by Emily Quijano
The 2016 article, “Instagram’s Creepy New Ads Look Like Posts from Your Friends” written by Kyle Chayka, and posted on The Atlantic, addresses the presence of advertisements in social media. Chayka explains how companies have targeted Instagram—a popular social media site where people share personal photos and videos—to campaign their ads. Presently, advertising methods gain influence from social aspirations that make platforms popular and aim to reproduce the aesthetics shared on social media (2). Companies want their ads to be relevant, so they create the illusion that their products and brands are a part of social trends and lifestyles. Chayka makes the argument that ads have invaded a personal space of friendship and authenticity to bring awareness and criticism toward the way companies exploit human vulnerabilities for economic gain. He communicates his purpose and connects with his audience through appeals to pathos and ethos by talking about his personal experiences, using tone shifts, and writing with witty, sarcastic diction.
Chayka begins his article with a personal and highly detailed account of his experience with ads on social media to establish his credibility and universalize his personal dislike of ads. He states, “Summer is the best time for Instagram. Friends are always out on weekend trips, posting nature selfies or snapshots of their Airbnb cabins,” which suggests that his target audience are people who are familiar with the functionality of Instagram and can comprehend the modern slang (e.g. selfies, snapshots) that he uses in his introduction (Chayka 1). He attempts to make connections and further cultivate his audience by describing the experiences of scrolling through a news feed and double-tapping to like a photo which creates a sense of community and strengthens his assertion that Instagram fosters human connections. He is able to animate the invasiveness of ads through his narration by shifting his serene and untroubled tone to a tone of violation: “Then, in a moment of quiet horror, I notice the ‘Sponsored’ tag at the top right” (1). His discomposure creates dramatic emphasis on how ads disrupt social aspirations and connections.
Throughout the article, Chayka carries a prominent voice and tone that reflects his disapproval of ads in social media platforms. Early in his article, he makes a jarring declaration, stating that “there’s an uncanny valley effect occurring: Your friends look more like brands and brands look more like your friends” (2). This statement brings public consciousness to the harmful reality of ads due to the fact that Chayka purposefully underscores how ads feed on genuine aspirations. Chayka labels the human activity on Instagram as “moment[s] of vulnerability” which generates a sense of victimization and weakness within the reader, further revealing the exploitative nature of ads (3). Chayka becomes bitter when he describes how companies “[give] brands their own semblance of life” to trap us as viewers (4). Chayka’s wording of “semblance of life” emphasizes how he believes that ads are a facade of reality as they try to give life to inanimate and one-dimensional things. Essentially, Chayka is troubled by the fact that companies campaign their products and brands by fabricating a purposeless and artificial parallel universe.
Companies want their ads to achieve a sense of personhood so that they can have a social presence in intimate digital circles — which Chayka perceives as violating and creepy (6). Chayka believes that people will inevitably become inserted in the virtual reality of ads as he deduces that “ads are compelling, but in a sickly way, like candy: you know they’re designed for you to like them a little too much” (9). Advertising methods are manipulative and deceitful; therefore, in the ads themselves, the faces of the human models are blurred out and the central focal point is the brand to nurture consumer identification (5). Chayka regards sponsored ads as “spat out [robotic approximations] of the overall aesthetic” as they lack originality or a purpose other than trying to inject themselves in the lives of consumers (9). The tone of the article becomes sickened and displeased as Chayka explains how companies are only interested in gaining profit by devaluing the authentic experiences shared on Instagram. He carries a nostalgic tone for former marketing that encouraged people to model themselves after brands because, instead of imitating social platforms, they promoted authenticity and originality by introducing new trends and lifestyles (10). His distasteful and negative approach towards the methodology of ads is meant to stimulate public criticism: he wants to people who regularly use Instagram to share his perspective on the presence of ads in social media platforms.
Chayka is an advocate for inimitability and authenticity; therefore, he views the invasion of ads on Instagram as threats to genuine connections as they produce a virtual reality. By showcasing his unmistakable disapproval of ads, he aims to universalize his displeased feelings for ads. Simultaneously, he creates a sense of community by using witty diction and tone shifts to evoke an emotional response from his audience. The way he attempts to make connections with his audience by talking about personal experience highlights how he wants to build credibility, authenticity, and trust. His audience are those who use Instagram and are already skeptical about the ads in their news feed. He wants to foster public criticism and bring awareness to how ads are exploiting the genuine social connections on Instagram in order to trap prospective customers. His fear is that people will “never escape ads” because they are invading a space meant for social connections and aspirations (11).
Chayka, Kyle. “Instagram’s Creepy New Ads Look Like Post From Your Friends.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 22 Sept. 2016. Web. 01 Nov. 2016.