The Curse of Social Media Success

When your community grows so much, you no longer recognise it

In August, I read a Wired story about social media influencers migrating some of their audience to membership sites like OnlyFans and Patreon to get paid for their content: content which is exclusive and risqué and doesn’t meet Instagram and Facebook’s community standards (Parham, 2019). Many influencers complain that Facebooks guidelines are opaque, arbitrary and basically censorship (#freethenipple is a hashtag often used to protest the censorship of women’s bodies (Rúdólfsdóttir & Jóhannsdóttir, 2018)). They are censored not only by the community guidelines but some of their own followers who report them (for an example see @tealecoco, 2019). In response, they migrate some of their audience to sites like OnlyFans. Now I know some theories that explain this situation through my CMGT530 class.

Instagram is an online community where influencers could express themselves, and fans interact with each other as well as the influencer. With OnlyFans the interaction is influencer to one fan or many. Instagram has experienced massive growth recently, and when influencers have public profiles (nil entry costs), the influx of new members can dramatically change the community norms (Hirschman, 1970). Older members do not trust the newer ones (Donath, 1996), and new ones don’t act in accordance with the unwritten rules of the community (Kim, 2000; Meyrowitz, 1985). There are as many expectations on the influencer as there are followers due to the SIDE effects (Walther, 2006), and there is a lot of conflict and groups regularly splinter off (Jenkins, 2006; Kim, 2000; Meyrowitz, 1985). Where once Instagram was perhaps backstage and a safe space for influencers, it has become front stage (Meyrowitz, 1985) and behaviours more formal and mainstream. Hence the appeal of OnlyFans.

Nevertheless, the influencers in the article like to keep their risque OnlyFans persona separate from their more public Instagram persona, and don’t want the two to mix. This is explained by Meyrowitz as how we have social situations and roles in those situations and we feel awkward and uncomfortable if those situations and roles merge (Meyrowitz, 1985).


Donath, J. (1996, November 12). Identity and Deception in the Virtual Community. Retrieved November 10, 2019, from MIT Media Lab website:

Hirschman, A. O. (1970). Exit, voice, and loyalty; responses to decline in firms, organizations, and states. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Jenkins, H. (2006). Fans, bloggers, and gamers exploring participatory culture. New York: New York University Press.

Kim, A. J. (2000). Community building on the Web. Place of publication not identified: Peachpit Press.

Meyrowitz, Joshua. (1985). No sense of place: The impact of electronic media on social behavior. New York: Oxford University Press.

Parham, J. (2019, August 19). When Influencers Switch Platforms—And Bare It All. Wired. Retrieved from

Rúdólfsdóttir, A. G., & Jóhannsdóttir, Á. (2018). Fuck patriarchy! An analysis of digital mainstream media discussion of the #freethenipple activities in Iceland in March 2015. Feminism & Psychology, 28(1), 133–151.

@tealecoco. (2019, September 22). 𝐄𝐕𝐈𝐋☽❍☾𝐀𝐍𝐆𝐄𝐋 || Model/Designer (@tealecoco) • Instagram photos and videos. Retrieved November 10, 2019, from Instagram website:

Walther, J. (2006). Nonverbal dynamics in computer-mediated communication or: (And the net: (’S with you,:) and You:) alone.

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