Part performance art, part social commentary, Follower was created to make people think about what it means to gain a following in the era of oversharing and why we care so much about who follows us online. The app examines some interesting questions. Does the excitement of getting a new follower on Instagram or Twitter carry over to reality? How would it feel to have a real person following you around all day watching everything you do? If we want people to follow our posts on the Internet, why is the idea of being followed in our everyday lives so strange?
For some reason, many of us are on a quest to have as many people as possible take in everything we post online. It’s weirdly thrilling when you watch your social media follower count go up, but it’s hard to pinpoint why. Are we seeking validation? Is it just loneliness? Do we want to be famous? The answer is probably different for everyone.
The Follower app will assign you a stalker to follow you around for 24 hours without interacting with you at all. All you need to do is fill out an application to be considered. The form consists of two not-so-simple questions:
- Why do you want to be followed?
- Why should we follow you?
Answering these questions in the context of this particular app or with your own social media in mind forces you to really think about what really motivates this quest for fans. Why would you really want people to follow your every move and see the mundane details of your life, either online or in person? And what makes you so interesting and so deserving of followers?
It’s a little strange to think about. But when you are posting on social media, you’re very rarely revealing too much about your true self. Everything that goes on your accounts is carefully curated to show only your best self. People who follow us on Instagram only see our most photogenic moments, carefully filtered and cropped. Twitter followers only hear your most insightful and witty thoughts. If someone spent 24 hours following you in real life, they might get to know a lot better than if they were only seeing your online persona.
But it leaves you vulnerable.
Your real life follower will see you having lunch alone. They’ll probably notice how frequently you head to the bathroom during your work day or how tired you seem in lighting that hasn’t been manipulated to show your best features. This stranger will see your flaws and realize how boring your daily life really is when there isn’t a camera out to capture the brief moments of joy. They will watch as you spend 15 minutes struggling to write a funny tweet that sounds like a casual thought off the top or your head. Your follower will watch you scroll mindlessly through your social feeds, watching other people through your screen, seething with envy over that one girl’s perfect skin (the product of makeup and filters), or that couple’s lavish vacation (they paid for it with a maxed-out credit card and will argue about it for months).
You don’t need to hire a real life stalker to reconsider the way you live and interact with the world. It’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to participate in this project, and it isn’t too much of a stretch to have the same thoughts about sharing your life on social media.