Under The Influence...
When I first joined Instagram back in 2012, I was like all the other upper teen Austinites. I overused the Valencia filter, underused hashtags, and - if you can believe this - made sure always to add my location so I could have a cute little collage of photos on the map tab of my profile - I so wish they hadn't rid that feature. Anyways, I, like many, saw Instagram as a similar outlet to Twitter or Facebook, except status updates were selfies and food pics instead of words. In some ways, not much has changed in the last eight years. However, in other ways, everything has.
Spring 2013 was when I first started noticing "influencers" popping up. However, there were few and far between. One girl from my high school started a fashion blog and quickly gained a lot of followers, like several thousand. I remember being quite intrigued by her success. She posted pictures in various outfits with #ootd and would tag the stores or designers of said clothing. I started seeing her photos pop up all over the Internet, and not much later, inside a few various stores - which was a "Wow!" moment for me. It was incredible to think that someone could post pictures from a tripod to Instagram and eventually work their way up to being the face of an actual store or clothing line.
I realized early on that there was huge potential to become "noticed," maybe even famous, thanks to Instagram and other social media apps. For me, it was Pinterest. What started as a way to waste time and cure boredom in college quickly became a way to boost traffic to my blog and potentially make money. I always wanted to give Instafame a shot, but I never was entirely able to commit to the lifestyle.
Because it is a lifestyle, being an influencer means putting your life out there for everyone to see, one post at a time. It means getting the perfect shot. It means trying to one-up others with the best post, a unique background, an original camera angle. It means commenting, liking, and sharing random photos that you could care less about all in the name of the game. It means putting your real life on pause, so in the meantime, you can edit it, trim it, and upload the faultless version of yourself to playback over and over again.
After spending years being intrigued by so many up and coming accounts on Instagram, I started to realize that it's not so much fame that we are pursuing as it is notoriety. Being a "major" influencer doesn't just mean embracing the lifestyle; it means continuing a lifestyle. What I mean by this is that there is one thing each Insta famous user has in common. & no, I'm not talking about their Louis Vuitton purses or desire to share their skincare routines. I'm talking about money — cold, hard cash.
I'm not talking about money they've since earned from sponsored posts, growing their brand, or selling various products. I'm talking about money and a lifestyle they inherited the day they were conceived in a most likely 300-thread count Egyptian cotton California king bed. I started thinking about all of the Influencers I know from "real" life - sad that you have to specify that, huh? & it hit me that each one I know grew up in a wealthy neighborhood, came from borderline upper-middle to upper-class families, received an excellent education, and were already successful before their Instafame. Every. Single. One.
It's not surprising. Since the beginning of time, those who we consider being "influential" are usually the rich, beautiful, and powerful. Why would social media be any different? It's different because everyone has this false illusion that they, too, can be an influencer. However, is that actually obtainable? Can the "average" person with a regular salary and family life ever compete with major Instagrammers? Is it possible to have a rag to riches Instafame story? & beyond that, is it worth it?
I wasn't sure so I started doing some research of my own:
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