Welcome to a world of pixels and colours that’s become about the dollars and cents

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
My Reading Room

Welcome to a world of pixels and colours that’s become about the dollars and cents.

This is the one issue in the year when I really have to engage with my millennial team. Their faces are constantly glued to their iPhone screens and because it’s our Digital issue, I feel I have every right to ask them: What are they making googly eyes at 24/7? Last year’s wildly popular Snapchat is this year’s runaway success called Instagram Stories. Users in Asia love the filters but they don’t use this social media platform to interact with their followers as much. Instead, they play with Snapchat’s facial filters and download the mini videos to be uploaded on IG stories. IG Stories have become the go-to, providing a behind-the-scenes visual diary of an influencer’s life. And because it’s only live for a day, it’s become truly a 24-hour experience that everyone can share. It’s still curated, just without the need to have the same edit as their permanent feed. The great thing about IG Stories is that only you get to see the comments—you can tag, add hashtags and even add a swipe to go direct to a website, so it’s become a lot more user-friendly and, ultimately, clickable and shoppable.

It’s the last component that makes me question the continuing appeal of Instagram—when so much is a paid experience, is there anything real or authentic left in a post? Because Instagram has over 500 million users who post over 95 million photos and videos each day, what do you have to do nowadays to be noticed? Take the latest instance of bad viral marketing: Models like Bella Hadid, Hailey Baldwin, Alessandra Ambrosio and Emily Ratajkowski were “paid”to promote the disastrous Fyre Festival on their social media accounts. Now infamously known as the millennial Lord of the Flies meets The Hunger Games, guests who paid up to US$12,000 for tickets to the music festival in the Bahamas were shocked and disgusted by how this “viral” event was cancelled at the last minute and “luxury tent accommodation” turned out to be leftover disaster relief shelters. Instead of caviar and Champagne, soggy cheese sandwiches and bottled water were served. Hadid and friends were quick to delete the posts from their feeds and issue apologies to their fans, but was it a case of too little, too late?

When people buy into numbers and supposed Insta-fame, you really start to wonder if the app is just built on fantasies. Check out Social Blade, a website that gives all users access to their public database to provide you with global analytics for any content creator, live streamer, or brand. This website is addictive—it’s the fastest way to learn whether the social account you have been faithfully following has bought its followers or not. You can see exactly how an account has grown their followers, whether they’re organic or bought; or if they have tempered with bots and apps that allow you to buy everything from followers and likes to interactions.

I do long for the days when Instagram was a real authentic experience and not one where you have to work out what’s paid and not. But truth be told, social media should be taken with a huge pinch of salt because what is shown, said and posted could be the furthest thing from the truth. That’s why true experiences are best done in real time. And you don’t need Bella to tell you that.■

Send me your comments on Instagram:@kennieboy