Catlin Gabel School, Catlin Speak
A handful of Catlin Gabel students maintain accounts online that attract not only the people they know, but complete strangers from around the world. Their social media success, quantified by the number of followers their accounts have, may draw complaints from people who write social media off as a waste of time. But are there benefits to being a social media celebrity?
Zulema’s Instagram account has allowed her to meet new friends and express herself through her pictures. (Photo: Jubilee Lopez ’15)
One Catlin Gabel student that ran a successful Tumblr said, “I barely knew any of my followers. I had over 11,000 [followers] and I’d say I probably knew 10-15 total, and those were people who I was mutually following and talked to sort of regularly.” Similarly, Catlin Gabel’s avid Twitter user only knows about 5 percent of his followers.
You may be wondering how could someone gain 11,000 followers on Tumblr, and why they would want to. The answer is relatively simple. It takes two factors: self-promotion and time.
As one student puts it, in order to gain more followers you must do “a little shameless self-promotion.”
Catlin Gabel’s Tumblr celebrity explained, “Once you hit 2 or 3,000 [followers] it gets very easy. To start off, you ask more popular blogs to check you out and maybe follow because when people with more followers reblog you, you gain. You can also get promos and participate in ‘promo games’ where these promotions are prizes. It is definitely a conscious decision [to gain followers].”
Besides self-promotion, time is another component to a successful blog. One student, who has around 2,500 Twitter followers, spends over an hour daily on social media. But even this time commitment seems small compared to the student that had a Tumblr blog, who constantly had a Tumblr tab open on their computer to “reblog pictures when I was feeling bored, it was always there.”
Frequently, my mother can be heard groaning about my “addiction” to social media. But I am not alone: Data from the Huffington Post shows that more than 1 million Twitter accounts are made daily and about 5 million Instagram pictures are posted per day. Social media usage doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
Social media usage is on the rise, but we have yet to see what role social media will play on a generation, like today’s tweens and teens, that has grown up with it.
The time spent online may seem excessive, but by talking to Zulema, it is easy to see where the addiction stems from. She said social media allows her to “see what [a] person is like and what their interests are to see if we have any similarities,” and added that; “the facelessness of it allows me to become someone new and interesting through my pictures.”
Another Catlin Gabel student with a large number of Twitter followers agreed. “I think that anonymity of social media allows me to be a lot bolder than I am in real life,” he or she claimed.
Social media allow users to be bolder due to the facelessness of the sites, but there are other benefits.
Recently, while walking around in a clothing store in Santa Monica, I noticed a tall, thin, girl who had long, curly blonde hair. Instantly, I recognized her from her Instagram account. I am one of her 235,000 followers. Though I had never met her or even seen her in real life I knew her, or at least who she was.
I watched as she was led around by the store manager, who picked out clothes for her to wear in her upcoming pictures. It struck me that the number of followers she had on Instagram – typically a sign of a person’s popularity – could provide other, professional, opportunities.
The social media reputation she has created could potentially guide her future course – it is possible that the college process and job searches will be different for her than others. The introduction of the modernized skillset that allows users to game social media sets some users apart, a growing phenomenon in the online world.