One day, I posted the cover of Aliens in the Backyard on Instagram. It was next to some photos of Golden Retrievers, covers from other books, an astrological chart of the solar eclipse on August 11. So some guy comments on the picture: Your IG (Instagram) is dope. What’s your story?
HIS story is – no kidding – “Just trying to play a super hero in a movie.”
But his remark made me think of an episode in Black Mirror, where everything in your life – from getting a job to obtaining a mortgage to leasing an apartment and eating at a restaurant – depends on your social standing. Your brand. Your story. In the episode, your social standing was, well, everything.
Today on Sirius radio, I heard an MSNBC host talking about how Don Trump Jr’s brand went over well with his dad’s base. His brand, as defined through the number of his Twitter and Instagram followers, connected with people in that base. I was struck by how this all smacked of high school popularity contests or sororities and fraternities when I was in college. But with an important difference. With social media, you can buy followers. Doing so is supposedly against Instagram’s policies, but I frequently get messages about increasing “my profile” by buying followers.
Who are these bought followers? I Googled the question, but the only links that came up were for places where I could buy followers and why I should or should not do it. But if I do buy, then I should buy active Instagram accounts not inactive. Huh? Under the why I should buy was a link about how increased Instagram followers meant you were an “influencer” – someone other people should pay attention to because of… well, the number of your followers. Surely, that number must mean something, right?
Recently, I wrote a post about a woman with 12 million Instagram followers – enough to deem her an Instagram celebrity – who made a stink on a commercial flight. Her Instagram profile says she’s a fitness instructor, but most of the photos seem to be of her prominent butt. I get that Stephen King and J.K. Rowling have zillions of followers. They actually have accomplished something – great books!
But I don’t understand the big butt having 12 million followers or why Don Jr – a guy who hunts big game for pleasure and fun – has so many followers that he’s considered an “influencer.”
All of this brought me back to the question by the Instagram guy who’s “just trying to play a super hero in a movie.” What’s my story? What’s your story? Don’t most of us have more than a single story?
That typewriter at the top of the post belonged to my dad. It’s a Hermes 2000, where he typed his impressions as an American living in Venezuela in the mid-20th century. Like you and me, his story is multifaceted and that, I think, is where most social media falls short. No one has just a single story, a single brand, a single passion. Our personal stories change as we evolve, as our insights deepen over time, and our passions expand.
No one’s identity is defined by Instagram or Twitter, Facebook or Snapchat or any other app. All are useful in one way or another for creative self-expression, business, public relations. But once we believe that any of them embody everything we are as spiritual beings in a physical universe, then we’re in deep trouble. And if we, as a society, allow social media to define who we are, that trouble gets ugly. We become sycophants just as shallow as those old high school yearbooks that declared so and so as “most likely to succeed,” or “most popular.”
So I think about that guy’s question: What’s your story? My response was writer of fiction and non-fiction. That doesn’t even scratch the surface but Instagram doesn’t care. Give me a photo, words of wisdom, advice, Instagram says, and I’ll make you famous.