Editorial
March 29, 2022
Real or fake? Does it even matter?

THESE DAYS, it is often difficult to discern the difference between what is real and what is made up for the sole purpose of generating engagement and influencing behaviour on social media. Last Sunday night, when Will Smith struck Chris Rock in the face on stage at the Oscars, the first reaction of many was that it was a prank orchestrated to boost ratings and get people talking about the awards ceremony or the celebrities involved.

Sadly, it appears that there was nothing fake about the slap that was heard all around the world. Will has since apologised, acknowledging that violence in all of its forms is “poisonous and destructive”. Despite his apology and explanation that he was emotional because Chris Rock’s joke about his wife’s medical condition was too much to bear, legions of fans are still sorely disappointed about Will Smith’s irrational behaviour and the fact that it diminished the magnificence of his historic win of the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

Korra Obidi is a Nigerian woman who has 4.6 million followers on Facebook. A singer and dancer, Korra lives in California, is married to an American chiropractor, has two young daughters and earns a significant part of her income by going Live several times daily on her Facebook page. Despite not having achieved mainstream fame for a chart-topping hit or a role in a blockbuster movie, Korra has been able to amass such a large following online because of her skillful acrobatic dancing, while scantily attired, even when she was heavily pregnant. A few weeks ago, Korra Live streamed the water birth of her second child on Facebook which increased her following exponentially. Then a few days after she gave birth, her husband shattered the image viewers had of an idyllic family unit when he walked out on Korra and announced that he could no longer bear to live with her. Since this announcement, both husband and wife have been appearing separately on their individual social media pages, which have seen massive increases in following, prompting many to wonder if the breakup, as sudden as it was, and coming within days of the birth of the baby, was orchestrated with the sole intention to attract and retain their fans so as to make more money. Who knows?

Social media is a forum that rewards outrageous behaviour as this is often what is needed to keep audiences engaged. Like Korra, Will and Jada have lived their lives publicly, at times revealing more information than we needed to know. Lines are blurred when there is overexposure. Even when we witness something that is shockingly real, we pause, not knowing what to believe. While we are skeptical, we are still engaged and enthralled by the ‘real life’ dramas. Or are they scripted? Either way, the puppeteers are achieving their objectives as they have our attention. Real or fake? Does it matter?