Don't Be A Follower
by Iz Inferno
illustrator Guglielmo Castelli
The term “Hater” was derived from an expression that came to prominence at the end of last century: “Player Hater.” This verbiage was a descriptive phrase used by many rappers and players alike to defame the character of the one voicing envy or loathing to their stature or abilities. The term became more loosely applied when it gained mainstream acceptance, and the word “player” was dropped from the adjective. “Hater” evolved from the original term and was not just applicable to players alone—anybody could be hated on at this point. There became less accountability and more tolerance for wackness due to delusions of swagger. “Hater” was a dangerous word and I was well aware of the threat that it posed to individualism and personal expression. We could no longer voice criticism or dissatisfaction without being stigmatized in this manner. Thus, we were doomed to live in a world where the expectations of acceptance and collective agreement were intertwined in the social fabric of America.
Would it be ridiculous to assume that the popular ascent of a term could lead America into an era of lameness? Could it be that a subordinate mentality was forged due to the threat of being labeled as a “hater” amongst the crowd? These are necessary inquiries when examining the psychology of post 20th century contemporary culture. Language is an essential element when defining any social or political movement. If we dissect the word “Hater” there are implications that it could be related to a non-conformist, but not in all cases. The polar opposite of a non-conformist is a follower. According to Webster the primary definition of a follower is “a: one in service of another b: one that follows the opinions or teachings of another c: one that chases.” Based on this explanation we can easily deduce that a follower is nothing short of a “Dick Rider.” Although the term is harsh, it concurs with the definition provided and what the common perception of a “follower” was in my formative years. I can recall being reminded constantly by my elders to not be a follower. This was a staple of parental guidance and could almost rival the virtue of honesty. This was embedded in the consciousness of society, and related to the embrace of originality as an initiative. There was a high precedent placed on leadership and the introduction of unique perspectives. Fear of being found politically incorrect did not exist in most circles, and we celebrated being anti-establishment. The only reference we had to the concept of following were those people who called themselves Branch Davidians and got smoked with David Koresh in that compound…no good.
Would it be responsible to believe that “following” has been redefined in the language of contemporary culture? Is it ridiculous to think that maybe we have been redefined and ignorant to the layers of manipulation that we are exposed to daily? When a word that historically has been related to a sheep-like existence has become so pervasive in society, should we not pay attention? Social media has systematically reprogrammed our brains to not only accept this concept but promote this mentality as well. We are preoccupied with following the movements of celebrities and non-celebrities alike. Clinging to whatever content they choose to provide to their legions of followers. What time their bowels move, what they ate that inspired this artistic release, and the location of the porcelain sculpture they sat their perfect asses on to take a “selfie” while performing this act of human nature. This is profound! We can be the audience as well as the cast in the great theater of life! Through the affirmation of “Likes” we can finally understand our self-worth and how profound our influence can be!
There is no “dislike” button to compromise the illusion of cyber superiority and to deflect attention from the ignorance being promoted. There could be a new social media platform that included a “dislike” button just to keep people honest. It would be the equivalent to amateur night at the Apollo. If your expression is suspect…
One addition could possibly detract from the conceptual design of social media. There is a degree of accountability when speaking your mind on these platforms that could ruin your image as well as your career. How many times have we seen people reprimanded for voicing their opinions on Twitter because they believed they were connecting with their following. The reality is simple: if you provide fools with enough rope, eventually they will hang themselves. The sense of empowerment is corrupting. As a result you have pseudo-celebrities relating their back pocket philosophy, puffed up with pride due to the number of “followers” they’ve attained. This is a mess.
I can remember watching Terminator when I was a child and being terrified with the notion of humans being enslaved by robots. As mentioned earlier, by definition a follower is a person whom is in service of another: essentially a slave. If we identify ourselves as followers, it is nothing short of adhering to a form of subjugation. When a slave mentality is perpetuated our awareness is sacrificed, thus leaving us more susceptible to oppression. The devices we use to communicate on these platforms are vehicles for these initiatives. Have we been hoodwinked into having a collective mentality which is necessary for large scale manipulation? Are we not promoting the concept of leading to deter individuals from thinking on radical levels. The problem (and beauty) of language is that it percolates through society and becomes part of collective identity. We must be mindful on how we identify ourselves and to what mentality we subscribe.