El Estoque

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Jasmine Lee

When junior Sam Liu started their Tumblr account, they didn’t expect people to notice their art. They didn’t expect to gain attention from the others on the same social media platform. They didn’t know that they would be well-known on social media for their passion for art.

Over the last six years, people have been dedicating  more of their attention to social media. According to Pew Research Center, the usage of Instagram, a fairly new social media platform, spiraled over that timespan as 28 percent of adults used the platform in 2012, but that number increased by seven percent, reaching 35 percent in 2018.

Due to the growing rate of social media usage, junior Tanya Ravichandran is contacted by various model agencies and fashion industries, such as Aeropostale. Ravichandran explains that social media was the beginning of her photography career because she started an Instagram account as a ten-year-old, and PacSun reached out to her.

“[The PacSun company] would post my photos on social media and tag me in their stores and that attracted a lot of attention,” Ravichandran said,  “I remember in one week, I gained 10,000 followers.”

Though Ravichandran celebrates the joy of the PacSun outreach, she also faces a sharp turn in her online popularity status. The number of followers on Ravichandran’s Instagram account accumulated to over 40 thousand followers in a short amount of time.

Similarly, Liu, who started posting on Tumblr under the influence of their sisters, realizes that their art was discovered by over a thousand people when they posted on Instagram and Twitter. Like Ravichandran, followers accumulated on Liu’s account before they were even aware of the attention they were receiving.

“I first realized [the large number of followers], when I got a thousand  followers on Tumblr,” Liu said. “But then [afterwards], I didn’t really care as much.”

Both Liu and Ravichandran agree that even though there may be excitement in obtaining outside attention, whether it’s from professional companies or thousands of followers on various social media platforms, there are still drawbacks and disappointments to being a popular social media user.

“[The Instagram account is] very distracting and I actually haven’t been on it,” Ravichandran said. “I took a break from the account because it is […] overwhelming and [I also] have to deal with the hate accounts. People made hate accounts for me.”

Liu, who did not share the same negative experience online as Ravichandran, however, explains their reason for their diminishing enthusiasm in creating posts that are appealing to their followers is unnecessary.

“I don’t really care as much [about maintaining followers] because I don’t really do anything on Tumblr or Twitter,” Liu said. “It’s mostly just [going on] there to chill with friends. If i get attention, that’s great, but if I don’t get attention I don’t really care as much because I’m pretty sure most of my followers are [spam] bots.”

Science teacher Kyle Jones, who became popular on Youtube through a Reddit post regarding his video gaming and biology lectures, also agrees with Liu when it comes to keeping up with his subscribers on Youtube.   

“I’m not thinking about this in the sense of maintaining followers,” Jones said. “I’m doing it more in the sense of utility and teaching.”

Unlike Ravichandran and Liu, Jones started using social media with the goal of combining academics and personal hobbies. He claims that the amount of subscribers he receives for his videos is not important to him.

Throughout the February break, Jones came up with the idea of an office hour streaming, where students can discuss their questions with him online. As he live-streams lectures and answers questions, Jones also reveals his hobby, playing video games, to the students from time to time.

According to Jones, being able to open up certain parts of his life to his students allowed him to prove that teachers are people who participate in activities other than teaching. Being active on social media also allowed him to understand more about his students’ generation.

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Illustration by Emily Xia

“I’m constantly shocked at the degree to which students are comfortable in a stream setting versus a real life setting,” Jones said. “It’s almost like there’s a part of me that feels like I’ve gotten into some space that I didn’t really know existed where students are in their natural habitat.”

Although the idea of being popular on social media seems to be appealing, depending on the different ways of utilizing media platforms, according to Liu, the drawbacks and responses may affect well-known social media users to become negative.

Liu believes that the overall experience on social media was positive for them, but they find themselves observing negative

“I see a lot of people with like 15,000 followers that get really pretentious over time,” Liu said. “They do something problematic, but then their followers are okay [with popular media users being problematic].”