Social media, it is where many let their lives play out in a series of words, photos and videos for their friends and family to see. Increasingly used by professionals in just about every industry to connect with fans and peers, the various social media platforms each have their own pros and cons. One element that seems to be more prevalent these days are the untold number of fake accounts floating around, created for the sole purpose of inflating one’s follower count. These cardboard cutouts of real people seem to serve no other purpose except to prop up those they are attached to, giving a warped, unrealistic assessment of how popular someone might be.
The strange thing about the imaginary friends of social media, is that we all know they exist.
It seems to me that since most are aware of the phenomenon, their use would be quickly nullified, if their purpose has not been already. When even average people encounter random friend requests and follows from fake accounts, we should already be factoring in the fact they exist into our metrics.
There might not be an average based on the time a social media profile exists; perhaps the number of fake accounts that a person is targeted by increases exponentially based on overall popularity among real people, but we should be aware that some amount is inevitable. Perhaps it is time we stop worrying about how many followers we have given the current situation.
I have often had conversations with people where these numbers are discussed, like they are meaningful in some way. Yet, even beyond the sockpuppet accounts, what does the number of followers someone has even mean these days? Those who briefly stood in the spotlight of the media, like Ken Bone did recently, quickly become followed by thousands. Not many of those people can truly say that they will be checking up on what Bone has to say a few months down the line. There will come a certain point when the difference between the sockpuppets that have latched onto him, and the real people who did so, will be negligible as far as he is concerned.
There is a need for more useful metrics in my opinion, so that users can gauge how much interest what they do generates.One way might involve contrasting the number of people who actually care about you and your message, and the accounts that haphazardly add you, either as a token gesture or as part of some strange scheme. One-click reaction options similar to Facebook’s like feature are fine to an extent, though open to abuse just as much as the follow feature. If the purpose of social media is to give people a voice, the tools to make sure they rise above the cacophony should be provided.