Stop “Keeping It Real”


(Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram)

We live in a society heavily predicated on social media use. Because of this, a strong contingent of social media users have unwittingly acquired an occupation not normally seen on any resumé you will read. This occupation requires them to desperately seek attention and admiration, whether it be associated with something positive or negative. This is otherwise known as clout chasing, engaging in actions, whether good or bad, for personal gain and popularity.

We see the negative aspect of clout chasing constantly on our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds. Trolls criticizing through comments and posts, looking to get a response from a famous actor, musician or politician, knowing just one reply can thrust them into the spotlight for their 15 seconds of fame.

But, at the moment, that does not concern me. Haters will always hate. It just so happens that now they have a platform to spew judgment for the world to see. That does not look to change in the foreseeable future.

What I am alarmed with is when those seeking clout use genuinely kind acts in order to further their own popularity. Unfortunately, this is something I am seeing more frequently than I would like. As most of us are, I have become brazenly dependent on my Twitter feed to keep me up to date with everyday events.

Throughout the day, I happily stumble upon what I consider the best Twitter videos, in which someone is being recorded helping another in need, whether it be a lost child, senior citizen or someone homeless.

The keyword in my previous sentence: being. Unfortunately, in the last two weeks or so, I have seen videos where the person helping also happens to be the person recording.

One video in particular left me speechless. A young man, likely in his early 20s, was walking down the street with multiple stacks of money. The video began with boasting and bravado from this person, talking about money being inconsequential to him. He then passed by an older homeless man on the street and abruptly stopped.

He proceeded to toss the homeless man some money, but what he did next left me baffled. The young man’s first action after giving this homeless individual money was to turn back to his iPhone that was still recording and promote his various social media handles. Then, to top it all off, he walks away as abruptly as he initially stopped.

Never once did he even engage in conversation with the man he helped. Not even the slightest courtesy to look the homeless man in the eyes or wish him well. And how could the young man? What I intentionally failed to mention earlier about this video is that the homeless man … was asleep.

I imagine the man eventually woke up, saw the money and was grateful to have been given some help. But would he be so grateful if he knew the person who helped him used the situation to further their own popularity?

There was nothing genuine about that video. It felt superficial and staged. You could tell the young man felt no emotion in giving away money to someone in desperate need of some.

The only desperation you heard was from his voice as he essentially begged for everyone watching to follow him. Solely because he had committed an “act of good.”

It seems clear to me that there are no moral boundaries when it comes to clout chasing in social media. Gaining fame and followers on these platforms is absolute power for those in hot pursuit of it. Nothing is off the table, not even faking acts of kindness to get a like, retweet and follow.

But as British historian Lord Acton so eloquently put it, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” For those esoteric clout chasers, they will soon realize that in the end, they were really just chasing waterfalls.