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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Corruption of the “Follow” Button

    “Social media refers to interaction among people in which they create, share, and/ or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks,” according to social media experts Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein. In the past years I have noticed social media deviate from it’s traditional definition. It started off as a medium to “create, share, and exchange” information, but has turned into a popularity contest. Seeing as Oxford Dictionaries word of the year for 2013 was “selfie,” it is safe to say this change could be attributed to the somewhat narcissistic direction social media behavior has succumbed to. 

    Of course, I am not saying the “popularity” aspect of social media is a completely new concept. Back in the days of the original Facebook and Myspace, your friend count did matter to some extent; however, it was a mutual exchange. Someone added you and if you accepted, both friend counts increased. This sounds comical, but you cannot deny that whenever you hit a milestone (500 friends, 800 friends, 1,000 friends) that you definitely took note. 

    Nowadays, there is a different interaction in social networking: the “follow” button. The top social media sites such as Twitter,  Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine, etc. make use of it. With a “follow” button, there is no longer a mutual exchange. When someone “follows” another person on a social media site, they are doing so to see what that person is sharing. There is no promise they will be getting a follow in return. 

    This idea of the follow button is convenient because you can be more exclusive with what you see on your own news feed. People can follow you, without you having to see their posts, if you do not want to. However, I have sensed a shift in these online exchanges. The most prominent one being that people are measured by the amount of followers they have. The more followers someone has, the more influential they are to the public. I cannot lie, I have followed people on several social media sites simply because they have an abundance of followers. I figure if all these people are following some public figure or brand, they must be doing something interesting. 
      With people’s reputation relying on a follower count, it is no wonder we have figured out how to work the system.  If you don’t have a lot of followers, don’t worry. You can always buy them. Yes, this is a thing. There are dozens of sites such as InterTwitter, FanMeNow, and Viral Media Boost, that one can go on to pay for however many followers they want. This is especially relevant in the Twitter-sphere. You can receive 25 thousand twitter followers for the low price of 25 dollars. Who are these followers, you may ask? They are fake Twitter accounts, thousands and thousands of fake Twitter accounts. Believe it or not, this process is more common than one would think. Two Italian researchers, Andrea Stroppa and Carlos Micheli, called out celebrities and brands on their suspicious Twitter activity. Pepsi, Mercedez- Benz and Louis Vuitton had significant and unrealistic gains and losses of over 30,000 followers in one day. American politician Newton Gingrich, Russian prime minister Dmitri Medvedev, and rapper Diddy shared similar activity. 

While this may seem like a good way to boost up the reputation of a person or company, I find it unethical. Creating a following on false pretenses to establish credibility is not a fair way to earn status. If I were to find out that a company or public figure had purchased their following, I would feel extremely misled and question their integrity. A large following has the same impact of a review on Yelp or Craigslist because people trust companies, products, and public figures, when they see that others approve. Through a business perspective, I completely understand the action of buying followers. There certainly is something to be gained from having a lot of people view your posts; however, I believe the obsession with numbers and status has corrupted the original intentions of social media. The follow button has caused people to become conscious of their following and as a result has sped up the transition of social media changing from a medium for interaction to a platform for advertising. 

Alexandria Rousset


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