Virtual influencers are apparently the next big threat to masculinity
Between all this talk of artificial intelligence stealing our jobs, the ongoing Hollywood strikes, and the popularity of ChatGPT, perhaps it comes as a surprise that the first jobs to actually be replaced by AI are influencers. That’s right: AI influencers are rolling out across social media feeds, and amassing thousands of followers in the process. Ethical considerations aside – the Federal Trade Commission updated its terms last week to include virtual influencers under its endorsement guideline – it appears that these AI models have already grabbed the attention of alt-right pundits. Enter: the Thotpocalpyse.
According to Infowars, the Alex Jones-backed platform behind baseless conspiracy theories such as the water turning “the friggin’ frogs gay” and the Sandy Hook massacre being a hoax, AI influencers – the woman-kind, specifically – are the next big threat to masculinity, luring forth a new generation of wayward SIMPs who are already falling victim to their virtual ‘thirst traps’. The post in question comes by way of sad little man Paul Joseph Watson, aka the far-right commentator and Infowars co-host, who says virtual influencers are fooling SIMPs into believing they’re real: “The point is they are already good enough to pass as real for 80 per cent of NPC paypigs. Some idiots thought she was real, and hilariously they’re angry about it”.
But what makes these digital temptresses from uncanny valley so dangerous, you ask? Well apparently it boils down to how lifelike this latest iteration is compared to, say, first-gen virtual influencers such as Lil Miquela. One particular target is Milla Sofia, a “19-year-old virtual girl from Helsinki, Finland”, who has amassed tens of thousands of followers on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok, and whose hyper-realistic photos have already attracted hoards of sigma-pilled male admirers who post things like “OMG DM me” and “🔥” on each post. Some feel hoodwinked after trying to win her affection, despite her bio very clearly stating she’s not real.
One thing Watson actually gets right is that most of the creators behind many of these digital influencers are men: “It’s men getting rich off other men, who are paying for pictures of fake girls,” he says. Milla Sofia’s creator is currently unknown – they address themselves simply as ‘agent’ – but her conventionally blonde and attractive appearance is textbook male gaze. While this should provide an opportunity to pause and consider how this new trend may negatively impact both men and women, Watson chooses to bash said men and pedal anti-sex worker rhetoric (plus, his crypto plan), which of course does nothing helpful, for anyone.
But this isn’t the only AI-powered hoax entrapping the internet’s lostbois. Last month, experts warned that AI girlfriends could be creating a new generation of incels who will feel emboldened to control women and struggle to communicate normally with real-life human beings. “Creating a perfect partner that you control and meets your every need is really frightening,” said Tara Hunter, the acting CEO for Full Stop Australia, which supports victims of domestic or family violence. “Given what we know already that the drivers of gender-based violence are those ingrained cultural beliefs that men can control women, that is really problematic.”
With the growing numbers of lonely, single men, it’s perhaps unsurprising that we’re seeing an uptick in guys misfiring their social grievances at women, real or not. There are already men verbally abusing their virtual girlfriends, not to mention a growing anti-feminist sentiment among Gen Z, which is no doubt fuelled by extremist figures such as Alex Jones and Andrew Tate. While the reasons for masculinity’s ongoing identity crisis are long and nuanced, it’s safe to assume much of it can be put down to the pressures of capitalism, and the subsequent unrealistic standards imposed on all of us – not an AI-generated teenager posting gym selfies on Insta.