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Influencers: The Invasive Species Of The Internet

It has never been easier to gain a following and get rich. Social media platforms such as Instagram and Tik Tok offer fame to just about anyone. Some achieve it by consistently posting, crafting an aesthetic feed, and charming their followers. Others clumsily stumble upon fame with one viral video, an unexpected talent, or just being attractive.


Some influencers have gained my respect and a push the follow button. Most often, they’re well-versed in fashion or skincare, but I also support the occasional personality influencer. The majority of influencers, however, add about as much value to social media as Generation Z to the Republican party. None. 


I’ll equate social media platforms' oversaturation to the podcast industry. According to Bloomberg, the industry is expected to surpass $4 billion in revenue in 2024, up from around $700 million in 2019. Pandemic boredom and isolation led people to believe they have the profound insight and nuanced commentary that warrants a microphone and a Spotify partnership. The most heinous takes and unpopular opinions I’ve come across on Tik Tok have been courtesy of Joey from middle school P.E., who should’ve gone to therapy rather than started a podcast. For example, Andrew Tate is a name that likely elicits shivers from women everywhere, yet I’m sure his inbox is overflowing with people wanting to interview him on their podcast. I see people begin sentences with “this is going to piss a lot of people off, but..” then proceed to not only offend but also drop the most hateful speech that is so obviously thinly veiled projection. 


Opportunistic platforms give a voice to many incredible people with really cool things to say, but they also generate echo chambers for awful people with horrible things to say. If you burrow far enough into social media, you find where the incels lay their eggs, and that breeding ground is where positive and impactful social media usage goes to die.


A slightly lesser evil than the morally deplorable is those that get famous by standing and staring at the camera. It’s not a secret that social media favors and promotes the attractive. Still, on a platform like Tik Tok where people often make videos of themselves talking, and the chances of gaining followers for your personality are higher, the phenomenon is gravely disappointing. And once these genetically superior individuals have earned millions of followers and several brand sponsorships, they’re doomed to realize they have a platform that goes behind lip-syncing videos. Sometimes, they have something to say. Most of the time, the influence is grossly mishandled and largely ineffectual. 


So, which is worse? The influencer that spews sexist and bigoted propaganda or the influencer that’s gifted free trips then tells you that you haven’t lived until you visit the Maldives. One is at least aware that they’re the worst, whereas the other is so out of touch with reality that they believe filming a “get ready with me” is a chore worthy of praise.  


I know how it may seem, but I’m not entirely cynical about influencers. There are some that I genuinely find to be funny or intelligent and others that have incredible recipes and book recommendations. I’ve just observed how gaining a following and getting rich because of it has led people away from their roots and transformed them into cookie-cutter influencer that abandons their original dreams for easy money and an unsustainable career. 


There’s an influencer named Callie Wilson who lives in New York and recently graduated from law school. She documented her journey of studying for the bar and managing eczema with the frequent appearance of her two adorable cats. People must’ve shared my sentiment that she was likable and relaxed because she quickly gained followers and sponsorships. Throughout a couple of months, the relaxing Sunday reset montages were replaced by thirst traps, vacation content, and plans to move to Los Angeles. I’ve since unfollowed Callie, but I want to clarify that I’m not shaming her. It’s simply evident that gaining a platform has given rise to a shift in priorities, and she’s ventured away from the content marketed initially to me.


I view the influencer lifestyle as a kind of trend. First, there were YouTube creators that racked up followers and became rich. Then, they were replaced by Instagram influencers who mastered editing photos and were similarly successful. You now have Tik Tok influencers whose fame is temporary unless they maximize their opportunities. Charlie Damelio, for example, went from dancing in her high school bathroom to performing on Dancing with the Stars. Some make their 15 seconds count.


Other users use their newfound platforms to endorse a passion of theirs and enlist the public's help in enacting social change. Every month lifestyle content creator and YouTuber Lily Pebbles picks a charity to donate to and learn more about. She and her husband have been doing it for over a year now and are continuing to do so in 2022. By sharing it with her social following each month, she hopes that her followers will also donate or share the charity’s messages with others.


So, while there may be Andrews and Callies by the thousands, there are Lilys that prove not all hope is lost. We are well past an age where fame is accessible only through hundreds of failed auditions and denied record label demos. Still, we’re also living in a time when people can speak up about issues and personal experiences and be heard, no matter their status. When people can post a video of a dog they desperately want to adopt but can’t afford and hundreds of people will donate money. When a girl can share that her dad was saddened when no one signed up for his poetry class, only to have thousands of people fighting for limited spots the next day. We’re closer and more intertwined than ever now, and while that may make the world feel overwhelming and small, it gives way to significant and everlasting change. 

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