Issue 21

Socially Content Yet Blissfully Unaware

How many of us are guilty of scrolling through social media all day? How many of us check our Instagram feeds before getting out of bed in the morning? Surveys say media users spend 2.5 hours per day on social media for various reasons. The pervasiveness of social media has come to take over our lives and now defines a large part of who we are. One look at someone’s Instagram feed, and you can learn their likes, dislikes and who they are. Or at least how they wish to be perceived. 

Social media is an effective tool in helping individuals put their best foot forward. Amidst the glitz and glamour of perfectly curated feeds and highlight reels, it’s often easy to forget that most of it is not real, which is not to say that it is magic or a hologram, but rather a collection of a few memorable moments in one’s life. However, this is not true for all platforms, and they differ in the levels of authenticity portrayed. Instagram and Facebook, for example, are associated with hindered wellbeing and a more made-up version of reality, compared to Twitter which aids positive emotions and is considered a space to express honest opinions. 

One of the prime reasons for monetary-free access to social media is the financial backing by advertisers – both for our time and attention. In 2021, Facebook made $114.9 billion from advertising alone. Advertisements have hijacked social media and transformed it from a platform designed to share and connect to a marketplace to buy and sell. What you’re selling has also changed with people increasingly turning themselves into consumable brands and creating a new career path of ‘influencer’.  

Social media trends like ‘that girl‘ promote an ideal lifestyle, extensively curated to drive views to accounts. Such trends flourish and are enormously replicated because of their aspirational value to the audience that consumes them. ‘That girl’ wakes up and makes her Instagram-worthy morning coffee. She shows you her hyper-productive morning routine, wears only the most trendy clothes, flaunts her handsome partner, and makes her day look like she hardly works. She romanticizes life so well that watching her leaves you hating yourself for not having the life she does and feeling guilty for being human. The truth is, ‘that girl’ doesn’t show you the messy parts of her life. She hides the breakdowns and the breakups, doesn’t show you the extent of hard work that goes into shooting those morning routine videos, and forgets to mention that the clothes were part of a barter collaboration. ‘That girl’ carefully frames a narrative that makes you either want her or want to be her. 

Other trends, such as the ‘daily reminder that social media is fake‘ trend, focus on celebrating human flaws and all the physical insecurities social media users try to hide. These serve as a juxtaposition, reminding viewers that even ‘that girl’ is like you. While we all claim to be aware that social media is not real and applaud those who upload unedited, no-filter images, when it comes to ourselves, we find it impossible to find that same compassion. 

It’s not all that girl’s fault, though. She is simply a cog in the social media machine. The real culprit is the algorithm created to keep consumers hooked and fuel their daily mindless scrolling. Studies have shown that endless likes, shares, and retweets on social media platforms give users the same dopamine release as gambling and consuming drugs. Algorithms make use of this easy addiction and curate your feed in a way that repeatedly exhibits content of the same niche. They reinforce the ideas and feelings of positive or negative self-evaluation that the content elicits. 

Influencers leverage the idea of relatability and aspiration to construct an online persona that will be liked and replicated by their audiences to sell branded products. A study shows approximately 80% of consumers have made purchases based on influencer recommendations. Consumers are more likely to adhere to a peer recommendation than a brand advertisement and require social proof when making purchase decisions. One tends to forget that these influencers run businesses driven by a profit-oriented approach. Brands are becoming more and more aware of how to manipulate a consumer’s buying habits through influencer marketing. It is a consumer’s right to be made aware of these practices and their responsibility to ask for more information.   

At the single click of a button comes both the ease of following and unfollowing these pages. But aspiring to these lifestyles, watching this content, and repeatedly scrolling become habits one can’t forego. There is a rising herd mentality and aimless following that social media breeds. Are you losing your individuality? Is everyone slowly morphing into the most viewed social media personas, or is there still hope to escape the hypnosis of mindless consumption? 

You are the content you consume because the content, in the form of other people’s preferences, videos, and the level of familiarity, becomes the basis for your decisions. Technology allows access to a global audience, known and unknown, and suggests everything right from friends to books and music. The consumer now believes that if everyone is doing it, it must be right. We have become so dIgitally desensitized to the world outside our screens. If we take a step back, we can see that we have lost sight of what’s real and not.

Maahira Jain is a third-year student at Ashoka University studying Psychology and Media studies. She is a movie buff and is extremely passionate about writing and travelling.

Reya Daya is a third-year student, studying psychology and media studies at Ashoka University. Her other interests include writing, photography and music.

Picture Credits: Unsplash

We publish all articles under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives license. This means any news organisation, blog, website, newspaper or newsletter can republish our pieces for free, provided they attribute the original source (OpenAxis).

Issue 19

Art on the Gram: 4 Art Pages We Love Right Now

  1. It’s Nice That

An editorial platform founded in 2007 that champions artists, photographers, and magazines. Consider the platform a one-stop-shop for everything creative and currently trending.

  1. Nancy Spector

A curator, art historian, and author, Nancy is the chief curator at the Brooklyn Museum, New York. Her stunning Instagram is a perfect window into the galleries of America and other parts of the world. 

  1. Art Basel

An international fair staged across Miami, Hong Kong, and Basel, the fair’s official Instagram page is a treat to the eyes for all lovers of art and beauty. 

  1. KEIN magazine

A magazine based in Istanbul, KEIN’s Instagram page is perfect for fans of provocative art. From pop culture to photoshop, the magazine features a diverse blend of different art forms. 

(P.S: If you love political artwork, this account is for you!)

Jaidev Pant is a third-year student of Psychology and Media at Ashoka University. He is interested in popular culture and its intersections with politics, gender, and behaviour.

Picture Credits: Social Cut

We publish all articles under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives license. This means any news organisation, blog, website, newspaper or newsletter can republish our pieces for free, provided they attribute the original source (OpenAxis).

Issue 19

Oops, I Got Influenced Again!

Who thought when Oscar Wilde talked about “immoral influence” or Shakespeare pressed on “heavenly influence” the word would one day change its meaning forever. For them, it meant concepts such as the effect of heavenly bodies on humans or invading someone’s thoughts. Etymologically, the word “influence” comes from the Latin word influere meaning in ‘into’ + fluere ‘to flow’, meaning inward flow. Today, the word is not just a verb but a career, a job description. Influencers have evaded every sphere of our life. Our decisions, choices, and style revolve around their Instagram grids. But who qualifies as an influencer? What does it mean to be an Influencer? 

We can always say that Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian are influencers because people adapt their style. But is that all there is to being an influencer, people adapting your style? Influencing today has evolved due to the emergence of social media, especially Instagram and TikTok. Small videos of people doing things that are not that exceptional or unique become hyper-popular within hours, earning them the label of “influencer.” Popularity, then, seems to be an indicator of being an influencer. Popularity, however, is a subjective concept. One can be famous in a particular area but completely unknown in another. In order to tackle this confusion, OpenAxis decided to have conversations with people who are doing the work of social media influencing. Shaina Ahuja (@shainace) is a Fashion Influencer who has worked with famous brands like L’Oreal and Daniel Wellington. She describes an influencer as a person with high-quality content, a decent following, and confidence among many things. Does it mean that anybody with these characteristics is an influencer? No. Shaina goes on to add that Influencing is a career, and not just anyone can turn up and call themselves an influencer. They need to be genuine, committed to their audience and have a positive impact. Influencing comes with a lot of responsibilities– one needs to stand for a cause, push for positive change and engage in brand promotions.

Hiten Noonwal, (@hiten.noonwal) is a gender-fluid performing artist known for their avant-garde style and for being a Fashion educator. They have worked for Ritu Kumar before becoming an independent artist, and for them, being an influencer means self-acceptance, commitment, and being fearless. “You have to love your art and be proud of your work” are their words. Popularity, for them, is not a parameter of being an influencer, instead, it is gaining the right audience. They go on to say that self-validation is the key, and if one cannot influence themselves, they cannot influence others. Influencer then does not have a standard definition. It has layers, levels, and fields. 

“Every new collaboration is an opportunity for me”

Shaina Ahuja 

Shaina tells us that she started her work back when she was in Grade 10 before Instagram was so popular, and TikTok never existed. She began on Facebook and today she can proudly say that her years of hard work has begun paying off.

For Hiten, the work was tougher because of their identity. Being a queer influencer in a heteronormative society is not only tough but dangerous for one’s mental and physical health. People don’t see your work or art, but your gender or sexuality first. They go on to assert, “Queer People are fierce”. To be an influencer one needs to be fierce. People will always criticize your work, art, and job, but you need to rise above those obstacles and emerge successfully. 

“Queer People are fierce”

Hiten Noonwal

Shaina and Hiten both agree on some common elements that one should have for being an influencer but those common elements are not as important as individuality. These common elements include commitment, consistency, quality, understanding (your audience) and above all love for your job. It is not a fairytale, and the amount of hard work required to reach the level one needs to be able to endorse brands and commercialize one’s work is breathtaking. 

The conversations with Shaina and Hiten show the complexities of being an influencer and how the understanding of the word starkly differs from person to person. They both agree that posting thousands of photos, reels, and Tiktoks does not make one an influencer. One needs to understand the marketing industry, have a certain sense of panache, have good taste, and have quality in their work. One must also be ready to accept the responsibilities that are on one’s shoulders once people start following them. Above all, one must be confident, positive, and driven to achieve their goals and have a positive impact on the world.

Lakshya Sharma is a first year undergraduate student at Ashoka University. He is an economics and media studies student. Apart from his academic interests, he has keen interest in writing and fashion.

Image Credits: Thom Bradley

We publish all articles under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives license. This means any news organisation, blog, website, newspaper or newsletter can republish our pieces for free, provided they attribute the original source (OpenAxis).

Issue 8

Black Artists on Instagram

Art is a powerful tool of expression. Not only does it appeal to the visual senses but it also consolidates powerful pictures. It brings to life realities that we often hear about. To celebrate Black History Month and keep alive the spirit of the Black Lives Matter, here are a few black artists you should follow on Instagram:

  1. Lauren Harris: @loharris_art
Image Credits: Instagram @loharris_art

Lauren Harris is a Brooklyn based digital artist, who specializes in illustration and motion design. She uses bright and vibrant palettes to create artwork that embodies kindness, joy, confidence and humanity. Her artwork revolves around the everyday life of women, with a special focus on the lives of African-American people. Through her artwork, Harris also aims to contribute to various social justice initiatives.

2. Nikkolas Smith @nikkolas_smith

Image Credits: Instagram @nikkolas_smith

Nikkolas Smith is a native of Houston, Texas. His speciality lies in children’s books illustrations, movie poster design and digital painting characters. After working on several film posters, and authoring children’s illustration books, Smith has been interested in Artivism that is Activism through Art. As a person of colour, he wants to create artwork that initiates important conversations around social justice and brings about a meaningful change in the world.