Social media has come to a stage where it has become more appealing than real life itself & in today's world, we have seen a rise in the concept of social media influencers. They are basically individuals who utilize a variety of social media platforms to express their opinions on specific brands or products, consequently influencing their captive audience. The concept is simple - a 'normal' person who is a representative of the general public, honestly reviewing and discussing products and building a relationship with their audience. This relationship of influencers with the audience comes with the power to affect the purchase of specific products. Influencers utilize this position of power within the industry to engage with their followers. The concept in itself has no problem with it, but the effect that it has on creators of different art forms is enormous. There might be a particular type of art that people like to see more on social media (for example, the subcategory of portraits in photography) or something that is always trending or some things that people are inclined to engage more about. Social Media companies have utilized this fact to their advantage by shaping their algorithms to encourage this kind of behavior and increase the time spent by people on their platforms and hence increasing profits. This has taken a significant toll on people's art forms itself. We all are quite aware of the detrimental effects that social media has on its users but the point I want to highlight here is more about the negative impact of social media on creators rather than on consumers.
In order to gain more followers, creators usually start picking up on the trends and start focusing on engaging more and more audience rather than focusing on their own unique form of art. Although social media has benefited small artists by giving them a platform, mostly, it has corrupted the art form itself to suit the platform's needs. For example, people have started uploading videos of optimized length & topics on YouTube, which the algorithm prefers to recommend, and this, in turn, has molded the creativity and art of content creators on YouTube. Derek Muller has a great video on his channel Veritasium on YouTube by the name of 'My Video Went Viral. Here's Why', which explains this effect. Hence in a way, it has made people into slaves of the algorithm rather than the masters of it. So if someday algorithm changes for worse, to get more followers and increase their reach, creators also change their content for worse.
But all hope is not lost. There is constant pressure on companies by creators to improve their algorithms to eliminate any kind of implicit bias that there might be. Moreover, some people remain true to their art and are not just about big numbers on social media platforms. Being an amateur photographer myself, I find it very sad that most of the entry-level photographers just try to get as many followers as possible by posting pictures that have a high rate of engagement, for example, portraits of young and beautiful models. We all know what kind of images usually trend on the search page of Instagram. This is detrimental to both the art form and to the artist because the audience starts judging one's art form based on the number of followers and the number of likes, whereas the truth is that these stats have nothing to do with how good a piece of art is. This even misleads the artists to think low of themselves if they don't succeed in acquiring enough followers.
On the contrary, if an artist has a lot of followers on social media because whatever he/she posts is what the algorithm favors, he/she might think highly of himself. The point I want to make is that all this blinds us to see the real picture. However, the users of the platform have the power to change this by being more conscious about the content they consume. Although it might not be easy to change the content we consume so easily and quickly but to curb an unhealthy diet, one doesn't stop eating, but instead, one eats healthier foods & perhaps less food. We can have cheat days, but we should be careful & recognize the very real consequence of what and how much media we consume.
In conclusion, the audience and the content creators both should understand that statistics are not something that always tells about how good you are at your art. Art is about expressing yourself, not about getting more people to like your stuff. There is light within you that makes you satisfied when creating content, and that satisfaction is what the artist should be focusing on. Even throughout history, the most celebrated artists, painters, photographers, directors, etc. didn't create their art to satiate the audience's needs, but they followed the light within themselves to create work that felt beautiful and brought satisfaction to their souls. Following into the steps of Mahatma Gandhi – "Be the change you want to see in this world" – I have made a point of not letting my photography be affected by any kind of statistics and numbers, but rather focus on allowing my ideas and perspective to glow through my pictures.