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We’re facing a real social dilemma

Sport

PLAYING TO THE CROWD Youtuber Jake Paul has amassed a huge social media following through his various exploits. 


The way I see it
Ger Flanagan

THE weekend before last I went to bed on the Saturday night feeling optimistic that I would wake up to the news that former UFC fighter Ben Askren had knocked out Youtuber Jake Paul in their celebrity boxing match.
(Don’t worry if you’re a bit lost right now and have never heard of the aforementioned duo, because a lot of people won’t. This fight screams ‘2021’).
In a nutshell, Jake Paul is a controversial Youtuber and internet celebrity. He makes videos of random stuff, has done a few acting gigs, and has a more famous brother in the same line of work. Both of them (quite depressingly) are millionaires.
But recently their stardom has led to them both believing that they can pursue a career in professional boxing.
Jake Paul has had three fights and won all of them: his first victory was against a fellow Youtuber; then a retired basketballer; and finally against Askren, a UFC veteran and former Olympic grappler never renowned for striking. In hindsight, Askren only wanted the seven figure pay day that would come from a fight with Paul.
So to make a long story short, I had originally planned to write this column about how Askren had beaten Jake Paul and showed him up for someone who has gained a false sense of reality due to his huge following on digital media.
Needless to say, waking up to hearing Askren got knocked out in the first round was up there with the news that Donald Trump had been elected US President.
But since that pathetic excuse of a boxing match, Jake Paul has now taken to his popular social pages to basically ‘call out’ the big names in the fight game – the likes of Conor McGregor and Daniel Cormier, anyone who will gain him attention online.
This got me thinking about the wider, and slightly worrying, point of how a large social following can impact a person’s thinking and give them a complete false perception of reality.
Now before I start to look like I’m bashing all social media and ‘influencers’ (the most ridiculous job title ever), I just want to clarify that I’m not completely bashing social media and ‘influencers’.
I’m a big social media user, I follow a lot of ‘influencers’ who I think are actually informative, I work in digital marketing, and I’m also doing a research thesis into how community development is utilising digital media in the West of Ireland.
There are so many benefits to the digital landscape, but that’s for another day.
My biggest concern is the impact your ‘Jake Pauls’ are having on young people and kids. We as adults can see through the charade he’s putting on in front of our eyes on the screen, but to kids this guy is a superstar.
He is the Dwayne Johnson, Cristiano Ronaldo or even Taylor Swift of the latest generation.
Jake Paul’s success is already forging ideas in kids’ brains as to what they want to do when they’re older. Ten years ago there was no such thing as wanting to be a Youtuber or Influencer, but now I can guarantee you it’s a dream of more kids than you’d think.
Maybe I’m just getting old (I’m 27!), but the idea of my kids dreaming of becoming another Jake Paul just doesn’t sit right with me.
Plus, I don’t want their lives being dictated by a screen to the point where their decision-making is influenced by getting photographs and videos ‘for the ‘Gram’.
A major factor in my thinking about this is because what we see on ‘social’ is a disturbingly fake reality of life beyond the screen. Any Tom, Dick or Harry can produce a good photo, throw it up with a caption and paint an oil painting of a glamour lifestyle.
Maybe even throw in a product discount code and call yourself an ambassador – that gains massive props on your social status!
Most influencers, or those wanting to be one, are attracted to free stuff or discount codes like flies to you-know-what. It’s perceived as a status of success and popularity almost – ‘Jesus, would ya look at Jimmy getting sent free stuff from brands, he must be raking it in’.
Don’t believe the hype, they’re pawns in the game for big brands.
Unfortunately there’s little to no regulation to monitor the validity of these claims.
So whether the influencer likes or dislikes a product, finds it useful and practical and worth the money, they’ll usually still sprout about ‘how great it is’ on their Youtube, Instagram or other social pages.
There’s a lack of responsibility and integrity so great that it makes Donald Trump’s time in the Oval Office look half-normal.
And this is a micro issue every bit as much as a macro one.
I know people from my childhood and teens who have amassed a large social media following, and the reality is they’re nothing like the person they portray online.
You know what they say about never meeting your heroes and all that?
I hope Jake Paul eventually decides to take on a real fighter and the world can see what kind of attention-seeking fraud he really is.
Unfortunately, I don’t believe it’s going to have any impact in the grand scheme of things.
For that, all we can do is hope for more stringent regulation from the companies who came up with these creations in the first place, while trying our best to educate our young people on the importance of pursuing a life and career beyond the lenses and the filters.

What do you think?
e-mail: sport@mayonews.ie

 

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