Abigail C. Keane Article TRANSFORMATIVE TECHNOCRATS - December 2018

Influencing Our Ideas, Infecting Our Values

Written by Abi C. Keane

I think the time has come to talk about one of the most absurd recently emerged internet phenomena: social media influencers. The question that puzzles me the most on this topic is why the !@*# can someone get away with making money for doing nothing?

Before you chew me out, listen to what I have to say. I know that not all “influencers” are stupid or terrible people – that is not the issue. The issue is the concept of an influencer itself. How do you even define that? What is an influencer?

When I try to answer that question on my own, I think “Well, it’s someone trying to influence you to do something, duh.” But what are these people trying to influence you to do? They post pictures of themselves doing cool activities, going to cool places, and wearing cool things. Though it may seem that they’re just rubbing their “better”, “richer” lives in your face, they’re actually doing so much more – they’re trying to sell you their life.

The way I see it, that happens in several different ways. First, you need to convince others that you’re interesting enough for others to be interested in you. Once you accomplish that, you need to convince others that you’re important enough to keep paying attention to. So what is really happening here is the promotion of a certain lifestyle.

However, that is by no means the end of it. The next step, the thing that really makes someone an “influencer” is making money. The ultimate purpose of being an influencer is to market the products of different companies through social media (and make money off it). If you ask me, that’s the epitome of consumerism.

So once again, what is an influencer? So far, it seems all they influence one to do is buy new stuff.

Photo by Jake Weirick

I’m going to take that a step forward and say: they influence us to perpetuate the overbearing presence of advertising and to distort our value system, with the latter being more of a side-effect, rather than a deliberate ploy.

The first part of that assertion is quite intuitive – after all, it’s near impossible to avoid ads these days, whether it’s on billboards, TV, Spotify, Facebook, or Instagram. With that list being only the tip of the iceberg, it’s hard to understand why people would further cultivate this trend by supporting (following) these “influencers.” I think the reason lies in the second point I made: a distorted value system. Not only do these “influencers” appeal to the masses through their style and glamour, they entice impressionable young people with the possibility of leading such lives themselves. If other random, previously unknown individuals can gain popularity and wealth through the Internet, then why can’t I? In a sense, this is quite similar to the 7-year-old “I wanna be a Youtuber” phenomenon.

Photo by Mliu92

This leads into a cycle whereby these pseudo-jobs are lauded over regular hard work. While it is true that not all individuals buy into this American Dream-esque fantasy, it is astonishing how many people support “influencers” and want to become “influencers” themselves. So to answer the original question of how these people get away with making so much money by doing nothing, I say: it’s their followers who are at fault.

The sad truth is, as long as people blindly follow and worship “influencers,” without questioning what they stand for or acknowledging what their real purpose is, the field of influencer marketing will continue to grow.

I guess what I really want is for people to start thinking more deeply about who or what they want to support. You need to decide for yourself whether you want to be one of the sheep who blindly buy into consumerism or one of the conscious individuals who refuses to fall into the new marketing trap.

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