It’s easy to underestimate the amount of influence we have on one another.
Much of my life has been spent assuming my actions are inconsequential, of little worth and certainly not influential in other people’s lives, which is a lie. Acts as small as saying hello to the postman have an effect on another person’s life, every social interaction creates reality.
When we post an image on Instagram, are we doing it to share, or to influence someone? Because whether it’s intentional or not, we are doing both. All of our decisions, whether conscious or not, are influenced by social interactions and all of our actions have an influence on others, whether intentional or not.
The reading rooms at the British Library have become my home, as I pore over Instagram and sociology books, gaining an insight into what Instagram is telling us about food. It’s a fascinating process, looking into the world of visual excess and how scattergun usage of words like “healthy” has created a world that’s quite unlike the physical one we inhabit.
Perhaps people don’t understand their influence, but as soon as you have one follower, you have influence and it grows from there. Friends who have 100 followers can influence me, whereas the contrarian in me probably rails against the things that users with 10 million followers do.
It’s shining a light on the ridiculous nature of our constructed social media world, which falls apart very quickly under close scrutiny. The moment I look at an Instagram post in detail, the illusion fails and the artificial reality becomes apparent, the props, the peculiar serving sizes, the language used not for the benefit of accurate, rich, textual representation, but to seek the largest amount of search results, keywords, followers and ultimately influence.
Reality is a distorted place when it is created as a marketing exercise to promote a person and their wares, rather than for effective communication. Social media puts a tangible number on popularity, imagine how utterly awful school would be if we had to walk around wearing a badge which displayed the number of friends we had? That’s what social media does today. It creates a world where the only way to feel accomplished is to get the largest number and therefore be popular. That, or drive us to self harm.
There is also a trend towards food that is obviously not real. It might perhaps be edible, however some incredible processes during the production of the food and also during the post production of the image have resulted in food that is clearly supernatural and cartoon-like in it’s vivid colours or exquisite uniformity. Fine dining restaurants have famously taken great care to mould their food into delicate forms of perfection that bely the awkward unevenness of natural products, a process being seen on Instagram, with militant repetition and perfection beyond the realms of domestic attainability.
In a world where our realities are shaped through social interactions, it leaves me wondering what effect these popular displays of preternatural perfection have upon their viewers. They are no doubt eye-candy of the highest order, the kinds of creations that historically may have been in galleries, yet now, they sit in public spaces alongside pictures of my niece getting her face painted. They are my reality.
Accounts that create these images receive lots of likes and subsequently followers, influencing those around them. This world, where the only way to procure popularity (American presidency, or Brexit) is through big numbers on social media is a scary prospect, because it’s done by creating a hyper-real state of life for all to see, a fake-news parallel universe which then reflects uneasily upon our own, dull, grey imperfectly normal ones.