For around two years, Instagram has become one of the social media platforms of reference for many sectors, and in particular for ours.
Every week, a multitude of Instagram accounts are born and bloggers without blogs (i.e., people who have never written a line on classical masculine elegance) self-proclaim themselves as #publicfigures, #influencers or even 'ambassadors of luxury brands', with perplexingly unrealistic numbers of followers.
Some, in order to seduce advertisers whom are more and more hypnotized by the phenomenon, don't hesitate to jump from 3,000 followers to 50,000 in a few days if not overnight even while others "drip" purchase followers by 25-50 a day in order to escape being pegged as the usual suspect that buys followers.
Obviously, you don't need a Harvard Phd in social anthropology to understand that on Instagram, perhaps more than anywhere else on the internet, most everything can be bought and sold, with a disconcerting facility. For example, today, for less than $100, an aspiring "influencer" can thus find himself at the head of 100,000 followers in a blink of an eye, no matter the quality of the images or content.
Yet the most surprising thing about this gigantic scam is that advertisers and brands, especially when they are still newcomers to the internet, have a tendency to throw themselves (and their money) at these fake influencers and their contrived audience.
After nearly nine years of existence and presence on social networks - where our community has reached 150,000 subscribers on Facebook, 19,000 subscribers on Tumblr, 25,000 followers on Instagram, 5,000 subscribers on Twitter and 2,500 subscribers on Linkedin - we are well placed at PG to testify to the immense work necessary to build a true and faithful active readership.
I recently had the chance to discuss this subject with one of my good friends - a well-known French-Canadian gentleman who once thought that Montreal needed more style - during the last Pitti Uomo, where self-proclaimed #influencers obviously abound. He explained to me that the masks might soon fall away with the advent of small software programs, which will at-a-click, expose the exact number of false followers bought for a few tens of dollars compared to followers acquired organically. Of course, Instagram may feel disconcerted about the proliferation of these "trackers", since the integrity of the social media platform could be put at stake and its "magic" severely injured.
While we keep our eyes open for this potential day of shame for many so-called public figures, we are inclined to share with you the transcription of a large excerpt of Wei Koh's editorial for the 50th issue of "The Rake" where he addresses the subject with the same humor, finesse and sagacity that has been known of him for some time now.
As I prepare to launch my book The Italian Gentleman, which has monopolized almost three years of my life, this article by Wei Koh offers a nice relief to those of us who have grown tired of all these schemes and tactics in the soulless name of popularity.
"Well, this intriguing," I mused while in wine country this winter, which is my name for the couch parked in front of my television where I am frequently found genuflecting, naval gazing, or passed out, Bill the Cat-style, while in my cups. Ack.
A public relations company recently sent me an email proclaiming their new discovery, a 20-year-old lady and a social media phenomenon who, after amassing an unprecedented 7.4 million Instagram followers in just 320 posts, has become the new media's 'It girl'. The P.R. company invited magazines around the world to petition for the privilege of editorial collaborations with her. As a recent convert to social media, my interest was, to say the least, piqued. Especially in an era in which innumerable luxury brands are reallocating their budget to social media channels.
Wanting to understand how the aforementioned young lady had blitzkrieged her way to social media stardom, I scrolled through her feed, only to realise that of the 320 images, a 270 of them featured...her ass.
Because of the modest laws of Instagram, which are self-policed by a nipple-hunting Gestapo, the nipple--well, specifically the female nipple (@zacefron's nipples are all good) -- has been banished and accounts featuring them deleted with the rapidity of an adulteress getting botted out of a 19th century New England township.
But apparently ass shots of pretty much every variety have been deemed to be of artistic merit when expressing one's inner #yolo. As a result, glutei maximi belonging to ingénues of the badonkadonk--of every shape, size, colour and religion -- have populated all corners of the social media hinterland. There they are frolicking on the beach sprinkled artfully with sand; in the CrossFit gym performing combination lunges and donkey kicks; and festooned with tinsel for Christmas or decorated with rhinestone--appliqué menorahs for Hanukkah accompanied by the ubiquitous #bootyfull #bootylicious #fitandthick #lookbackatit. And there is nothing wrong with that--to be honest, I follow quite a few feed simply because of the abundance and generosity of ass shots, both male and female...
@gianlucavacchi, with your crazy dance-offs, I'm talking about you! However, I sometimes wish I were a fly on a wall between that 20-year-old social media phenomenon and her parents as she's describing her #lifegoals.
I imagine the conversation going like this: "Parents, as it turns out I don't actually need university because my new and highly successful profession is to travel the world to fantastic destinations, whereupon I shall remove my trousers and photograph my ass for the 7.4 million people following me to peruse with great deference and approval. So emotionally evocative are some of the thong shots that my left ass cheek alone has been compared to the choir's soaring, orgiastic refrains in Beethoven's Ode to Joy. It has been said that if Caravaggio or Vermeer were alive today, the first thing they would want to paint would be sun streaming through an open windo onto my tremendous posterior. Indeed, NASA is beaming holograms of my ass with 'peace' written in every known language into deep space to communicate with alien civilisations."
You can already hear the gobsmacked sound of palms against foreheads. Listen, I don't want to be a #hater, but I do think there might be a corresponding link between my joining the ranks of the social-media initiated and my starling decline in attention span. And so, if we acknowledge that social media is the most prevalent form of mass communication, doesn't this prompt the question, What should a magazine like The Rake (or a blog like Parisian Gentleman) be in an era dominated by social media ?
Well, to my mind, it should be everything that social media is not. Because just as the world has changed, the definition of a magazine, and even its purpose in society, has had to change. It should militate agains all things ephemeral. It should champion understated elegance in a era where outré has become the norm. It should reveal authenticity in all its glory.
It should be filled with long-form journalism that reminds people what a joy it is to read and how the English (or French) language, when wielded by a masterful hand, can be transcendental, epiphanous, edifying and enriching. It should have stories rich and instructive in moral and sartorial code and reveal the connection between the two. It should unveil the seductive pageantry of lives lived without a shred of compromise. It should champion the beauty of luxury objects not because of what they represent from a material perspective but because some very brilliant human being have over part of his or her finite life energy and imparted some of his or her genius into that object. It should be filled with amazing photoshoots with men who inspire you to reach for more glory in every dimension of your existence.
In a world that is sometimes lost amid the maelstrom of ass shots, we are holding fast as lighthouses for all those things that are, and always will be, essential to men.
Truth. Education. Morality. Courage.
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Opening photo © Philippe Perzi Vienna