Facets of Faith: social currency


Faith Brocke

Staff reporter Faith Brocke expresses her emotions and experiences in her column, Facets of Faith.

Faith Brocke, Staff Reporter

For many people, the dream of being famous is distant and idealistic at best, but with the everchanging evolution of social media, five minutes of fame isn’t out of reach.

This introduces the idea that anyone can be ‘famous’, whether that be for their humor, their appearance, profession etcetera; it seems that someone is always worried over whether or not they’re able to go viral.

This isn’t an inherently bad thing. Several talented artists, actors, designers, comedians, and more have been discovered through platforms such as TikTok and have been granted the opportunity to have large social presences and audiences.

That being said, the heightened access to popularity elevation is a double edged sword.

The idea that fame can be attained with ease creates the mass mindset that life and the circles we run in are all popularity contests, and everyone who desires that attention should do whatever it takes to amass social currency. 

As for what that means, let me break it down. Think about every like on an Instagram post being worth a dollar, except in this case, the only thing dollars can buy are emotional self fulfillment. 

The more dollars you gain, the ‘happier’ you will be, consequently making you work harder or produce more content to receive more of that ‘money’, which builds wealth over time.

That’s essentially how social media is working when we focus solely on how large an audience can be, allowing egoism, privilege, etc to drive the force of our actions.

Suddenly, everything that we put online matters as we gain that social currency—the comments, the double taps, the followers—and suddenly the normalized stream of content isn’t enough to beat out every other person battling the algorithm for a chance at earning these brownie points.

This is when social currency starts to get dangerous: when we begin to commodify what society believes to be unique or abnormal, with oppression and/or mental illness in the hopes of gaining that currency.

Because the idea of being ‘special’ (no matter how ignorant or uninformed it is) is so enticing, people begin to water down and romanticize the effects of depression, anxiety, disorders etcetera to the point where no one realizes how detrimental life with those mental illnesses can be. 

Terminology associated with these illnesses lose their meaning and weight, because hundreds of thousands of people are allowing all their information to be spoon fed to them by social currency vultures, hungry for their next digital interaction.

And much like real wealth, ascending to a certain level of social currency makes some individuals immune to any criticism or reality checking; the greater your following, the more likely you are to have people who will defend your every move, and even try to counteract the correction of your actions.

Virtual popularity has created a hierarchy of influence, and the further a person climbs the ranks, the easier it is to grow in favor of your audience and whatever they deem valuable; content curated specifically for whoever is willing to afford a creator with more social currency.

This causes everything to feel disingenuous and impersonal, or in stark contrast, hyper-specific and scarily generic to the point of ‘relatability.’

It’s maddening to see how for every dollar, a creator changes.

Of course, change over time is natural, and social media and massive followings can be extremely beneficial—but those thing shouldn’t rot your brain to the point where you cannot think beyond how many likes your next post is gonna get.