London (E. Flori, S.Orfei and E. Manicone)  – The Internet usage in Great Britain is still growing since its services have been sophisticated over the years. The last figures reported by the Office for National Statistics show that, in particular, London and South East of England “have the highest internet access”.

So, how do people spend time on the Internet? At this question, one of the common answers is social media. In fact, according to the latest data released, over 39 million social media’s users was dominating the UK population in 2017 and now is amounted to 44 million active users.

Social media, in fact, is becoming a major platform where pictures, videos but also news are shared. However, what it has been emerged is that a phenomenon, called ‘Influencer’, is becoming very popular on the online platforms, catching the attention of London’s population too.

So, what is an Influencer? Most of Londoners, according to our team survey, do not know it, even though they are affected – consciously or unconsciously by it. Therefore, from June 18th to June 27th London One academy’s inquiry, tried to discover what and who such phenomenon involves, how it operates and if it can be identified either in a special figure or via an abstract idea.

More than 4000 people aged between 8 and 70 were interviewed across several London’s areas, starting from the most famous landmarks, such as Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Bond Street, to the the folkloristic East London, where also Spitalfields Market is located.

The survey’s results report that 24,79% of the interviewees either have never heard this term or are not sure about its meaning, while 75,21% were at least ready to provide a definition.

London One Academy team understands that young people
– who were the highest percentage amongst those who were aware of the term – recognise the Influencer’s notion easily, as it is a neologism specifically connected to social media.

The social platforms most used by Londoners are currently Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook, as showed by the graphics. As the interviewees explained, those social platforms are direct with an immediate impact and connection to their influencers with which they can have online conversations. The striking feature of the survey conducted is that even though 24,79% of respondents do not know the term Influencer, the majority of them appear to be influenced by famous people -celebrities, actors, singers, etc. – without calling them “influencers”.

So at the question: “who do most influence you on social media?”- 24,79% answered citing names of artists, musicians, athletes, writers or intellectuals, such as William Blake and Gandhi.

According to Federico Clapis, Italian artist, an Influencer ‘is just a more elegant term to identify someone who creates contents.” However, is the ‘influencer world’ just a matter of words and contents?

Marshall Mc Luhan would answer with his motto: “the medium is the message”. Such observation still applies today, also connected to the image of the Influencer that today, in particular,  plays the role of ‘the medium’ for many people in London.

So, “The medium is the message” turns out to be up-to-date in order to interpret not only the features of mass media communication, but also unexpected aspects of communication in the digital age.

Regarding the contents or topics followed by the users are are fashion, music and sport, but a notable number of people – almost 32%- don’t declare a specific sector of interest, as the histogram above depicts.

Also by connecting the topics shared and follow  to the variable of sex, it has been emerged that men are mainly involved in sports, while women follow influencers who are experts in fashion, music or also make up.

However, one of the common questions raised is  if such phenomenon has existed also in the past or it is a new trend recently came out.

According to the Influencer’s definition – mentioned by Mr Clapis too – it can be stated that, yes, there has always been an influencer in the human history. However, changes and developments are part of every societies and generations, and consequently a change is even visible in this case. The knowledge diffused, or commonly ‘shared’ by the influencers today, is defined as a  medium of ‘commerce and money’ rather than good information and communication. The results are, according to some respondents, a lack in identity and originality.

Studies by P. Lazarsfeld and E.Katz from the Columbia University, released in the 50s and 60s, demostrate the power of mass media shown over the years via opinion leaders, who used to control and affect society’s thoughts and behaviour. Nowadays this phenomenon is still alive, in particular on new media rather than traditional ones such as TV, press or radio, because of the social networks interactivity that attracts the young generation.

Consequently, the will of choosing specific brands and following the last trends is due to the need to confirm our identity into a community where we feel the necessity to be approved.

What is then the solution? Demonising or deleting apps could be the answer for someone but not for all. What it has been emerged from such survey is that the current century is deepening its roots into the digital era soil. What the future can offer us is a double edged weapon, it depends on the usage we do with it. Social media can be considered a drop in the ocean of the Industrial Revolution 4.0, but this does not mean we should underestimate their potential power.