I talk about social media quite a bit on my page. Over the years I’ve called out influencers, criticized the objectification of positive queer causes, complained about over-sharers, etc. I often wonder, what is it about these platforms that possess unassuming, pleasant queer people and turn them into obnoxious fame whores. I guess that answer is pretty easy, a mixture of attention and a lack of acceptance. Sure, those are generalizations, but it’s well-known that many in the queer community lack acceptance and rightfully seek it out because it makes them feel better. Combine that with the status quo of how you become “internet famous” these days, i.e. taking your shirt off and doing backflips in stilettos while singing Lady Gaga “Shallow” in a flash mob of 14 white guys with perfectly curated beards on Santa Monica Blvd., and you have quite the queer spectacle (and epidemic) on your hands.
While I guess nobody is doing anything wrong in the barely exaggerated example above, it becomes an issue (in my opinion) through the “snowball effect.” It would be fine if a handful of people were doing things to be internet famous, but now we have a generation of young queer people trying to accomplish the same feat of fame to validate themselves and find acceptance. I have met some internet famous people in person, and many are actually quite awkward and unsure of themselves. The internet is their shield, and they feel extremely confident in everything they do on the platform. When thousands of people instantly approve of what you’re posting, it’s easy to feel like a mini-Beyonce. Sometimes that translates naturally into real life and helps build self-esteem, but other times it makes these people act like pretentious divas in the real world where no one actually knows who they are and why they are being ridiculous (causing people to hate them or put them in dangerous situations).
This may be a harsh take, but I personally think the internet has made celebrities of people who wouldn’t be anything otherwise. Sometimes this can be an amazing, Cardi B-esque story. In those cases, the internet truly levels the playing field of opportunity and many people harness the power of social media for good causes or to make successes out of themselves in industries that wouldn’t look twice at them otherwise. That is amazing and I am in full support of it. However, with many queer examples I can think of, social media has made role models out of people that are completely unprepared and reckless with the influence they have amassed. They have hundreds of thousands of impressionable people hanging on their every word and action, and they turn around and sell out to use their influence for personal gain.
It doesn’t stop there. I wouldn’t even be mad if we had a bunch of Instagram hoes that just acted like Instagram hoes and cashed their flat tummy spon-con checks. What we have now is far more sinister. We have a bunch of people with low self-esteem who have catapulted to fame, befriended their famous peers, gotten the same trainer, recreated the same perfect bodies, have nothing of depth to talk about, but want us to consume everything they do and often times feign an interest in positive causes to further boost their self promotion. There is absolutely no taste or decorum in how these people operate. They sold their souls to the Gram long ago. They will sell you a razor, they will get ass naked to encourage you to donate to your local children’s hospital, and they will even pimp their own kids out if it means getting a check. And don’t you dare try to call them out or question the way they handle anything, or thousands of their diehard and brainwashed fans will attack you for being jealous.
It boils down to this. Unfortunately, we have too many pretty idiots representing who we are as a community to those outside of our community as well as impressionable people within it. There are some good ones out there, but there are so many more bad ones. The issue with this lifestyle is that most people living it did not have a solid foundation or self-esteem prior to their internet fame. It’s similar to child stars often becoming train wrecks. Without an intense amount of discipline, perspective, and normal people keeping you in check, you become a victim of your own fame. But, unlike child stars, the nature of social influence today is that instead of ruining your own life, you are dragging thousands of impressionable people along with you for the ride. You are giving thousands of people a false impression of what it takes to be successful and feel good about yourself, and you have so many fans liking, commenting, and co-signing your opinions, that a voice of reason can’t even rise to the top.
Unless Instagram or YouTube suddenly require all influencers to enroll in mandatory psychiatric care, I’m not sure there is an ultimate solution to this predicament. I hope that by talking about it, people within and outside of our communities realize the extent of this problem. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with social media – it is a modern reality. We use it to connect, unwind, amuse, and motivate. There are a ton of great things happening on it. I just hope that posts like this help more of us develop an awareness and demand an accountability from those in the queer community using social media in reckless ways that reflect poorly on all of us.