As I scrolled through my Twitter feed a few days ago a post retweeted by a friend caught my eye. Apparently, a new mural had gone up in Los Angeles and a teen was escorted away from the mural by its own security personnel for trying to take a photo with it because the mural was reserved solely for social media influencers, defined as those with over 20,000 followers or a verified check mark. The comments on the tweet were filled with outrage at the fact that this photo op was being policed by one's follower count. Some commenters claimed to feel degraded by this social media shaming. I, too, even looked at my own measly few hundred followers and felt a bit defeated. Others stated that valuing humans for something as vain as popularity on social media was a reflection of the corruption of our society.
As it turns out, the mural served as a publicity stunt for a new mini-series called "Like and Subscribe", which details the reality and ridiculousness of social media influencers. The show's team put up the mural to gain free advertising by real-life influencers who went to the mural, proved their worthiness by flashing their page's verified check mark, and posting a snapshot in front of the mural. The public outrage of the mural was also intended by its creators.
In the digital era, the world exists in the palm of our hand and fame can be created by simply owning a smartphone. The new show is meant to sort of satirize how ridiculous this influencer trend is. The fact that hundreds of thousands of people care about where a girl they've never met ordered avocado toast for brunch and what online store she bought her sunglasses at is crazy, but they do and these influencers have cashed in on it.
The reality is that these people have made themselves valuable.
Social media reach is now a currency and those who possess it do have real influence (as the newly coined term "influencer" suggests). Just like the producers of "Like and Subscribe" harnessed the power of influencers the promote their show, many companies use these self-made celebs to market their own products. The online marketing landscape is totally changing in accordance with the real influence that these people have. It's a smart technique.
Personally, when I see an advertisement for a clothing brand in a magazine I probably won't hop on my laptop and browse the store, but if an influencer I follow posts a photo in a dress that I just have to have and tags the company I'll click that link and buy the dress (along with probably a bunch of other things that I don't need). The truth is that these influencers have used social media to do more than post selfies and stalk their exes. They've generated legitimate income and power, maybe even a career. So while, yes, the idea of "influencers" being considered elite for just documenting their lives and the number of followers they have IS crazy, it's also a bit of a reality in our world today.
If you think your own Instagram page NEEDS a shot in front of the infamous mural but your follower count is just shy of 20 K there is no need to worry. The influencer security is gone and the mural is now open to the public, so just head to 7753 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, California and snap that selfie!