Matthew Merril '22
In a society where the Kardashian dynasty garners innumerable fans and rakes in countless amounts of cash solely on the basis of status and glamor, it is no surprise that a specific lifestyle defined by luxury and fame is sought after by millions. In the relatively recent rise of social media, attaining fame, or “clout,” is clicks away. Users can post a video of anything, from dancing to comedy, and become overnight sensations. Those wishing to seek fame may even be lucky enough to obtain the title of “influencer.” An influencer is a venerated social media figure, commonly known for advertising, or “influencing” their audiences by promoting certain products. The paradigm influencer earns money from party-posting to aesthetically pleasing fine-dining photos. The ostentatious life of these individuals is a testament to the values of our culture—the obsessive desire to be under the lime-light, having few responsibilities, and being an idol sounds like the dream life to many. As the amount of influencers on social media increases, the inevitable question of “is the role of an influencer necessary?” arises, and there is no easy answer.
The rising number of social media users correlates with the rise in the amount of people trying to attain “influencer status.” As stated earlier, the stereotypical influencer of today’s age advertises products along with posting picture-perfect shots. Common products promoted such as Skinny Fit Tea and Sugar Bear Hair Vitamins are both ones that tap into audiences’ insecurities. In addition, as technology becomes increasingly accessible for younger children, influencers’ demographic of subscribers and followers leans toward those of a particularly impressionable age. This increasingly accepted stigma against imperfection, though cliche, is the problem with social media. Promoting toxic diet culture, for example, by telling viewers that a certain laxative tea will make them pretty is detrimental to children perceiving these messages and to teenagers seeking approval from their peers. This culture created by influencers is not based on scientifically proven nutrition or exercise information, but rather on the basis of what will earn money and grasp the most viewership. From my perspective, the false health advice and pressure to look “beautiful” is a side effect of the sudden craze to move to Los Angeles, the epicenter of social media content creation, and become one of the many praised public figures. In a society where humans are worshipped as idols, we must ask ourselves if those who gain a platform to speak to the world deserve one. Because their posts have negative effects among their audiences due to a lack of relatability and the creation of cult followings, it makes no sense for influencers to be worshipped the way that they are.
Many comments on social media, some more crude than others, call influencers “talentless” or state that their fame only results from their appearance, but I don’t believe that they deserve all the hateful words. While fame usually results from posting pictures or videos and not a certain skill, it does take a certain level of drive to be an influencer. Having met several influencers, many don’t fit the stereotypes created by commenters. Posting captivating content will garner an audience in one way or another, so influencers must tailor their content towards their fans and think through each business proposition carefully to maintain and build their personal brands.
Another problem with the obsession of becoming an influencer is that it dilutes the pool of public figures. Almost like economic inflation, the value of a verification check on any platform decreases when it is more accessible to users. Growing up, I recall times when my mom would dissuade me from becoming obsessed with a certain movie star because their talent was not valid of veneration. Now, I see a shift where movie stars or musicians aren’t getting the credit they deserve because the ability to become a public figure has never been easier. Thus, fans of undervalued entertainers display frustration when influencers branch out from just posting pictures to making music or acting. These same fans tend to be the ones posting pejorative comments about influencers and continue to express anger when record labels and acting agencies sign social media stars as singers solely due to their fame, even though they may not be great singers or actors. This enhances the cutthroat attitude of the entertainment industry, as it is even harder to be recognized when labels and agencies could easily sign a popular influencer and receive ten times the amount of attention and money compared to if they signed an under-the-radar talent.
Lastly, I would be doing a disservice to all the influencers out there who have built up impactful platforms for their respective niches. Whether they be a positive fitness influencer, a popular chef, or a singer, there is a plethora of public figures famous for their incredible work that benefits their audiences. It’s a shame these hard-working individuals face the stigma of being an influencer when their work isn’t quite comparable to that of the stereotypical Instagram model. These influencers who educate their audiences and create a positive impact besides earning money from brand deals are deserving of respect. Creating communities and developing a welcoming page for users are just a few of the many positive differences that niche influencers make. They utilize technology in a meaningful way, changing the broader social media landscape for the better.
The content of this article, as with every article posted on The Exchanged, does not represent the views of the staff of The Exchanged nor the National Cathedral School, St. Albans School, Protestant Episcopal Foundation, or any employee thereof. Opinions written are those of the writer and the writer alone.