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When was the last time you were influenced to buy something? Was it an EOS lip balm you begged your mom for in 2010, or maybe a Laneige lip mask you couldn’t stop seeing on TikTok? In any case, you have been influenced to buy something at least once in your life, whether you realize it or not. With the rise of platforms such as TikTok, with its short, rapid videos, not only is it easier to be influenced, but it only takes 3 minutes to become an influencer yourself. But what does it even mean for one to be an influencer?
An influencer used to be someone with a large following known for selling products and merchandise, but recently influencers have been selling lifestyles and mindsets as well. Essentially, people want to be just like them. They indulge in all the products and routines influencers sell so that they can be more like their favorite internet person.
There is also a debate on who should be called influencers, and who should be called “creators.” The difference between the two is that influencers focus on the business side of content creation, and typically create to get money and fame. Creators tend to build up reputations more slowly and put more time into their content.
“Creators do it for themselves. Influencers do it for followers.”
This has caused a stigma around the word influencer. When people think of influencers, they usually think of someone like Logan Paul, who in 2018 infamously posted a vlog on his extremely popular YouTube channel where he filmed a dead body hanging. This caused a huge outrage. When someone on social media reaches a certain level of fame, they tend to post without thinking about the impact their content has on real people. A more extreme example is Andrew Tate, who has recently blown up due to preaching misogyny and ignorance to young boys. This has caused a huge spike in mistreatment and hatred of women, especially in younger generations. When we were growing up, all we had was YouTube, which made it harder to be influenced because of the long, slow videos. However, TikTok and Instagram have changed the way we consume content: they’re easier to watch, ergo they’re easier to listen to and follow.
“When kids have too many ideas thrown at them, they can’t think of their own.”
When we were kids, the only things we were influenced to buy were Shopkins or easy-bake ovens. However, nowadays we have 14-year-old influencers such as @.evelyn..grwm that post get-ready-with-me’s using expensive, high-end products. Influencer culture being targeted towards children is so much more dangerous, as kids are easily moldable.
Family vloggers are a huge contributor to this. In these types of videos, parents film their kids having breakdowns to shame them, when in reality that’s what kids do. People see funny vines of children and decide to use their own as a vessel to gain fame. Parents may be okay with capitalizing off their children; however, these kids can’t consent to be on camera.
“If children view this kind of stuff, they think it’s normal to share emotions online.”
Although there are many negatives to this culture, there are a few positives. Many creators use social media as a tool to advocate for representation. @sabrinabahsoon on TikTok, also known as “tube girl,” is known for making videos where she confidently lip-syncs to songs in public. While she wasn’t trying to, she created a trend that helped boost millions of women’s confidence. Commentary YouTuber Kurtis Conner also has a positive influence. Conner makes videos about current topics while breaking down and calling out certain people or actions, and how they can be harmful to our society. An example of this is when he made videos talking about influencers such as Andrew Tate and brought awareness to his sneaky tactics.
Regardless of the few good influencers, how can we escape the culture altogether? A way we can avoid blindly buying products off TikTok is to ask “real-life” people if a product is worth it, rather than listening to influencers. Along with sponsorships being a hoax, everyone reacts to certain products differently, so it may be wiser to ask a friend, rather than someone who gets facials weekly. It’s also important to note that influencers are just people at the end of the day, and we should never be idolizing them in the first place. If you don’t like an influencer, it’s partially your fault for putting them on that pedestal. Regardless, it’s crucial to be aware of this culture motivating us to consume, and how it affects our everyday lives.