Influenza & Influencers


We know it all started in a lab and a research center. In the beginning, it was underestimated, perceived as just a new form of a thing that has already been around. It took a while to spread. Then, all of a sudden and unbeknown to us, the virus was all around, completely engulfing the world and salvation was out of reach. We got infected and symptoms only became more and more visible as the time passed. That is the reality that we live in now. Where it will take us and what the consequences would be is still unknown. 

We are, of course, talking about the internet. Technology that was developed for connecting computers into a network allowing a faster flow and exchange of information, with a purpose to enhance efficiency and productivity of corporate systems now runs our lives. It is not the tech we use; it is the tech we couldn’t live without today. The spread of the virus was slow enough to allow us to adjust to its various mutations along the way,and fast enough that we were left unaware of the fact that we currently live in a completely changed world. 

It is really fascinating seeing how in only 30 years the tech that started in large metal hardware containers taking up entire rooms transferred onto desktops in offices, soon followed by folding notebooks that could fit into a business bag, to finally turn into cell phones we cannot keep away from. It is now beyond doubt that the next step in evolution is to put implants into our bodies, so that the tech will become just another organ functioning within. 

That tech has penetrated not only public and business spheres but conquered all dimensions of our private life as well. That is why we rightfully speak of a revolution – one of those crossroads in human history that is reshaping the existing society by changing its culture model, everchanging and synced with the shifts in the way we communicate.

Turning a cellphone into a powerful audio-visual communication device that is available to everyone, each person has become a media channel capable of producing and broadcasting media content. Rise of social networks has allowed for a simple and fast distribution of the content. Almost overnight, social media has become the dominant communication platforms in the world. That, in turn, creates an entire new media world we live in today. What makes this world radically different from before is the infinite number of media channels that exist today and the unlimited amount of media content that is being made available through those channels.

In that new media world, attention grabbing has changed as well. With a setting in which there is a limited number of media channels and the amount of content produced, with one-sided communication flow, the consumers act as passive recipients of the message that is being broadcasted with a choice limited to what is offered. Turning the number of channels and amount of content to infinite, with communication flowing interactively, the focus and attention need to be constantly and actively attracted. This depends on both the consumer and the creator of the content. Which brings us to a place where attention is not just the currency owned by the person receiving content, but also the good sold by the one creating it. 

Under these conditions, gaining initial attention is just a first step with the actual goal of keeping it for as long as possible. In order to achieve that, consumers of the media content need to shift from a role of a passive recipient to an active distributor of the content using the technology that is available. All you need to do is make them start actively doing it. Or, to use the modern phrase, distributors need to become infected in order for the viral spread to happen. 

The best example of that are the influencers. Imagine an influencer as the patient zero, whose content is the virus. What happens to a virus depends on who, how many times and how fast it spreads. Which is in direct correlation with the number of people that become infected. Some who get in touch with a virus will not become infected, or even aware that they got in contact with viral content -simply put, due to their strong immunity. On the opposing end of the spectrum are those whose immunity is low. They are the followers. Initial reaction usually starts with mild symptoms, occasional reading/viewing of the content created by an influencer and with symptoms becoming more acute, regular following of everything that influencer posts becomes a norm. The rapid progression is when the sharing of the content starts happening, with most severe cases usually falling under the category of fans.  

There are those who get in touch with the virus, don’t get infected but help spread the viral content. Those are the people sharing content of an influencer with a sole purpose of pointing out how he or she is lying, has no clue on the relevant topic, warns others on the dangers of the content, its inaccuracy, offensiveness or makes fun of the whole thing. No matter what the reasons are behind the share, they help the virus spread.

This virus attacks members of all generations. The exceptions are only to be found among the elderly, due to the fact that some of them are self-isolating from the new media world with the old one.

In the last few years, the virus has advanced, the pandemic has spread and reached global scale, attacking different organs within our body. A large number of mutations is also present, making it hard for different versions to be marked and recognized and symptoms detected. All of this weakens the general immunity, worldwide. 

One of the main reasons this is happening is that the social media world has developed so much that it is hard to find a person not being on at least one of the available networks. The connections between the people on the planet have multiplied to such an extent, that we can easily look at mankind as a living organism, with people acting as cells connected through pathways of social media akin to a nervous system. Becoming inseparable parts of an organism, people are not only closely interconnected but fully dependent on the functioning of the organism as a whole. 

That is why it has become so common that privacy is the one thing that was hit the hardest with the pandemic. Privacy cannot be protected through quarantine and isolation, as that would not be a world that we can live in.

In these scenarios, not even masks are of help. To the contrary, putting the masks on only helps spread the virus further as the asymptomatic manifestations of its effects show in the very beginning, not raising the alarm timely. Once we realize that lack of symptoms was misleading, it is already too late. 

One should be very cautious to those who promise to fight pandemic by taking over the creation of the content from us and controlling the exposure on a premise that they are taking care of everything, so we don’t have to bother. Disperse the illusions about that kind of therapy as it leads to total control, leaving us utterly unaware of our surroundings. Moreover, the control is not stopping the spread of the virus, it is further enhancing it.

That is just the way things are at the moment, whether you like it or not – and it looks like a vaccine is not in sight either.

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