My apologies, friends and followers, if the title of this post misled you. For those familiar with the content of my work and study, it may appear as though I’ve sold out to the commercial racket. If you are not familiar with this website, and you clicked on this link expecting a listicle delineating proven strategies to effectively construct a social media kingdom; alas, I’ve deceived you.
In this media savvy world, why are people so enamored by the status of the Social Media Influencer? What does this say about our social media communities? The dynamics of our interpersonal relationships?
The term influencer, as defined by Dictionary.com, refers to one who produces “effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of another or others” (see influence and influencer). When situated within the context of social media, an influencer is “an individual who has the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of his/her authority, knowledge, position or relationship with his/her audience” (according to Influencer Marketing Hub).
I would like to propose an alternative job description for the esteemed Social Media Influencer, but in order to do so, I need to talk psychoanalytic theory for a moment.
First, let’s discuss two forms of human relations, imaginary relations and symbolic relations. According to Bruce Fink in A Clinical Introduction to Lacanian Psychoanalysis: Theory and Technique, imaginary relations are not make believe relationships, but relations “dominated by rivalry.” These are peer relationships, sibling relationships, and any other relationship not naturally intersected by the imposition of authority. In contrast, symbolic relations are structured on the basis that the individual is subject to the authority of the Other (parents, religion, country, educators).
I use “O” versus “o” to indicate the difference between the other in an imaginary relationship and the Other in a symbolic relationship. Transference occurs when a person projects onto an other the authority of the Other, directing feelings and behaviors toward the other that were never realized or processed in reference to the originator, the Other, the person of authority from before. Analysts rely on this process to facilitate emotional healing and psychical liberation on the part of the patient. However, we humans experience transference on a regular basis in our day to day lives.
I noticed this recently with my husband in a moment of tension. His self talk originated from a previous authority in his life; my self talk evolved, likewise. Our interactions, as opposed to being directed from the present him/me to the present me/him, were directed from the past him/me to the past (respective) Other. Upon realizing this, I disengaged from the contention by reflecting aloud, confessing to my own self-talk and allowing him to do the same. In that moment of clarity, we moved forward, understanding that neither of us caused the present frustration in the other, and both of us were triggered by something from the past.
How is this helpful?
As humans, we are constantly repeating the symbolic relations (responsible for structuring our egos) through our imaginary relations with others. The thing is, most of the time, those others are not insignificant, and if we continue repeating symbolic relations, unchecked, undiscovered, then we risk damaging the now relationships, as we attempt egotistic preservation in the face of past ones.
Further, in social media relations, we can readily profit from the transference of others by using artificially anointed authority as a means of eliciting behavior from members of the audience who feel inclined to meet our demands. This manipulation of the susceptibility of others must be avowed.
It must be avoided.
I want to be an influencer. I want to be the kind of influencer who provides space for my audience to reflect on their unconscious, the kind of influencer who encourages introspection, models courage (by confronting my own symbolic relations), and presses onward in faith.
I want to be the kind of influencer who presses onward in faith that my autonomous discernment will enable me to live an ethically and morally grounded human existence, free from the imposed (and arbitrary) demands of the Other.
So you wanna be an influencer? Take the marketing out of the equation. Delete consumption from the narrative. Be an influencer by leading the expedition away from bondage and towards desire.