The accidental ‘influencer’: It’s not all about Kim’s perky bottom
There's a lot wrong with social media, but Instagram can be brilliant, too. I mean, I even got a R25 tote bag
My name is Bryony, and I am an addict and accidental Instagram influencer.
I don’t know what is worse, really. At least with addictions you are encouraged to get your flaws and foibles out in the open by a supportive group of fellow sufferers who will hold your hand and guide you through the recovery process. But with Instagram, you are out on your own, in a cold and unforgiving world, with nothing but Kim Kardashian’s perky bottom for company.
And Kim Kardashian’s bottom is fine, really it is, but it’s not great at making small talk as you try to style your life to look like a glossy photo shoot.
This is what I read about Instagram last week, anyway. I read that it is harmful and damaging and evil, responsible for an epidemic of mental illness in young people, and that it is the reason so many young women are lacking self-esteem – as if young women lacking self-esteem were a new thing, and nothing to do with centuries and centuries of misogynistic, patriarchal conditioning, which says that we are the weaker sex.
I read that Instagram is the great, great bogey man of our age. And currently, I can watch its negative influence on Netflix, in the gripping documentary Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, which details how a megalomaniac opportunist managed to use influencers to con thousands of young people into buying tickets for a music festival that he was never going to be able to put on. Watch it, feel sick, then return to scrolling brainlessly through your social media feeds (I think this is the stage in an Instagram post where I would insert a shrugging emoji).
There are, of course, many things that are wrong with social media. It is not great that some are promoting things in their posts without declaring that they have been paid to do so. It is not in any way acceptable that people are able to post freely and graphically about self-harm and suicide methods in the knowledge that it is unlikely anyone will police them. If a newspaper produced content like this, it would quite rightly be referred to the press ombudsman, where it would be held to account.
It is absolutely ludicrous that social media giants are not subject to the same regulation as all other media outlets. And I don’t care for excuses about how boundless the internet is, and how difficult it would be to do this – like Brexit, people should just get on and do it.
I think all of these things about social media. But I also think that Instagram can be brilliant. I know that it can, for quite accidentally I have ended up meeting a bunch of people just like me, who are a little bit nuts, and a little bit insecure, and whose bottoms look absolutely nothing like Kim Kardashian’s (spoiler alert: nobody’s bottom looks like Kim Kardashian’s, not even Kim Kardashian’s).
I have found that Instagram is full of campaigners, activists and women who refuse to filter out their flaws, who actually actively point them out, and then throw a sort of mini-social media party to celebrate them. Hooray! Like a nightclub playing music you don’t like filled with people you don’t particularly get on with, Instagram can be an awful place. But unlike a nightclub, you can change the music, boot out anyone who is annoying, and then fill it with people who make you feel good.
Yes, you could follow a bunch of hollow-eyed models who spend their time posing on yachts flaunting their perfectly filtered lives. But you are not obliged to, any more than anyone forces you to watch YouPorn. Currently, my favourite accounts belong to a recovering anorexic with purple hair (@bodiposipanda), a 15-year-old cake decorator (@ryanwilsonbakes) and an artist who makes amazing retro pictures featuring slogans such as “Women don’t owe you pretty” (@florencegiven).
Some influencers want to tell you about the time they went on a private jet. Many more want to show you what they would do if they ever got to parliament. As for me, I have found that life as an influencer (101,000 followers) is not as lucrative as it is made out to be. I recently got sent a canvas tote bag (retail value R25) and in 2018 I was paid a small amount to promote some tampons (the glamour).
Mostly, Instagram is a place where I can see women like me going through the same struggles as me, which is a relief after a lifetime of seeing only one type of woman in the mainstream media (women like Kim Kardashian, mostly). Social media can be a force for immeasurable good. If the likes of Facebook and Twitter refuse to regulate against the bad stuff, they have only themselves to blame should that good get completely lost.
– © The Daily Telegraph