Is Social Media Classist?

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Our social media feeds are littered with rich bloggers – the ones that can afford $500-$1,500 DSLR cameras, extensive iPhone bills, expensive holidays, and lots and lots of photo ops for smashed avocados or breakfasts in plush hotel room beds. I remember when I was eighteen years old the tumblr blog Rich Kids of Instagram was an anomaly – now it seems to be standard.

I grew up in a working class family, in a tiny town with a low-income average, and I have done every kind of work from washing dishes, to designing university degrees – to dancing topless on tables. I am someone who has never known wealth, and whose highest wage came in the form of fifty dollar notes being thrown at me on stage, picked up and stuffed into rubber bands around my wrists (yeah, that’s where we strippers keep our money haha).

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My beef with Instagram is not necessarily the algorithm. When I downloaded Vero a few weeks ago (lol) I realised that I actually hated the chronological algorithm. Unfortunately for me, around the time that I started to get serious about this blogging game was when the first of the non-chronological algorithm changes happened back in 2016. I was behind in the tech-support center of the Instagram/digital nomad world. Even though I’d been blogging for years, I was a 22 year old who had just finished university. My #relatable reality was more based in my housemates and I tiptoeing around the hole in our bathroom floor, and dumpster diving the ‘good’ bread from behind the supermarket.

I was able to afford an iPhone when I started my first real job, which no longer meant using my DSLR to take photos, putting them on Tumblr and then using screenshots to put them on Instagram. Yay! Then came the new changes, including my current gripe – swipe up links.

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Being a small business owner, social media is intrinsic to my success. It’s a clothing brand, people want to wear what the ‘it’ people wear, they want to support what the ‘it’ people support. Even when I worked in a strip club full of Instagram-famous dancers (which by the way I have no beef with, more power to you girls! Change the damn face of the sex industry!) this type of marketing was present. ‘People want the girl on the billboard outside the club’ – our marketing team agreed with me. It ties in to a basic human need for superiority. When we covet someone’s lifestyle – or what it appears to be – we make the unconscious connection between the objects in that persons feed and our own search for happiness. Shopping can fill a void – as well as our leaps for uncertainty and adventure, or ‘the new’.

It’s hard to grow a brand without a following these days, and it’s even harder to sell your products against the current grain of web-browsing laziness (i.e. the reality that I’ll go back to someone’s Instagram story to find a swipe-up link rather than google it).

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At the moment Instagram swipe-up links are only available to users with over 10,000 followers. Swipe up links are an incredibly easy way to sell something or link someone to something. When I’m at my laziest, I will avoid googling content I want from someone in favor of going to their Instagram account, clicking on ‘stories’ and finding the swipe up link I saw earlier. When I found myself doing this on a late Sunday morning while marathoning Gossip Girl on Netflix I stopped and thought – God damn I could get a lot of click-through to my blog, Youtube, Patreon,and store with swipe up links.

Its hard to start a business, and go through the initial highs and lows. It’s hard to be a content creator in the face of so much change. It’s even harder though, when you start to feel as though a platform that could be an amazing advertising tool for you, offers no support for you as a small business. This truly is why I don’t believe in supporting a business that doesn’t have your back – but as a business owner, I literally cannot not use Instagram.

It happens in social settings too, the follower-count based Classism. Nowadays people ask how many followers you have on Instagram, as if it shows what value you will add to their lives by befriending you. People will go out of their way to befriend models and Instagrammers purely for the online clout. It’s spongey and gross, and it’s even grosser to witness IRL. Don’t get me wrong, I fucking love social media and how many people I have connected with through it, friends I’ve made, creativity I have been exposed to. Yet picking your mates based off 1) followers, and 2) what you think they can do for you, or how superior it makes you feel to be near them is just – Ugh. Just ugh. Christ. On a goddamn bike.

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I don’t watch Black Mirror, but I’ve heard about the episode re: People with less likes or social status not being able to go to certain restaurants. It’s starting to feel like that’s where we’re headed. I mean, I’m writing this with a raging case of PMS – but I say this as someone who truly adores bloggers and youtubers, and kids making careers from their bedrooms. I love women who can use their fantastic ass, or amazing tech savvy to start a business from the ground up. I live for hearing these stories. I don’t think social media is ruining society – I think the addictive personalities and habits it creates – the reduction of using it mindfully – is highly detrimental to our empathy skills and social development as humans.

It does depend on what you consume though, how much, how often – and what you’re trying to create in turn. So many of us turned to social to escape the rat race – and now it’s starting to feel like it’s become the biggest one of all.

Of course, we know the initial social media methods were based on addiction in order to attract consistent users. Facebook, like all forms of media, wanted its’ ad revenue.

In terms of helping people grow, I personally think a better algorithm would be something that kind of, ‘graded on a curve’ – as in, sure prioritise those big posts that do well from the 1M+ follower Influencers, but then prioritise those posts that do well for someone with an average following, or only a few followers. Create something that promotes the best posts at all levels. To be fair Instagram head honchos, if you’re listening – that would be a smart business move because it would be effectively using Meg Jay’s ‘weak ties’ theory in a digital setting.

So, how does this tie into classism? Is it a new breed of bougie vs proletariat?

Society has always operated with the notion of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ – aspiration has always existed and caused followers and copycats. The aforementioned psychological phenomena of using products to fill an alignment void – where we believe the things will take us closer to the lifestyle we imagine the object of our aspiration is living – has always been around. Those who do not have, are prejudiced against. Social media has the ability to cause intense separation between the classes of those with and without followers, ‘it’ items, and other lifestyle factors.

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3 thoughts on “Is Social Media Classist?

  1. The V Pub says:

    My neighbor’s facebook page is littered with copious amounts of extravagant vacation photos, their new 4k televisions, and so on. It’s a bit in everyone face, at least that’s how I feel. The reality, as we had found out, was that they had mortgaged their home into oblivion and are now very deep under water. So, they may have created the illusion of prosperity, but it wasn’t real. Your photos are wonderful!

    Like

    • Cali Bourne says:

      That’s interesting. I’m interested in the behavioral dynamics of what will happen to society over time – I guess people putting themselves in debt is definitely one. That mentality has certainly always been a thing. X

      Like

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