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The social media ‘like’ culture has jumped the shark

This Millennial had to read it twice to avoid it going over my head.

From my teen years on, I grew up in an online world, and have done my best to keep up with it while never abandoning the sensibility of things like a good cup of coffee and newspaper in hand.

But here, in 2019, I recently read (on Twitter) about a moment that made me wonder if our social media culture and the way we interact with one another has officially jumped the shark.

The set up: Influencers are quite possibly the strangest profession on Earth. They are people who attract thousands of “likes” on social media (most often Instagram) by some combination of having looks, talent or by videoing themselves doing really dumb things. Because of their “following,” companies sometimes pay these influencers to cheerlead their products on social media.

To the digital influencer, this wields a strange amount of power which, like it has for humans from the dawn of civilization, can be a troubling thing.

I wouldn’t blame you if the previous paragraphs alone cause you to throw your smartphone out of the window, but it gets better.

An influencer recently decided to review a restaurant on Reddit (another social media) and gave said restaurant a one-out-of-five-star rating. This is how this person’s post went:

“I’m giving one-star because of the cheap management and customer service. I heard the food was very good so I went to try. Me and the BF (boyfriend) got the calamari, spaghetti alle vongole, and gnocchi. All were very delicious.

I was actually so impressed that when the manager came to ask us how everything tasted I told her it was some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had and I told her I was going to post about it on Instagram, where I have over 11,000 followers and a lot of them are in the area. She seemed very happy about it.

I was wrong. I thought she would be grateful for free advertising, but when the check came there was literally no discount at all. I thought at least one of the entrees would be taken off…

I won’t go back because of this…The manager needs to understand how to treat customers.”

Wow! Is this really where we are at in 2019?

I’ve long been concerned about our obsession with “likes” or “friends” in the social media sphere. As this is a relatively new phenomenon, I am certain our generation will be studied for years in terms of what all of this does to our mental state.

But this one really made me do a double take about the power of social media, and how frivolous it is for people to feel so entitled just by having a few followers.

It makes me glad to live in a place like Tiffin, where people recognize the value of and struggles of small businesses. You see their ads in each issue of The Advertiser-Tribune. People care about their neighbor, and I’ve seen a true effort in our community choosing to support local businesses.

Cute shops. Places to get things fixed. Places to buy a vehicle. Places to buy things for the home. Places to buy gas. Places with doctors, real estate agents or any other type of professional service. We have it all.

And, yes, we also have restaurants. A nice variety of them too. I have found the experience at each to be enjoyable, and the food generally delicious.

I thought about asking the managers if I could wield my couple hundred social media followers into a free meal, but I decided the food was good enough to pay for.

Influencer, I am not. Restaurant critic, I am not. Believer in local business, I am.

Jeremy Speer is the publisher of The Advertiser-Tribune. He can be reached at jspeer@advertiser-tribune.com.

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