Influencer Culture in 2020 & Why I’ve Quit Calling Myself an Influencer
This is actually a topic I’ve been wanting to address for a hot minute now, it’s been on the tip of my tongue, but I’ve held back. Maybe cause I just needed to see how this all played out (spoiler alert: it’s not good) or maybe because I am just scared to share my thoughts because social media is so volatile these days & I am actually allergic to confrontation.
Either way, here we are. I sacked up. I can’t keep quiet about all this any longer. Buckle up, it is high time we address wtf is going down, because 2020 has truly been the year that pulled the curtain on influencer culture. It’s the year that people couldn’t keep quiet anymore when it came to calling influencers out on their shit. It’s the year that so MUCH tea was spilled & I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tuning in, it’s the year we really got to see some true colors in tough situations, and….
it’s also the year I decided I really do not want to be called an influencer anymore.
Maybe that’s dramatic, but truth be told- I haven’t loved being called an influencer for years now & whenever someone asks what I do for work or I have to fill out any kinda form- I am a writer, I am a social media coordinator, I am self employed, I am an entrepreneur, I am a graphic designer- I am anything but an influencer.
My definition of being an influencer no longer aligns with what it has turned into. It’s unfortunate, but there is a negative stigma associated with being an influencer, and at this point, rightfully so.
I will never forget the first time I felt ashamed to be a part of this world. About 3+ years ago, I went out on a limb & agreed to attend one of these basic brunches. They are not my vibe, but I was feeling particularly brave & this annoying NEED to network *cause you know, it’s what alll the influencers were doing*. I went with an influencer friend I conversed with on the gram & back then, she was new on the scene (not anymore- she’s a huge influencer now & she unfollowed me lol). She said I could ride with her to the event & it felt like we became fast friends, but the second we got to the event, she found her squad of influencers & I was dust in the wind. I was totally mean girl-ed for the rest of the day, & it was fucking terrible.
I went into the bathroom & cried into a glass of rosé. It felt like I was in high school again & I hated it. I wiped my tears, decided to never go to one of these dumb ass events ever again, and went to go introduce myself to the host of the event. She was the biggest influencer in the room, and one of the kindest people I have ever met. She realized I was alone & she made an effort to include me in conversations for the rest of the day.
The drive back was much less enjoyable, to say the least… but that was they day I became crystal clear on the kind of influencer I strived to be, and exactly what I didn’t want to be in this industry.
1. The influencers who rise to fame the Kardashian way (aka the Kardashian effect– it’s a thing). They believe that all press is good press, they want to make waves by doing outrageous shit no matter the consequences, they want to show off their money & don’t really care if they are making other people feel “less than”. They want people to STRIVE to be them, even if it’s completely unattainable. Unfortunately- this way works & it works well. It’s the psychology of humans: people love to look at lives they think are “#goals”, even if it makes them feel like total shit about themselves.
2. Then there are the influencers who actually want to influence people in a much more relatable way. Sure, this is still their job with a strategy & a plan to grow/create a brand- but the motive of their job isn’t all about the free stuff & lavish vacations & showing off their latest designer item. There is more depth in their content/messaging, they care about their audience, and they take the role of influencing seriously.
Which, contrary to what MANY people believe about being an “influencer”, it is a serious job. Having the power to influence a large group of people is not something that should be taken lightly. I’m not saying the latter group is the Mother Theresa’s of social media, but like- you get their intentions are good & that goes a long way these days. That is the group I want to belong to & it’s the type of influencers I follow.
Which lemme tell ya, this year has really helped me pare down who I’m following.
First came the global pandemic & the irresponsible actions that followed. Influencers were labeled “covidiots” & unfortunately, it was for good reason. I understand that we were all navigating unchartered waters, but like- the lack of common sense was mind blowing. Then the cancelling began- the people started cancelling influencers & the influencers started crying into a filtered instagram stories about how detrimental cancel culture was. Instagram was a shitshow, everything was so volatile, and I was finding myself needing to disconnect from that negative energy…. A LOT.
& then, following the horrific murder of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement began. A lot of people woke tf up, they really put in the work to educate themselves on systemic racism, & they used their platforms for good. They did the work both on social media AND off of social media. They did more than just post a black square, which sadly, is the most we saw from way too many people on social media.
Where do I even begin on the black square?
It was meant to be for the music industry, but of course, like any game of telephone- it spiraled out of control & context. It ended up with 28 million (this is an exact number) people flooding instagram with a black square. People who haven’t said ONE thing about the Black Lives Matter movement were posting black squares and tagging Black Lives Matter. The BLM hashtag was flooded with black squares, when it COULD’VE been flooded with valuable information. It was the definition of taking up valuable space on the internet.
& that was pretty much when the flood gates for decisions made in poor taste came rushing in. One thing after another. Instagram went from being hostile to just downright painful to watch. I truly am not here to call anyone out, except for maybe the one girl who wore a black ball gown to a protest & had a professional photographer shoot editorial images of her holding a BLM sign- she will be called out, and I’m not sorry about it. THESE were the types of tone deaf things I saw happening on social media multiple times a day & I really was at a place where I wanted to throw in the proverbial towel.
This was all a turning point for influencer culture IMO, it went from #OOTDS and affiliate links to #WTF and holding people accountable real quick. Influencers were begging to be held accountable, but could never take it. Call someone out on their shit & you were guaranteed to be blocked. People were being silenced, comments were being limited to only the ones showing praise, and the “audience” was done taking this shit with a grain of salt.
I feel like this was when the people realized two things: there is so much power in the influence behind social media & way too many irresponsible individuals are holding a lot of that power.
… and the shit show is continuing on, but the silver lining here is this: the content consumers are gaining their own power in the realization that they are really in control of who they do or do not give an audience to.
(& p.s. we haven’t even touched on the body dysmorphia side of things… need to save that post for another day, but yes- add it to the growing list of problematic things).
Now, as for me, I am not perfect. This is NOT some ode to me being an upstanding influencer, let me make that very clear. I have made my mistakes, & when I fuck up, I do my best to own it (this is a v hard skill for a Leo lol) and I absolutely make sure it doesn’t happen again. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. That’s the motto I go by for others, and it’s a standard I set for myself as well.
At the end of the day, when I post something, I try to think of my younger self, because I know there are younger people on Instagram who follow me. I think of how impressionable & vulnerable I was to the influence of those around me way back when. I was SO lucky to not go through high school with social media, but when the social media craze hit, I had many dark times comparing myself to other influencers. It was a vicious cycle of telling myself: they will always be better than me because they are skinnier, richer, prettier, have better hair, don’t have hormonal acne, massive under eye cirlcs etc. etc.
I never, ever want anyone to feel that way when looking at my instagram. Even if that dreaded “I feel less than” mentality that people get when leaving someone’s Instagram page gets said influencer more followers, I don’t want it.
I just want the young Erica who follows me to feel inspired, to feel like there is not only room for her voice, but her voice is important, her voice is needed to better our world, & to learn to embrace that not being like everyone else is actually the most amazing thing in the entire world.
SO- now that we’ve got all that off my chest, I just have one teeny tiny request from you guys moving forward….
Call me a friend, call me Erica, call me Fashionlush, call me a content creator, call me whatever you want.
As long as it’s not an influencer.