In the beginning, Instagram was just stupid, then it was selfies, now it’s influencers. Well, selfies are still incredibly stupid, as can be read here and there. Only influencers are apparently a bit more annoying. There’s no other explanation for the flood of think pieces on the topic. Influencers are people who have a lot of followers on one or more social media channels. That’s how they exert an influence — claims the advertising industry. You could also say: influencers are billboards on two legs. Companies commission them, for example, to advertise this or that watch on, let’s say, Instagram. If it works, their followers buy this watch today and tomorrow the other one. What a beautiful idea.
Berlin-based fashion bloggers Dandy Diary made a video a couple of weeks ago. It was entitled “Influencers of the 21st Century”, a reference to Hans Eijkelboom’s “People of the 21st Century.”
That’s all very funny because every cliché possible is confirmed. Influencers eat avocado on toast all day, paddle away on inflatable flamingoes and unicorns in some swimming pool, they hold on to their coffee cups, have a small and very cute dog, and sometimes they just sit on their suitcases. This is making waves across the internet, like two years ago when a Barbie doll acted out the most common Instagram clichés.
And that’s where the problem lies. Who said influencers had to be female, young, into fashion, and who said they had to give up their dignity as soon as they opened an Instagram account? And who said that only female, fashion blogging influencers, i.e. Insta girls such as Caro Daur produce clichés like holes in their nylons? The fashion bloggers of Dandy Diary are the cool kid version of influencerdom. Whoever made the effort to look for clichés in this scene would certainly find them.
So, here’s a little typology of clichés and typical motifs on Instagram besides the Insta girls. What’s missing: the Insta boy, the selfie queen and the fitness girl, the food blogger, the cool kid, the rich kids, etc. The focus is on photography and art.
The Instagram photographer
The term Instagram photographer already gives it away. An Instagram photographer is no photographer outside the social network. The Instagram photographers probably don’t mind because they are so-called influencers as well, and they can’t complain about a lack of commissions, or badly paid assignments. Photographers, however, certainly mind because what can they do if anyone who has more than a couple of followers on Instagram can get jobs as a photographer?
Clichés and trends change as quickly here as in fashion. A couple of years ago, staircases were en vogue, then façades, then several hashtags such as #strideby, #busystranger, and #tinypeopleinbigplaces. At the moment, the epic style ensures a lot of followers and more advertising contracts, in short: cityscapes in deep black that look like the apocalypse is way behind us.
The artists don’t want the pictures they share on Instagram to look like photography or art. Otherwise a slightly hyped discussion in the international art press will follow on the heels — like it did recently with Cindy Sherman: is Instagram the new oeuvre? Sherman has since switched from selfies to sunsets. Just to be on the safe side. Her likes have dropped since — like with any other Instagrammer when they don’t deliver what’s expected.
The Instagram artist
They hate being called Instagram artists. Amalia Ulman even hates Instagram, at least she said so in an Interview: “I hate Instagram — I used it because it’s there, not because I like it.” Like Amalia Ulman, the address female stereotypes on Instagram, and like Andy Kassier, male stereotypes. It’s really funny when the followers realise that it’s art that they see.
The curator on the run
They are sneered at by their colleagues and admired by their followers. Who doesn’t want to take a selfie arms linked with Ai Weiwei (okay, you could just walk across Berlin-Mitte), or go to 37 openings a week, and then pose for three selfies with Hans Ulrich Obrist? Meanwhile, the colleagues think: what a show off. You’d better work a little more.
By the way, artnet has put together a listicle entitled “Want to Understand the Art World? Follow These 12 Influencers on Instagram.” The list features collectors, museum staff, curators, art critics, and artists. Isn’t there a bit of the influencer in all of us?
The Post-Internet artist
Post-Internet artists prefer the term Net Artists because the internet is still there. The critic Brian Droitcour knows Post-Internet art when he sees it — like pornography. That’s at least what he wrote. Other features of Post-Internet art include: it is very pink and smooth, it looks good on Instagram and Tumblr, and something is done to Apple products.
Internet feminists also prefer the term Net Artists. They stir up social networks like Instagram and Facebook because they don’t want to content themselves with the beauty ideals that advertising prescribes. They grow hair on their legs, in their armpits, they take pics of themselves in bloody panties, and don’t hide their pimply faces from the camera. After the Swedish artist Arvida Byström has been threatened with hostility across the internet because of her contribution for the new adidas Superstar campaign where she reveals a hairy leg (the comments add up to 20,000 by now, and she’s being threatened massively via Instagram direct messages), one thing has become clear: net feminists can’t address these topics often enough.