In this modern day and age (I sound like my nan), everyone has social media. Whether it be Instagram, twitter, facebook, youtube, wordpress, or one of the many many others, we ae all online. We post pictures and paragraphs and thoughts and feelings, and often give very little thought to who is reading.
And, the rise of social media has also brought the rise of ‘influencers’. In the beginning when we all used the in-app Instagram filters and posted pictures of whatever we liked almost instantaneously, some people got more popular than others. And hence, from this, we have the birth of the ‘influencer’.
The ‘influencer’ has now become much more than what it was. It has become a way to create and share cultivated content, a way to make a difference, a way to sell products, and, for some, it has even become a career.
Now, let’s get one thing straight. Anyone with a social media account could be branded an ‘influencer’. It’s a vague, unhelpful term because it simply means to influence, which anyone could do. For example, say you have a friend with a private account with only 6 Instagram followers. They post a picture of a coffee, you think it looks good. You ask where it’s from, they tell you. Then, you go out of your way to visit said place. What has just happened? You have been influenced, your friend is now an ‘influencer’.
Sure, they aren’t likely to make a career out of it. The coffee shop isn’t likely to make them an affiliate of their company for simply referring a friend. But, they have got influence.
Why, then, do we place a higher level of ‘duty’ on those who simply have more followers than others?
This is the tricky bit.
So, we obviously expect a certain amount of professionalism from those who have a higher audience and do this as their job because, well, it’s their career. And, by professionalism, I mean we expect them to be disclosing what they have been paid to promote, selecting what they promote responsibly, and not being an all-round a**hole.
As with any job, we expect influencers to have a certain duty of care. To look after their followers in the sense that they do not purposefully expose them to harmful/hateful content.
And, as a follower of said influencer who follows this duty, we can then enjoy their content and all is good.
But, sometimes we ask for too much.
We ask for influencers that have never made a mistake, that don’t have any skeletons in their perfectly organised closet. We ask for continuity, for perfection. And, it’s a lot of pressure.
I think that it’s time that we realised that we are placing too much of a duty on these people that, realistically, could be any one of us.
Think about it. Have you made a mistake in the past? Have you got some skeletons in your closet? Have you got some things that you’d rather keep a secret? I’m pretty sure that every human on the planet would answer yes to at least one of those questions.
So, how would you feel if thousands of people knew about those mistakes? If thousands of people were sending you hate comments? If thousands of people were simply unable to forgive you for something small and silly that you did 10 years ago?
When we scroll down our Instagram feeds and see picture-perfect content that seems so beyond our grey reality, it’s easy not to feel sympathy for these people. It’s easy to forget that they’re human, or that they don’t actually owe us anything. It’s easy to mentally assign them a ‘duty’, they seem to have a perfect life, so why shouldn’t we expect them to also be perfect?
We forget, sometimes, that these people are human. And, of course, they don’t all deserve our respect or support, but they don’t deserve our assignment of a ‘duty’ either.
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