher and a mountain of success - people around him are all sheep and he is the shepherd. As an example of his evident greatness, he vomits tons of truisms and generally known inspirational truths from spirituality.com and howtoenlightenyourselfin3easysteps.com. Extra ingredient: does a rant about how true to himself he is and how all of us should try and achieve his level of serenity...(??)...
What a load of bullshit. But, again, I don’t judge him. The man might as well be delusional and actually believe the stupidities that he is postulating, being influenced by the psychological trauma that he endured through failure. This alter ego might just be his only way of coping with disappointments, so there are mitigating circumstances for this influencer.
This analysis would not be complete without the other side of the coin though, the clear, raw hypocrisy. Let’s dive together to the depth of Instagram feeds and observe one of my favorite specimens of influencers. The “she” influencer, the masked gold-digger, predator of any individuals, men or women, that might come too close. Any Instagram user has seen them at least once, entities with different characteristics, depending on subspecies. I shall split them into two major sub-categories.
The most common sub-category: the “flaunting gold-digger”. Their volume of posting is quite immense and the quality is often missing. They usually copy one another in every aspect, from outfits to pictures, from boyfriends to girlfriends. You will find them lecturing you about true friends, while they change friend groups every two weeks. You will find them posting about true love, while the only thing they admire is how developed her partner’s wallet or connections are. They will tell you how different and special they are when compared to other girls - that they are unique and that they deserve to be adored and admired. All of this while posting from the same bars, flaunting the same designers and propagating the same ideas of pure material desire, like all the other members of this quite common category. "Obviously", all of these are hidden under a thin crust of lies. They use an unrefined form of hypocrisy, as they do not succeed in hiding their true intentions too deep, probably because of a lack of motive or ability.
The second, rarer specimen, the “hyped hollows”. Their volume of posting is reduced, while the quality is present too. They belong only to the highest social circles, without any transgressions, and they post only from luxurious destinations and locations. They flaunt their possessions in a smart way, often hiding their true intentions of showing off through “artsy” pics. The brands are more expensive and they try to present themselves as cultured, rich and above the norm in any way possible, though they often fail in real life in a lot of those aspects. Specimens in this sub-category do copy from each other as much as the common influencer does, but they prefer to sprinkle it with some creativity (not too much otherwise they wouldn’t be here). They imitate international models, artist and influencers as a group, reacting almost instantaneously to any new fashion trend, type of social media post or thought in general. It is curious that they rarely speak about love. You will never see a post or a reference related to relationships, but you will often see rants about how overrated love is, about how life should be lived and that they found the secret to true happiness, Visa or MasterCard. This might be because they sacrificed their morals and their humanity to disgusting individuals for riches and fame, and now they feel the need to denigrate the idea of normality because they cannot achieve it anymore. This sort of assumed hypocrisy through a transfiguration of one’s reality is smart, and may fool the most, but it can be caught by a trained eye.
Seeing these archetypes of social media “preachers” in the way that I dissected them morally, most of you would reach the conclusion that delusion and hypocrisy throne on the social media stage. Influencers right and left propagate lies and seek immediate gratification through likes, promoting imitation and dehumanization. But, at the end of the day, without us, the public, they are nothing. It’s us who give them value through likes, follows and comments. It’s time to realize our true power and clean our feeds, healing in the process, the whole social media organism of this “influentianism” virus. Better follow back that awkward relative or, you know, just balance your Instagram ratio, anything is better than being forced fed stupidity 24/7 by a bunch of fakes. Where was the unfollow button again?
Economics student at Warwick University from Bucharest, Romania.