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Thinking in Print: AI Influencers disparage social media

Pre-pandemic, I spent next to no time on social media, and my Facebook timeline was almost exclusively pictures my parents had tagged me in. Following the lockdown, I, like most people, increased my time spent online to make up for the lack of human contact while stuck at home.

Social media allowed me to stay connected with humanity and kept me sane throughout remote learning. However, humans are far from the only ones reaching out on social platforms these days.

At first glance, Instagram personality Lil Miquela seems like a normal girl hanging out with friends and asking her over 3 million followers whether or not she should go to the movies. Yet, before 2016, Miquela didn’t exist. She’s part of the wave of artificial influencers who have seen an increase in popularity in recent years. 

The ability of these artificial influencers to come off as real people is both impressive and unnerving. Miquela pans her camera around as she “walks” through a grocery store and posts quirky memes like a regular person would. Often, I have to take a second glance at her “hanging out” with her friends to see if they’re real people or also AI 

I’m far from alone in my fascination with these influencers. Miquela made $12 million last year while Rosy — another A.I. created by Sidus Studio X — has scored over 100 sponsorships since her debut in 2020.

Advertisers love partnering with AI influencers, and it’s easy to see why. They don’t need to take breaks, be paid or carry the risk of their past being brought up against them. Unless they get hacked or the coders behind them make a mistake, cancel culture is not an issue. 

Given the monetary potential, you have to wonder if there are ulterior motives behind these artificial influencers. While human influencers recognize they wouldn’t be where they are without their fans, AI has no such attachments, and their morality is determined by their code and those who control them. 

Where do coders draw the line on what should and should not be marketed to the young audience who follows an A.I. that’s been tailored to appeal to them? Can we really embrace these AI with the knowledge that they may be glorified advertisements rather than real people?

These influencers aren’t individuals: they’re created by companies often described as “secretive” whose motives we know very little about. While artificial influencers may appear as regular people, they’re just not.

AI influencers are neither human nor a substitute for human interaction. One of the top definitions for social media on Google is “the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and/or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.” Note the use of “people.” Social media is about connecting with other humans, not fake influencers made by faceless people to advertise products. Traditional influencers are far from perfect, but at least they aren’t bound to a pre-made code and agenda.

Robots have already inserted themselves into our daily lives as is. Do we really need them posing as regular people who we follow for fashion advice and fabricated drama, too? 

Charlene Pepiot is a senior studying English at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Charlene know by emailing her, cp872117@ohio.edu.

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