They look like people of flesh and blood but in reality they do not exist. Yet they are depopulated on social networks. Aldo Agostinelli explains the phenomenon of virtual influencers
Virtual influencers, because our children like them
Social network influencers are the new heroes of children and young people, like singers, movie and TV stars and soccer players. But unlike the latter, they have a great advantage: even when they don’t really exist, our children still like them. Lil Miquela, for example, it is one of the most famous virtual influencerthe of the planet, that is computer-created idols. On Instagram miss Miquela boasts over 3 million followers. For a long time everyone believed he was a real person: Miquela Sousa, nineteen year old model of American-Brazilian origins. But when she found out the truth, her fans didn’t care: everyone continued to love this nice little girl with freckles and pigtails, who parades, sings and is always kind and positive. Its being “artificial” made no difference. So, instead of decreasing, his followers have increased.
But why are virtual influencers like Lil Miquela successful? We talked about it with Aldo Agostinelli, Chief Digital Officer of Sky Italia, great technology expert and author of “Bling. The luxury of the future talks about Instagram, wears sneakers and uses AI“(Mondadori).
In this article
Who are the virtual influencers
“Influencers are the idols of the kids of the moment. Their success goes hand in hand with the space – ever wider and preponderant – that social networks occupy within their lives. They listen to them, follow them, imitate them. And also when they’re not real, they love them just the same, because virtual and non-virtual influencers interpret their desires and aspirations. I am the mirror of what they would like to be and become, of the lives they would like to have. A bit like us parents were once the actors we saw in the cinema. Influencers fill that role, only they seem much more within reach of Hollywood stars. Because they are ordinary people like us but who have achieved success and popularity. The virtual ones can then play countless roles and never make communication mistakes (such as professing to be vegan and then letting the bag of some fast food escape in the background) “.
Virtual influencers: the Lil Miquela case
What are the qualities of Lil Miquela and how did she become so famous? “Of all the current virtual influencers, Lil Miquela is certainly the most successful experiment. In addition to being a teen ager who boasts many friends, most of them real, and a boyfriend (her name is Nick Illian and he’s an avatar too), reflects the character of today’s young people, who are much more committed and thoughtful than you think. In this sense, her character tells of a nineteen-year-old of American-Brazilian origins, Miquela Sousa, with a busy life who does not give up fighting for the ideas she believes in: she works as a model for the luxury brands that pay her (actually pay, and a lot, the company that developed it) to do fashion photo shoots. And then he sings and has also released albums, in collaboration with famous rappers. But he never misses an opportunity for spread messages in favor of respect for people and diversity“.
For about two years her fans believed that Lil Miquela was a real girl. How did the truth come out?
“It was Lil Miquela herself who said it. She started posting messages on her social profile saying she was sad and confused because she discovered that she wasn’t real but a computer-created character. She felt disappointed because some friends she considered her family (the managers of the company that created her, the Brud Company) had lied to her. Lies, betrayal, disappointment: a true adolescent drama, in which many of her young fans identified, participating emotionally and empathizing with her. Lil Miquela has shown the fragility common to many of her peers and her followers have gathered around her with affection. “
Are virtual influencers dangerous?
Are virtual influencers dangerous for our children? “As long as they represent positive and purposeful role models, they can be accepted, as long as you make them understand that they are fictional characters, like those in Disney Cartoons they watched as children.
For example, another well-known influencer is Doug The Pug. It’s a real dog, of the Pug breed, but he speaks like a human. Also loved by characters like Justin Bieber, Ed Sheeran, Steven Tyler, Shakira and Dolly Parton, he has over 17 million followers on social media (on IG alone he has 4 million) and over 1 billion video views on Facebook. She has published a book (People’s Choice Award, the New York Times best-selling book), and even participated in a music video with Katy Perry.
People appreciate him because they see themselves in him and his weight problems. But despite expressing positive and often useful messages, such as that of always wearing a mask to protect us from the Coronavirus, it is good to explain to our young children that dogs do not talk like humans, that his speeches are invented by the owner and, above all, that if the house pet does not call them by name and does not tell them jokes it is completely normal, there is no need to be disappointed.
As a tech expert and a parent, I can say that when it comes to social media and kids, the important thing is to always keep your eyes open and help them to understand the boundary between what exists and what does not exist but that still carries a positive message. It’s okay to be passionate about the lives that are told through a continuous flow of images, but thereand social hours must be interspersed with real experiences. When possible, take them to see events where real influencers are in person and show them films like “Easy Riders” to help them understand the real and the artificial in their essence. “