If you want to know what type of people a nation is going to produce, look at what values it most consistently emphasizes, promotes, and rewards and you’ll have a pretty good idea of how things will turn out. A culture that encourages children to be more like Mother Theresa and Billy Graham is going to churn out human beings that look, think, and behave nothing like a culture that encourages kids to be more like Kim Kardashian and Logan Paul. Incidentally, just in case you’re wondering which of those two descriptions best describes our culture, going by poll results over the last few years, it’s definitely the latter.
For example, here’s something from a couple of weeks ago that has been making the rounds:
Perhaps even more shocking, our study found that Gen Z males (20%) are more likely than females (13%) to believe that being a social media influencer is the only choice of career for them, with almost half of the males surveyed (49%) agreeing that being a social media influencer is a good career choice.
Overall, over 1 in 4 Gen Z surveyed plan to become social media influencers, with 16% even claiming that they would pay to become one.
Believe it or not, these numbers may be LOW going by this:
According to a Bloomberg study, 98% of middle school and high school students would like to be a social media influencer.
At some point, you’ve probably heard someone say something akin to, “If the world had a lot more people like you in it, would it be a better or worse place?” This is actually a good question for people to ponder, but I’d take it a step further to make it more meaningful. “If your town and neighborhood were full of people like you, would it be a better or worse place?” Additionally, because deep down in their soul, even the worst human beings seldom believe they’re bad people, it’s important to dig into actual behaviors.
For example, there was a post on Reddit a few days ago that has since been deleted, but the gist of it was that someone had ordered an $800 TV from a big box store. They came and picked up the TV, but the store screwed up, didn’t log that they picked up the TV, and was alerting them that if it wasn’t delivered soon, they’d be refunded the $800. So, they were asking people what they should do. Most of the responses broke down into two categories, with the bottom type of response being more common than the top:
Would you rather live in an area filled with people like person #1 or person #2? Which one do you think would be a better neighbor? Which one do you think would be more likely to steal from you if they could get away with it? Which one would you feel more comfortable having in your house or doing you a favor by watching your dog for an hour? These are not unanswerable questions because although there are always exceptions to the rule, attitudes, values, and ways of looking at the world tend to come in clusters. The sort of person who views stealing as wrong is usually going to be an innately better person in a wide variety of areas than someone who doesn’t look at the world that way.
This is important when we talk about influencers because oftentimes, the values that make people successful on social media are very different from the values that will make them good neighbors or even good people. If you looked at the most common traits across the board of people that were successful influencers, you’d see things like being overly emotional, deliberately controversial, drama prone, confrontational, narcissistic, lacking shame, and being willing to say or do anything to get attention. Those are not a collection of traits you’re typically going to see in decent, stable, mentally healthy people that you want to be around. In fact, the only reason the famous influencers get by with these traits is because they’re rich, famous, incredibly talented, extraordinarily good-looking, or have status. If you have some combination of those things going for you, you may be surprised at how many glaring, obvious flaws will be waved off by the people around you. If those wonderful benefits were taken away from influencers like Kim Kardashian, Donald Trump, Logan Paul, and PewDiePie, leaving them as regular people with the same personality traits, all of them would be absolutely insufferable. So, what happens when a huge percentage of the population aspires to be the next Milo Yiannopoulos, Shoe0nHead, or Jake Paul without the money, the fame, or the genetic gifts? It’d turn the whole culture into a cacophonous ocean of rude, outraged, needy twits screaming “look at me!” in millions of different grating voices.
Yet, how can we blame kids for wanting to be influencers when we see the people and values that are most celebrated in our culture? When kids see hundreds of thousands of eyes tuning in to see someone do a goofy TikTok dance, make a sarcastic comment on Twitter, rant while playing a video game, or act like a prostitute on Instagram, they’re getting a lesson on what their culture rewards. They’re also getting another type of lesson when they see their friends and people they admire laugh at morality, value entertainment over wisdom, and celebrate slackers more than hard workers.
We are not a culture that promotes virtue, hard work, honor, service to the community, wisdom, productivity, humility, or chastity. In fact, although there are subcultures that celebrate those things, those sorts of values are as out of style as top hats and beehive hairdos in the wider culture. However, when we look around our country, what do we see? Almost every American institution is cratering, the country gets more dysfunctional every day, and more and more Americans believe we’re headed towards a civil war. That’s not a coincidence, it’s a consequence of the values we promote as a society.
Just watched an After Skool video today on the phenomenon of social media influencers - "How "influencers" become brainwashed by their audiences." This is known as audience capture. It is not a good outcome for the influencer. The shallowness of our culture is leading to the death of us.
Very well written piece.