At some point in your life, you will hear the refrain, “Unfollow models & influencers and start following artists.”
Some variation of this quote goes viral about once a year, prompting us to follow more ‘wholesome’ content creators.
However, while being bombarded with glamorous ‘content’ may be bad for our mental health, there is no clear line between ‘aspirational’ and ‘masochistic’.
Plus, as Vanity Fair recently revealed, even the so-called ‘nourishing’ creators portray a life too good to be true.
So, does this mean Instagram’s decision to “kill the likes” (touted as an attack on influencers and a shield for users’ mental health) is flawed?
How about the widely babbled idea that we should prune our feed of models?
Unfollow IG models and influencers.
Start following artists and designers.
Your entire outlook on life will change.
— Michael J. Miraflor (@michaelmiraflor) April 2, 2019
Well, smart as it might sound to start following a bunch of artists and architects, turns out — unless you’re following the particularly creative ones (think Dina Broadhurst or Type 7) — a week of pallid buildings and oblique sketches is enough to send anyone back to the FOMO-inducing travel bloggers and fitness fiends.
Plus: who’s to say influencers don’t work hard? While these “denizens of materialism and mediocrity” (Sydney Morning Herald) are routinely criticised by middle-aged journalists for being lazy and self-indulgent, reading such articles leaves one wondering if there is a form of journalism lazier and more self-indulgent than an opinion piece that confirms a stereotype.
While “photogenic young women” like Pia Muehlenbeck may “appear to spend their days… pouting,” as SMH writer Andrew Hornery admits, “Her two million followers mean she can charge a minimum of $4,500 per post to anyone who wants to sponsor her.”
She also happens to be a lawyer, fashion designer and entrepreneur. Suffice to say: it takes high-level emotional intelligence, hard work, tolerance for scorn and marketing skills to amass a following you can make a living from on Instagram.
As for materialism? That is a feature of all society. And as Instagram’s ‘show off’ community grows, so do accounts where people can find off-beat travel destinations, learn how to become more eco-friendly and improve their mental health without feeling like they are being patronised as often happens in more traditional spaces (see: how irreverent memes are breaking down the stigma around mental health).
Not to mention: before Instagram existed we were hardly flicking through architecture catalogues and inspirational quotes from historical figures on the way to work.
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This isn’t just the case if you’re single. In fact, experts say it’s perfectly healthy for couples to follow models on Instagram, with Cosmo’s relationship advisor Logan Hill last year saying the only difference between the rest of human history and this current moment is that before, there wasn’t a digital record of people’s idle thoughts.
“When we let ourselves follow flights of imagination (generally, a healthy thing to do), we now leave digital trails behind. This is new territory. But whether or not there’s digital evidence, men and women have (both) got to accept that their partners occasionally and even often think about other people.”
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So — before you feel too guilty about your ‘following’ list, just remember; all those who have gone all Marie Kondo on theirs are doing so from some shaky high ground. And if you are going to join them; just cull all the people and follow some four legged friends…
Nah, real talk, just follow dogs like I do. Best decision EVER.
— André Mariette (@MarietteMusic) April 3, 2019