No, it’s not you, These Influencers are really screwing you over
The Breakdown of Growing Side-Effects of Bad Influencers
“Don’t miss investing in this new hot IPO, make 5X your investments in 2 years” says a top Finance media house
“Learn to crack FAANG with my paid Bootcamp” claims a popular Tech Youtuber
“Meet this charismatic CEO whose company is changing the world” cites another Popular Business Magazine
“This popular Leader is bringing back his country’s past glory” — says an Instagram post
Have you ever wondered, who are the people who write these articles/posts or make these videos? Why oftentimes these taglines never turn out to be true? Do you ever question, What is the source for their news and is the news even legit?
Countless people have been scammed, duped, betrayed, have lost their hard-earned money, livelihood and mental health because of these Influencers. But why do smart and well educated people get into such a trap?
Well this problem is really the tip of the iceberg, the modern media is filled with instances of these people going out of their way to persuade people whether in politics, academics, business or professional life to gain an advantage.
Origin story of the word “Influence”
The word comes from Old French influence which meant “emanation from the stars that acts upon one’s character and destiny”. The Wikipedia definition of influence is
“The power to affect, control or manipulate something or someone; the ability to change the development of fluctuating things such as conduct, thoughts or decisions.”
The meaning itself includes worlds like “to manipulate”, “change decisions” and “seeking to alter behaviors and thought patterns.”
But did you ever worry about being “manipulated” or “changing your mind & behavior” because of advice by some 20 year old living on the other side of the world. Well, you may be surprised that your mind is constantly being stimulated to alter your thought process on a daily basis — all thanks to your smartphones and smart devices.
To be or not to be Influenced
Majority of online wealth is created through advertisers. The world of advertising has evolved itself from newspapers, radios, Television sets to Smartphones. From classified ads in newspaper to Bulletin advertising to modern day Web Ads , all of them have one thing in common — try and get as many eye balls on a particular product or service.
“Money runs the world” — This not only is true but also one of the reasons why many of us work. But should money be the only factor when we are trying to gain an audience? Where are ethics, morals and dignity?
Well if you don’t know in politics various political parties have there own separate departments for carrying out PR (public relations) and advertising which are often termed as IT cells. The goal of these IT cells is to create a narrative around a story, circulate a story through Whatsapp or social media and try to convince & win people over —Regardless of how wrong or misinterpreted their narrative might actually be.
Similar is the case with emerging twitter Finance gurus who give stock trading tips daily or tell their followers which crypto or NFTs to buy. Do people really think these Keyboard warriors want to help people and even worse care about them?
In the Influencer world, People get paid to speak and promote things
I know this is nothing new and all of us have an idea that some Youtubers specify sponsorships in their video by XYZ company from the beginning.
But what about those other Youtubers who don’t specify the sponsorship even after receiving them, what about those people who post on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn about a person, product or service without specifying that they are getting paid to do so?
Well the problem is not with posting such things, the problem is when you don’t know what you are seeing. Before the advent of smartphones it was easy for us to distinguish between content and advertising, for example: In the world of Television, it is easy to know the difference between an advertisement and the content.
Now these worlds have merged — all thanks to bad implementation and some bad actors. Some people don’t even know they are advertising because they get caught up in the hype.
Nowadays, It’s easy to create a narrative about anything ( both for and against)
In 1920s, great freedom fighters like Mahatma Gandhi had to go village to village attending & organizing sabhas (public meetings) to meet & talk to people to understand their problems & engage them in India’s freedom struggle.
Today all this can be done with a single click of a button. You don’t even need to get your writings/speeches censored before posting.
Whether it be a war between two countries, a flashy post about massive debt reduction in a once great Coffee brand stock or a billionaire claiming a particular cryptocurrency to be the future — In all these scenarios ordinary people were duped either of their hard-earned money or mental peace just because they trusted someone on the Internet.
These Influencers created a narrative based on their understanding and posted on social media about it, later big news agencies picked up the news and further provided reach to a false/misinterpreted/misleading story.
The problem is that we humans have forgotten to give deep thought on anything. We fail to understand a problem from first principles while it is easy for us to troll, deny and counter-attack a different opinion.
Losing health and wealth by scrolling the web
Millions of people have lost money listening to people running pump and dump schemes, giving stock tips and telling you to invest in penny stocks.
Countless others have voted for fascist political leaders just because of well run advertising campaign by their parties and faced social disharmony later on.
There’s a story about Hitler and Nazi party that seems to fit the modern day influencer antics. In 1932, the Nazi party became the single largest party in Germany. But how did a racist leader and his extreme ideology gather votes? The reason is because there were 3 kinds of voters:
1. Some bought into his extreme ideology.
2. Some didn’t agree with his racism but were willing to vote for him anyway.
3. Many didn’t know much about politics at all but just got caught up in the hype.
The last 2 voters determined the outcome for Germany and the world more than they ever thought so. That’s 66% voters (even more) who didn’t examine his erratic behavior and racist ideology before voting!!
The last 2 people were the ones who suffered the most, not because they voted but because they got betrayed.
A charismatic leader (put Influencer) claiming to solve all their problems (put Money, Health & Life problems). Naturally people did fall prey to him.
What is the solution for this growing problem?
With the growth of technology and social media platforms, masses have been given a lot of freedom to express and share their opinions. Although I do think it is their right to do so, preventing bad actors from misusing the system should be the first priority.
Here are a few step that can help save you from bad Influencers:
- Learning to question the source of the news is the first step. Don’t take anything at face value, just because it comes from someone who is trustworthy.
- Asks 5 whys? Know why the author published the story and what he is getting out of it — in terms of money, fame or revenge.
- If the comments section includes derogatory remarks against certain people, it may be a targeted posts. People usually form Telegram or Whatsapp groups to try and increase reach of such posts. These keyboard warriors will disband conversations and create a slug-fest. Trust your gut and report such posts/videos. Yes, creating social media groups are one way to get you trending on Twitter :D
- Don’t listen to flashy news channels with News Anchors screaming on the top of their lungs with burning red headlines, here they usually have vested interest in the story. A simple wikipedia search about them can help you figure it out. Time spent listening to them is adding money in their pockets, most of these News Anchors are millionaires. They will suck every ounce of blood you have, better turn them off. For them controversy creates cash.
- Mute news notifications from your phone and avoid getting news through social media. Trust me, you don’t need 24/7 updates. If the news is important, you would get to know about it anyhow.
- Unfollow & Unsubscribe anyone who claims they will you a millionaire within a short span. That’s a 100% lie. The only people getting rich will be them. This includes people selling their expensive courses to you, those get-rich-quick schemes never work.
- Learn to listen and make your own narrative. People will always give their “Right to Think” to others. Don’t make that mistake, use your brain to decode, analyze and act.
- Number of Followers, Subscribers, Likes and Comments mean NOTHING. They are just numbers in your head, don’t allow them to make a decision on your behalf especially when you money and livelihood is involved.
The world of social media and OTT services are pretty new, it’s only been 18 years since Facebook was launched while remaining platforms are relatively nascent.
It will take a some time before law makers create a conclusive law against unfair use of such platforms.
Lastly technology is a reflection of people - their insecurities, desires, prejudices, pain, anger and happiness. Learning to use them correctly can go a long way and save you from physical & mental harm.
Till then the only thing you can do is to protect yourself. Asking for advice is okay but blindly following anyone on the internet can never be good.