Platform Spiritualities: Entrepreneurial Selves and Post-Feminist Sensibilities of Russian Influencers
In this article, we look at how preeminent Russian-speaking influencers spread sensibilities of entrepreneurialism and post-feminism on social media platforms, and specifically Instagram. Drawing on platform studies, critical theory and material from influencer accounts, we explore the ways that platform-based spiritualities are embedded in the neoliberal economies of self-presentation, micro-celebrity and branding in Russia and beyond. We understand spirituality as a broader figure encompassing both external beliefs in the divine, such as in magic, spirits and forces that lie beyond human understanding, as well as internal beliefs in spiritual tropes for reaching self-development, including exercise, mindfulness and life coaching, among others. By amplifying presentations of the self around regimes of happiness, positivity, self-growth and unfettered joy, platform spiritualities nullify critical thought and normalize a depoliticized conception of selfhood in the Russian public space. Influencers encourage women to focus on themselves, travel, dress up, dream about wealthy husbands and exotic sensations, and prioritize their own well-being and empowerment over social or collective concerns. The depoliticized discourse of these influencers is largely an outcome of the social media imperative to produce safe and riskless content under the fear of cancellation, which can lead to a loss of advertising and other forms of revenue. We argue that, rather than being simply progressive vehicles for democratic publics and participatory cultures, social media platforms, and Instagram in particular, are key to intensifying an entrepreneurial selfhood that relies on magical thinking and spiritual guidance from abstract authorities in repressive political contexts.