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Blogger Gate: Is Social Media Going To Our Heads?

The White Moose Café and Charleville Lodge have once again come to the attention of the press due to its unconventional PR tactics. A 22-year-old UK social media personality/blogger, Elle Darby, contacted the infamous Phibsborough establishment to ask for a free night at the hotel with meals included, and in return her payment would be a favourable review of the venue, delivered to her easily-influenced band of followers. The White Moose reacted in its typical fashion, creating a social media storm which it worked to its advantage. This incident has made national headlines, with Elle Darby left humiliated (albeit gaining more views on her tearful video “I was exposed (SO embarrassing).”

If Ms Darby has done her research on The White Moose, she might not have have been so foolish as to offer her influential services. Paul Stenson, owner of Charleville Lodge, is a social media influencer himself. His tongue-in-cheek and almost rude signs in his establishment (“under 65’s only, ID required!”), as well as the welcoming letter guests are given telling them not to expect a 7-star service among other things, are all part of a cleverly crafted social media strategy. A lot of his stunts have gone viral, and he has also infamously banned vegans from his café, all the while proclaiming he is proud to upset “snowflakes”. He recently sent a bill to the disgraced Ms Darby, citing expenses (in millions) for promoting her.

I think this fiasco is making us think a lot more about how social media is affecting our lives. There is now an entire class of people whose job is to create content, whether that be videos, blogs, or Instagram posts. Their main revenue comes from advertising or advertorials. I don’t necessarily think that this is wrong. I think that it is a job, like anyone else’s. However, it is exasperating when bloggers or YouTubers complain about how their life is hard. I don’t dispute that they worked for what they had and to curate a following. In reality though, they can decide their own hours within reason, have a lot of creative control over their content, and are more likely to be offered media jobs than trained journalists who have paid to go to University to get training. There are also offered business deals over struggling, smaller start-ups, and have books ghost-written for them when there are independent writers trying to get recognition. So please, social media influencers- your life isn’t that difficult once you have made it.

The idea of an online personality or persona is growing more insidious. There is a disconnect from one’s online personality and their actual, “real-life” personality. We all know someone who can barely utter a word to someone they have been introduced to, yet has no problem firing off clever quips on Twitter that night. Why are we becoming more comfortable living in a digital world?

Social media was allegedly set up to connect people, but I think it has instead severed our sense of community and friendship into two distinct halves- the online and the real. Don’t take my word for it, according to Slate.com, Facebook’s co-founder Sean Parker recently said that social media was designed to be addictive and it has changed our relationship with society. He mentions that each social media platform contains a “social validation feedback loop”, which exploits a weakness in the human psyche. That’s heavy stuff.

And is this need for constant attention proven with blogger gate? I think so.

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