The Bridge: You can’t believe everything you see online, and that goes double as we navigate the space in the future. Virtual Influencers are no longer a strange possibility – now they’re getting endorsement deals.
The Proof is No Longer in the Pudding
A tongue and cheek saying arose some years back – if you read it on the internet, it has to be true. For many years, the ‘net was the wild west – but users were generally helpful, respectful, and interested in one another. There was an earnestness and desire to collaborate.
Fast forward to today – is that influencer you’re liking even real?
Meet Lil Miquela, AKA Miquela Sousa. She’s a 19 year old social justice activist and fashion icon from California. She has over 3 million Instagram followers and was named one of Time Magazine’s 25 most influential people in 2018. She was recently signed by PacSun, models for Prada and Calvin Klein, and has a promising future in the fashion industry. She also doesn’t actually exist.
Virtual Influencers, a growing subsection of internet culture, are growing more sophisticated by the day. These artificial people exist only in digital space – they’re CG models puppeted by various individuals or groups, all existing in one way or another to influence users online.
Jacked into the Matrix
It’s hard to pinpoint the origin of digital models being taken seriously as entertainers, but the trend goes back as far as the early 2000’s. Gorillaz, a british band that rocketed to fame, is composed of entirely fictional characters. The concept was perfected years later by writer and performer Brendan Small, who dreamed up the most successful metal band of all time – his creation, Dethklok, went on to sell out arenas (though the $2.93 trillion they’re worth is a work of fiction, the creator is worth north of $12 million.)
There is clearly a desire for this kind of content – fictional or no, users gravitate toward these influencers. Just because they were never born doesn’t mean that they can’t be beloved.
With the rise of the Metaverse, AI art, and virtual models, we’re approaching the dawn of a new online era. Anyone can choose to be anything, and this idea is already accepted and embraced. Soon it won’t be just photos that are indistinguishable from reality, but videos too. It’s already hard to trust anything you see online – as the youth grows up in this challenging landscape, even more care must be taken as they explore.
It’s thrilling and daunting, but the internet isn’t the same place it used to be. Opportunities for creativity are opening up, despite what you might hear from traditional artists. The real winners will be the kids who can roll with the punches and pioneer in such a strange time.