As I was doing some research on what to write about for this blog, I came across a very interesting Instagram profile: Miquela Sousa, aka Lil Miquela. Lil Miquela is a 19-year-old Brazilian-American teenager who became active on the internet in 2016. She is an Instagram influencer, singer, and model. Lil Miquela has worked with many major brands such as Calvin Klein and with celebrities such as Bella Hadid. She currently has 3 million followers on Instagram, and she is also active across other platforms: YouTube, TikTok, Tumbler, etc. Lastly, she’s not real, she is a robot.
To be more specific, Lil Miquela is a computer-generated social media influencer (aka not a human being). And according to Bloomberg, she is estimated to be making $10 million (!!) dollars a year and the company that created her, Brud, is estimated to worth $125 million dollars (as of 2019).
After browsing her profile for a few minutes, I can understand why she has such a huge following. She is beautiful, fashionable, and even socially conscious about current events. But at the end of the day, she is ‘fake’, and to be honest, the concept of a CGI influencer is a little scary to me. We’ve talked about artificial intelligence in class and how machines and robots will replace many of the existing jobs, but a CGI influencer? I’m not sure how I feel about this.
Although, after all, how much we find on the internet is real, anyway?
Statistically, there are approximately 90 million fake accounts on Instagram. And how much of the content itself we see is fake? I would guess probably a lot. It seems like nowadays so many people will do a lot out of their way to take and/or alter a picture in hopes for more likes. Consequently, social media has made huge impact to our mental health. As we’re browsing, our brain’s reward center is activated by releasing dopamine and it makes us feel good. But it also is making many of us addicted. Studies have shown that social media strongly correlated with decreased and disrupted sleep, which lead to depression and memory loss. Furthermore, spending more time on our phones leave us less time going outside and working out, which may lead to anxiety and mental illness.
As we’re exploring new posts and stories, oftentimes we are unconsciously comparing ourselves to the influencer, even if the picture is maybe photoshopped, staged, or even … ‘fake’ like Lil Miquela’s profile. In fact, plastic surgeons have seen increased new patients wanting to look like their filtered Snapchat and Instagram photos. According to a New York Times article, a newlywed couple even separated after the honeymoon due to the wife spending more time planning for the trip and posting selfies than spending time with her husband.
Going back to Lil Miquela, she is a young adult who has a perfect life and can do it all. Even though she is portrayed as being successful at everything she does, most of us wouldn’t compare ourselves to her because she is a robot. Yet, just like Lil Miquela, many influencers portray themselves as having that nearly perfect lives, and looking at their pictures makes us feel sad about ourselves. After all, from what I see, all they have to do is share stories about their daily lives and post a few sponsored posts (#ad), which frankly sometimes make me question my career choices.
Last year, Covid-19 has made many of us stay at home more than ever before. It also left us with more time on our phones browsing on social media. As much as I admire the countless posts of influencers creating their new picture-perfect home office and gym setup, I continue having to remind myself to limit my phone usage. Our smartphones and social media are meant to allow us to connect with each other virtually and definitely not meant for us to constantly compare ourselves to strangers on the internet, especially if it’s a robot.