You can’t always trust what you see on social media. Platforms like Instagram let users curate their lives to show only the best moments. Social media “influencers” gain thousands (even millions!) of followers by presenting unrealistically perfect versions of themselves. Sadly, their image of perfection sells. It draws others in powerfully—and sets standards that in turn may lead those followers to consider their own lives less: less valuable, less blessed, less capable of providing contentment.
But what if some of those influencers were literally fake? That’s already the case on South Korean social media.
Say annyeong (Korean for “Hello!”) to Rozy. Since 2020, Rozy has gained over 142,000 Instagram followers. She models clothing, posts travel photos, and even releases pop songs. Brands pay thousands of dollars for her to promote their products.
Also, she’s a completely computer-generated animation, created and owned by Sidus Studio X. She’s just one among a growing crowd of virtual influencers.
For years, Hollywood has used CGI (computer generated imagery) to bring fantasy to lifelike existence. But now companies like Sidus Studio X are looking beyond the big screen. Their digital creations blur the line between fiction and reality.
Rozy interacts on social media like a real person. Sometimes, the studio superimposes her face onto a living model’s form to advertise real-world clothes. Through artificial intelligence, Rozy even comments back and forth with her fans.
To big brands, it doesn’t matter that Rozy isn’t real. In fact, it’s all the better. She never ages, so she’ll always look the same: young, fresh, flawless. Her marketing contracts can continue as long as companies wish. Not to mention, she’ll never cause scandals like real-life celebrities.
Most importantly, Rozy’s thousands of followers really do exist. And they’re ready to mimic their virtual idol.
But that’s also the danger. Human influencers already set unattainable standards of beauty, fashion, experiences, and wealth. Some even use digital image manipulation to make themselves impossibly blemish-free and fit. For their followers, envy and despair come easily. How can anyone’s everyday cold-catching, pimple-sprouting, car-breaking-down, going-to-school-or-work-every-day life measure up against the polished and idealized lives they see on Instagram? And when the influencers are computer-generated for perfection, like Rozy? Multiply that problem by a thousand, or more!
When used for good, social media can help real people connect. But social media can also tempt its users away from reality—even the great reality that every human, in every package, is a unique image bearer of the infinite and personal Creator God.
Virtual influencers like Rozy make for a fascinating display of modern technology. But what happens when people start thinking of these digital creations as real friends—as some of Rozy’s followers already do? Humans are easily drawn to imitate those they admire. But when the object of one’s admiration is not only an unattainable ideal, but even a counterfeit, what good can come of that adoration?
The Apostle Paul directed the Philippians to imitate him, as he was an imitator of Christ. (Philippians 3:17) He warned of chasing after things that are passing away, including wealth and beauty, as do many of the Proverbs. It is wise to fix our eyes not on a virtual celebrity, but on the Christ, who imputes to His followers His perfection.
Virtual heroes will never let you down. But will they ever really build you up? That’s a task meant for real people, with all their efforts, flaws, failures, and achievements, to do for one another.
Encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. — 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Why? Today’s digital animation can produce incredibly realistic things—but those same things can set unrealistic standards that lead to despair.