Social Media and The Follower Frenzy

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Golden Technologies

So, why do Instagram followers matter? Why do we strive to have the most followers? With a little bit of science, I’m here to answer that question.

Matthew Munson, Freelancer

On Thursday, January 20, 2022, Selena Gomez surpassed Ariana Grande as the most followed female artist on Instagram. While something like this may be considered quite trivial, when I looked up the situation on Google, six articles appeared right away reporting the news. 

I understand these celebrities are incredibly famous, but something like Instagram followers seems so miniscule compared to other such headlines swirling around the news these days. And yet, there are six articles reporting it anyway. 

So, why do Instagram followers matter? Why do we strive to have the most followers? With a little bit of science, I’m here to answer that question.

In order to get the full picture, we have to dive into the question of why we follow people. Here are four main reasons why this is: interest, character, lifestyle, and pleasure. The first reason—that of interest—comes from our personal tastes. For example, if one individual really likes blue jeans, they would be interested in following Levi’s on social media. 

The second reason—character—comes from one’s personality and interests. If Person A likes funny people who travel, and Person B is a comedian who travels to Europe, Person A is most likely to follow Person B. 

The third reason—lifestyle— is fairly self-explanatory. People have so many things they want to include in their lifestyle that simply cannot all be done; if they see those lifestyles promoted on social media, however, they will very likely want to follow it and vicariously live the lifestyle they wish. 

The last reason—pleasure—comes from pure unadulterated enjoyment. Common themes from one account will draw a lot of people who want to have that theme in their social media life as well. 

Now that we know why people follow others, we need to now flip the script: What do people do to acquire followers? The short answer: posting. With a flash of a camera and a click of a button, a picture is posted on social media. Anyone, however, can take a picture and post it on social media, so what makes certain pictures better than others? Trends. 

TikTok has its viral dances, Instagram has its new shopping platform, Snapchat has its filters, and so many other social media platforms have their trends. These trends come from the people who use them

When one person starts a trend, other people see that trend and decide to partake in it; more people then see them do it and those people decide to partake in the trend themselves. This trend of doers-viewers-doers is what makes a trend so popular. The more a trend is promoted, the more people will do it. 

Now that we have a scientific background for the follower frenzy, it’s time to answer the age-old question: Why do we care about followers? To answer this question, I think it’s important to get a teenager’s perspective on this matter rather than a benign statistic. 

Tread lightly when scrolling through social media, and only post what makes you happy, because that’s all that matters. ”

— Matthew Munson

As a teenager who has social media, my answer would be that followers are important because they show value. Having more followers means having more likes on a post, and the more likes means more popularity. Teenagers crave the feeling of attention. Having attention makes you feel seen. It makes you feel important, like you actually matter in the world. Teenagers use social media as a source of attention. 

The more likes, comments, and followers teenagers get, the more they feel valued. 

Social media can be used as an attention grabber, but it can also be used as a weapon. Promotion of bikini blondes and ab-tacular men can make people self-conscious about their body type. Wanting too much of something you simply cannot obtain makes you feel inadequate. 

Increased social media usage has even been linked to an increase of social anxiety, since we spend so much time on the Internet and not enough time in-person. The need for more followers can seriously hurt one’s mental health and wreak havoc on their life. 

The frenzy for followers has been an ongoing craze ever since social media was introduced. As a teenager, I believe it’s important to bring to light this strange situation. The world is burning up due to climate change, infected with a viral disease, and becoming a place of hate, and yet all some people care about is the number of followers they have. 

Followers don’t determine your worth in this world, and followers aren’t all that important. A picture is worth a thousand words, so whether you have 2 followers or 2,000 followers, enjoy social media cautiously.

Tread lightly when scrolling through social media, and only post what makes you happy, because that’s all that matters.