Today I saw the headline “Content creator camps help kids become online influencers” and to me, this represents a nightmare, rather than a dream. It represents a nightmare rather than a dream because the notion of creating content to sell, to influence, and to market, rather than to amuse, inform, educate and entertain seems wrong.
YouTube and Instagram are awful. They’re awful because people are creating content to get views, likes and subscribers, rather than to produce individual videos of special interest. Social media should first and foremost be about connecting people, having conversations and establishing strong bonds, that, with time, become friendships in the physical world, rather than online. People should create content that is fun and entertaining.
On YouTube, Instagram and other platforms people create a video where they keep saying “Don’t forget to like and subscribe, more than once. In some videos they tell us to do this at the start of a video, and again half way through, before telling us to do it at the end. In many circles, and for people of my generation that practice is clearly spamming. I’m curious about views, and comments, but I don’t give a flying duck about likes and subscribes. That’s not why I create content. My aim is to share moments, nice sites, thoughts and experiences. It is not to be a binfluencer. I have no desire to be a binfluencer.
There was a time when I hoovered up YouTube content, watching up to three or four hours a day. Eventually I stopped. At the time content was content, and it was fun and interesting to watch. With Google Prime I found that everything that was being pushed on me was junk with millions of views. In one series of YouTube videos the idiot drew one eyed trouser snakes in everything he did. In another the person always did eccentric things, that eventually bored me. In a third case I saw that an English content creator created a clickbait headline. Before that I liked the content, and after that I blocked the channel from being recommended.
It’s the same with Instagram influencers. I went to Instagram to share nice photographs from my walks and adventuress. With the coming of Facebook, binfluencers, and more there was a cultural shift to the illusion of opulence, rather than ordinary life. As more and more junk was pushed towards me I quit. Is that really what we want to teach children and teenagers?
People shouldn’t be taught to be influencers. They should be taught to be creative artists. They should be taught about the art of film, documentary and television. They should be taught about story telling, about editing, continuity, shot types, sizes and more. They should be taught how to write good scripts and more. They should be taught to create content that is not just about views, likes and subscriptions. They should be taught to create individual pieces that are beautiful to watch, or interesting to watch. It shouldn’t be about selling. It should be about living in the moment. It should be about fun and pleasure.
I recently found a photography group on Facebook where skilled photographers share photographs because of their love of beautiful images. As I look at those images, and given that to have Facebook and Instagram would cost 15CHF per month, rather than 9CHF, I would be tempted to dump Instagram, since so much of that content is influencer garbage.
In previous decades film and television were well-funded mediums that people invested their time and money in. There was the notion of being media professionals, of high production values and more. Now we have shifted towards a different age. It’s the age of the Cult of The Amateur, as Andrew Keen called it in the zeros but it’s also the age of community video on an international scale. To a large degree binfluencers are making community videos that have global reach. Instead of aiming for work in film and television people are going for the bottom of the barrel, social media.
It’s the Goal, Rather than the Medium
In the 21st century, whether you use iPhone Pro Max like Apple for its keynote, or a broadcast camera, doesn’t make much difference on a laptop or mobile phone screen. It’s only on 4k, UHD or Apple Vision Pro that it will make a difference. Rather than creating content for the pleasure of working with the medium people are creating content to sell. They’re being trained to spam and market, rather than enjoy the medium for what it is.
If you search for influencer on Google News you will find stories about people endangering themselves with horses, dying after liposuction, gyms banning selfies, and more. I just searched for “influencer”, nothing more.
To be a social media influencer you need to get a mobile phone, probably the highest spec possible. You also need to buy your own camera gear, sound equipment, edit suites, and more. You also need to pay for transport, accommodation and more. Social media influencers take on all of the financial risk, without any of the guarantees on the other side. You might spend thousands on creating a dream experience, but if it’s not picked up by normal users, then that money was wasted.
In conventional broadcasting models people come up with an idea, sell the idea, and it’s someone else that puts the money forward and accepts the financial risk. It might take more time to pitch ideas and get funding but in the end you’re paid as a content creator, for creating content, rather than after the fact, for behaving like a spammer. “Please hit the like button, click the bell and punch the subscribe button” when said in every video, is spam. Writing clickbait headlines is spam. Catering to the algorithms, rather than creating content for the sake of content is spam.
Almost every video on YouTube that is recommended on the front page is written as clickbait. It uses sensationalism, as well as titles that give a glimmer of what the content is about, without telling you. The headlines are sensationalist, rather than factually relevant. “I crossed the Deadliest Jungle”, “girls smile in front of their graves…”, “10 things you must never do with your watch” and more. All of these headlines are designed to make you click, without giving you the reason behind the click. Clickbait.
A Quick TikTok Mention
Plenty of influencers use TikTok but for me this isn’t a video sharing site. It’s thousands of people doing the same dance to the same song at the same time, to be like everyone else, without anyone having a conversation or dialogue. I saw something about book TikTok and more, but to find these conversations takes time and effort.
Instagram and Facebook have reels and I almost never watch them because they’re usually short, tabloid videos. Their only reason to be is to inflate views, likes and spam habits. It is more sensationalist rubbish.
Content creation is fun. Creating videos is fun, as is photography. By encouraging people to see themselves as influencers rather than content creators we’re training them to think in a utilitarian and immoral manner. We’re training them to be spammers and scammers, rather than honest content creators. When I was a child we didn’t have edit suites and other technology easily at hand, so we had to improvise. I learned camera work through filming theatre productions and then making copies for those that wanted them. I didn’t have the goal of sharing to YouTube because the internet was still very young. I didn’t try to be an influencer. I enjoyed the media I played with, and eventually it became my career, just at the end of the age of television.
I think that focusing on Social media is a mistake. I think that rather than think of social media, we should create content that is shared via topic driven websites. As a case study I would look at [OnebladeShave.com](https://www.onebladeshave.com/) and their use of video. The videos are hosted and shared via YoUTube but they’re also integrated within their website. Rather than making content for social media, they’re making content that illustrates their product in a number of videos that cover different aspects. I find this approach more interesting because there is no sensationalism, no “like and subscribe” and other junk. You watch a video to get information, and then you move on. That’s how it should be. Liking and subscribing should be a self-driven decision, not a result of nagging.