How Low Will You Go for Social Media “Views” and “Likes”?

We all have been there. Holding in tummy, reapplying makeup, rearranging dishes on a table, jumping on a mountain, assuming yoga poses on a beach, chasing stray cats in some random street; all in the name of social media posts. I certainly have, to all of the above– well, the stray cat bit I’d done long before social media existed.

In embellishing a picture, we hope, secretly or not, it will gain more “view”, ‘like’ or ‘favorite’. Peer approval is used to be compliments from your immediate circles, nowadays it may come from the buttons pushed by anyone with access to your social profiles.

I’ve written here before how the rapidly growing need to look (almost) flawless on social media has driven traffic to workout camps and beauty clinics. Recent events of youths assaulting animals in Surabaya and Taman Safari Puncak, or American Youtuber Logan Paul’s outrageous videos while in Japan, are also examples of the insatiable drive to gain audience and their approval. Yet, it’s for posts of themselves. What about the posts which origin have nothing to do with the person posting them?

A literature journal recently ran a poll among indie bookstores about stolen books and the perpetrators.  Book theft is nothing new, and most of the titles mentioned on the poll were regular theft targets, but what was surprising was a new type of thief discovered—stealing not for reading, but for posting on social media. Possibly to put next to a cup of frothy latte on a cool table as typical shots are presented on Instagram, I imagine.

It used to be that you were measured by the book you read and discuss. Now as people converse less in real life and spend more time online, posting a book’s image is enough to make people assume you read it. After all, in the era of emoji-filled short message, who has time to engage you in a genuine discussion about that book you’re supposedly reading, anyway?

If you think that’s twisted, wait until you hear the story my friend Gee shared during our New Year’s Day brunch.

One of Jakarta’s respectable creative minds, Gee juggles careers as visual art director, merchandising creator and sometime social media buzzer. Understandably, he has great grasp on visual composition and color scheme, which leads to fabulous pictures on his social media posts. Having a huge number of followers is no surprise. Having some of his followers begging for his pictures to be reposted as their own, now that was my big surprise.

Yes, you read it right. Gee have had followers who asked him to send them his pictures so they could repost, and claim them as their own, on their social media. And from the messages Gee made me read, the requests were more open and deliberate than what I exercised when I asked to borrow Mom’s fancy china to host a dinner party. Shame is probably not a word ever entering their vocabulary.

Gee tried to reason that these folks, mostly in their 20s and possibly on their first job, have no resources or access to things Gee often post, yet still crave the ‘glam’ association. And that’s what worries me the most; the need to create one’s likable life image leading to consciously re-purporting another person’s imagery, even with that person’s full knowledge of the lie. It’s as if they couldn’t care less that Gee, someone they claimed they adored, would see them as phonies, as long as their peer would adore them as they would of Gee. No difference than the captured book thieves who nonchalantly admitted of stealing for social media posts. It’s approval-seeking, bragging right and delusion of grandeur on a whole different level.

If this was a trait commonly shared by the twentysomethings, that they’d rather embrace a desired image than the real deal, wouldn’t matter then how edgy the Internet-policing machine Kemkominfo planned to keep buying, nothing could stop hoaxes, which often would feed to people’s darkest fears as well as desires, from becoming accepted truth in the future. Alt-facts would just more easily be taken as facts. I mean, after all, a book would only worth of its cover instead of its content, anyway, right?

Scared? This may well be potentially more destructive than zombie apocalypse and alien landing combined, and I’m only being half sarcastic here. If you still retain a clear understanding between truth and false you can figure out how to parlay with the aliens or outsmart the zombies. But if you’re so comfortable in muddling the truth and false, human race would self-sabotage long before actual zombie outbreak or alien arrival could materialize.

I have no solutions here, and I’m afraid I’d sound delusional if I kept saying to bestow your kids with education and wisdom so we all wouldn’t head to some form of doom too soon. So, unless any of you got any eureka-worthy solution for this possible trait of the future generation, I suggest we huddle to form our post-apocalypse survival team. I’m a terrible cook but I’m good with knives and directions; tell me what survival skills you’ll bring to the team.

Happy New Year, folks. Gear up.

As published:

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