Written by: Tan Ken Shin (22-A2)
Designed by: Alexia Teo (22-U1)
Social media is an integral part of our lives in modernity and has been ever since its exponential success stemming from the 2000s. However, malevolent social media usage has led to a detrimental ‘syndrome’ especially common amongst youths of today, ‘clout chasing’. ‘Clout chasing’ in itself is not a true word, it is a term coined by internet users that refers to actions done by people who project a superficial version of themselves to garner attention on social media to become ‘popular’. When these actions are taken to the extreme, they begin to endanger the lives of people and even threaten the peace of society. This essay will underline how exactly clout chasing came about, why it’s a problem and steps that can be taken to mitigate such behaviour in the future.
The Origins of Clout Chasing
After the introduction of social media platforms in the early 2000s, with the first-ever industrial titan being MySpace, earning over a million active users in 2004, the use of social media began to expand and influence the masses, becoming an increasingly crucial part of daily life. A feature of social media that would eventually lead to clout chasing was the introduction of the ‘like’ system, a household name in modern times. The ‘like’ system was first birthed in 2009 on FaceBook, where it was then called the ‘Awesome’ button. The system involves users pressing a ‘like’ button to indicate their interest in the content posted, where the larger the number of likes, the greater amount of traction this would cause. The ‘like’ button, being a way to entice users to post and interact more with the platforms, was a massive success, and was implemented in a myriad of other social media platforms such as Instagram and Youtube, where it is even called ‘upvotes’ on Reddit.
Unfortunately, the ‘like’ system would turn out to be the catalyst for clout chasing. Due to the nature of the posts usually deciding how much traction it would get, where more ‘shocking; or ‘unnatural’ posts would gain more popularity. It is human nature to be attracted to things that shock you. Furthermore, celebrities on the internet have a massive fanbase leading to them having tremendous amounts of likes in their posts. For example, Ariana Grande’s photos from her wedding with Dalton Gomez on Instagram still stand at a whopping 26.5 million likes.
Instagram post from Ariana Grande of her wedding with Dalton Gomez.
Therefore, in an effort to emulate the popularity of these celebrities or even just desiring attention for personal gratification, users of social media resort to performing outlandish and even dangerous acts in an effort to draw attention, where these acts are often not in character for the person in question, merely an attempt to get likes. In 2016, the phrase ‘clout chaser’ became a derogatory term used to describe people on social sites that are shallow and desperate to gain followers and become famous, and also to criticise “fake” people that pretend to be something in order to get more attention. Thus, the term ‘clout chasing’ was born.
Why is it an issue?
This begs the question, why is clout chasing harmful? What makes it so wrong to desire attention? I believe that while it isn’t inherently bad to desire popularity and attention, the methods you take to get there are the points of contention. In the case of clout chasing, which is primarily evident in teens and youths, their still-developing brains lead to them not fully comprehending the gravity and consequences of their actions, only narrow-mindedly seeing the goal ahead of them. This means the extent they would go to to get a popular post would venture into dangerous waters, where their actions could be fatal to themselves and others. With increasing social media influence, this trend will undeniably rise in the future, leaving humanity and the next generation of society in a precarious position.
A stellar example of this would be Timothy Wilks, a relatively young 20-year-old in Tennessee. He aspired to become a youtube sensation by pranking others in his videos. In 2021, as part of one of the pranks that he hoped to gain traction, he filmed himself invading the home of a family with a mask and butcher knife in hand, threatening to kill them. As any rational parent would do to protect the lives of their loved ones, they shot him with a gun in self-defence, killing him. This undoubtedly traumatised not only both families and relatives of the involved parties, but also the friends and fans of Timothy. This news spread like wildfire, prompting polarising opinions on who was in the right here, where eventually all blame fell on social media influence and the severity of clout chasing.
A screenshot from a commentary video from youtube content creator penguinz0 going over the incident.
Thus, this shows just how detrimental clout chasing is when left unmoderated, leading to loss of life in this extreme circumstance despite the perpetrator actually bearing no ill intent. Thus, clout chasing is a problem and must be stopped as it threatens the peace and security of our society.
How can We Reduce this Behaviour in the Future?
It is not very well researched how exactly to prevent the influence of social media on youths that may lead to clout chasing, as in today’s ever-so-digitalized society it is extremely difficult to prevent children from gaining access to the internet. However, I believe one method to combat clout chasing would be through public education. Governments can implement curriculum changes to include education regarding internet usage, and how to properly identify harmful influences or online behaviour. For example, lessons could be taught to youth regarding clout chasing, teaching students not to fall into its rabbit hole. Currently in Singapore, the Ministry Of Education attempts to do this by introducing “Character and Citizenship Education” (CCE) into Primary and Secondary schools, which aims to imbue proper moral values and knowledge of the outside world, covering a range of topics such as relationships, internet use and street smarts, to name a few.
Yio Chu Kang primary school showcasing their students in CCE lessons.
However, this does not mean clout-chasing behaviour has been completely eradicated in Singapore, as cases still pop up from time to time. One of such would be the Zoo incident last year in 2021, where a 19-year-old teenage boy filmed a video on TikTok, a social media platform, of him trespassing and backflipping into the Rhinoceros enclosure in the Singapore Zoo, which was undoubtedly extremely dangerous.
Video on Tiktok uploaded by the friends of the boy who trespassed, making light of the situation.
Thankfully, these cases are few and far between, showing an overall success in Singapore’s efforts to adequately educate youths on the dangers of the internet.
In conclusion, I believe clout chasing to be a part of human nature to desire companionship, through attention. However, when one indulges too far into their desires, a danger is posed to not just them, but society at large too. In order to mitigate this, I believe governments should take this matter more seriously and invest more efforts into mitigating the issue, as if left to prevail, our future generations will undeniably suffer. I sincerely wish that in the future, users of the internet will be more aware of its influence and use it properly to benefit their lives, not endanger it.