The steady march of technology keeps moving faster and faster.
Computers have revolutionized the working world, taking spreadsheets, calculations and designs from being menial tasks that take hours to effortless tasks that take minutes. Cell phones and video calls mean that even on our days off we’re never out of reach for an emergency, and entire careers can be built behind a computer screen from the comfort of home.
Is this a good thing?
Like the cotton mills during the Industrial Revolution, new advances in technology often create situations for which there is no precedent. Your cell phone obviously isn’t the product of a child’s dangerous labor (at least, not an American child), but the traditional working rights fought for by the unions of the olden days — like the 40 hour workweek — are on unstable footing.
This unstable footing isn’t lost completely yet. Let’s talk about what’s starting to slip.
To do that, we have to talk about influencers.
As much as your grandma refuses to believe it, influencing is a serious profession that can make money just as reliably as other jobs, provided that you do it correctly. The idea is that people can run a social media account so effectively, reaching a large audience on a regular occasion, that they can utilize their accounts to run advertisements for other companies and make a profit. This is largely the same principle that many websites and newspapers use to keep their organizations afloat.
The main difference between newspapers and influencers is that influencers are using their own lifestyle as a billboard.
How does this happen?
I can’t write about influencers without bringing up the Kardashians. No other celebrities embody the famous-for-being-famous archetype they so wonderfully portray. “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” was the foundation for the influencer lifestyle. Once the family became well known outside of reality TV circles and oddly in-depth followers of O.J. Simpson’s life, they transformed themselves into a brand. When Kylie Jenner became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, people were surprised and a little upset that she counted as “self-made,” but the distinction was fair. Yes, she was already famous, but the two are not the same — we’re just used to “billionaire” coming first. She is the world’s most successful influencer — taking her fame and using it to become a billionaire at 21.
Unfortunately, most influencers were not born with Kardashian levels of notoriety.
All the hallmarks of influencing are meant to portray ease. The beach days, the wonderful meals, the clothes they wear, it’s all meant to inspire a sense of “I wish I were that lucky!” that could inspire people to work harder, daydream about what could be or buy whatever diet product they’re pushing this week.
The problem is that it’s obviously not that easy. If it were that easy, everyone would be dressing to the nines and traveling to Madrid on their weekends off. What we never see are the 200 photos taken before they finally got the one that looks acceptable enough to post, the food gone cold, the hours sitting in the same position and the days spent planning outfits.
When you make work out of your life, when do you ever stop working? The entire process seems exhausting and painful. I know that I could never do it, even if I had the time.
Influencers are statistically rare — I doubt anyone reading this knows any successful influencers personally outside of social media, let alone more than one — so this isn’t a problem. What could be a problem is the steady blending of never-working and always-working that is so slowly leeching into our lives through our laptops and phones. Influencers are, as they always are, early adopters of this. Take them to be the first professionals of human advertising — and the first casualties of the digital connection.