WSS Opinion: The Cult of Influence

There’s no doubt social media has changed our lives rapidly in the last five to ten years, providing a world that is more open and connected. The way we connect with friends and family is instantaneous and you can connect with people from your past you had long forgotten.

Strangers seem like friends on the internet and even though some online friendships turn into real life friendships, essentially the online friendships aren’t real. What you see online isn’t the whole person, you only see a small snippet of what they are like. There is no guarantee you are going to gel in the real world, which brings me to something I have been concerned with for a while.

Community is great on social media, we follow people who make us feel good about ourselves and who are like minded. However, things start to get worrying when followers call an influencer their leader/ queen bee etc. The cult like, hero worship of people is always a worry but when a lot of these people are train wrecks themselves, you have to wonder what the long term consequences of following these people will be.

Why do their followers invest so much of themselves and their time to someone they don’t even know? Would the influencer give them a moment in the street if you met them? Do they even know who you are? Probably not. And yet they are the people their followers vehemently involve themselves with, even to the point of abusing and threatening others who don’t like or agree with their “leader”. And don’t get me started on people who use the word “tribe”. If you are not indigenous, don’t use that word!

We see influencers whinge about how people were asking them questions about their relationships etc, even though they had just shared everything about themselves. You can’t share your whole life online and then not expect people to ask questions about it.

Another influencer said they were upset by a comment someone made about them and some of their followers asked who it was so they could tell them off.  This is where things are starting to get worrying. The followers were ready to defend an influencer who wouldn’t know them from a bar of soap. Why do people get so invest in a stranger’s life and want to defend them so readily?  We’ve seen this many times with influencers getting their “community” to do their dirty work for them. It’s a sad indictment on society when people abuse others, just because someone has a “beef” with someone else. You see it a lot with Mummy Influencers/bloggers.

Then there’s the people who “hate follow” influencers just so they can bitch about them on forums, Facebook groups etc. Why would you? What do they get out of it? It’s just sad, really. Have they nothing better to do with their lives? Why would you let someone you don’t even know affect you so much that you need to talk shite about them?

Again, there has to be something missing in their everyday lives to hate and comment on someone you don’t even know. Just as it is with people who fangirl over these people. It’s an issue either way. Too much time on their hands?

Something I have found gobsmacking, is the influencers who blatantly rip their followers off with overpriced products you can find elsewhere for half or even quarter the price. There’s no scruples with them. It’s all about the dollar and how they can get more of it.

If anything came out of the pandemic, it was this very thing. Not once did they ask their “community” how they were doing. I didn’t see any support for businesses doing it tough. Especially the Melbourne influencers, they couldn’t have given two hoots about their community or what they were going though. As you might have seen on our Instagram, we have been quite vocal in speaking out against our incompetent state government, support for small businesses, supporting metal health, donating to local food organisations etc and a lot of other issues related to our community. I didn’t see that from the influencers, only “me me me me” and trying to get money out of their followers for themselves, even though many of their followers would have been laid off work, their small businesses closed or on minimal hours of pay.

How hard is it to ask their followers how they were coping or if their “community” could donate to charities and support local businesses? It’s been quite eye opening to see how self centred and shallow some of these people are.

I’m also wondering why businesses aren’t doing their due diligence when engaging these influencers to work with them. It’s quite obviously from a professional point of view (I’ve working in marketing for 20 years), that their numbers don’t add up. If they have tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of followers and their only getting a handful of comments on their posts, wouldn’t that ring some alarm bells? We only have 17.6K followers and receive more comments than some of these influencers. You can’t tell me they are getting a lot of engagement from the 50+ stories they do everyday either? Less is more with Instagram stories.

In general, I think, when social media rules your life (either as an influencer or a follower), and it is affecting your relationships with your partner, children, work or life, you have to wonder if you need to take a break or cut back. If you are constantly on your phone and not taking time with your partner and/ or children, how is that affecting them? What is being attached to your phone 24/7 saying to your kids?

My boys are 26, 19 and 16 and really, it is true what they say, kids grow up so fast. Research is showing smartphones do disrupt our relationships with our children on a social and emotional level. They suppress our ability to interact to each other, and this fracturing of interaction can be problematic and will affect children’s communication skills in later life. Children learn social interaction and communication skills via their parents but what happens when the parents are only interacting with their phones? I guess in years to come we will find out. It’s the same with sharing your children’s lives online. Is this going to affect the kids later in life?

You know the influencers who share EVERYTHING on their feeds and stories? The people who share theirs and their children’s toileting habits, their sex lives and other things we really don’t need to know about, but they feel we need to. They literally spend every waking moment on their phone sharing every intimate detail of their lives. For what?

Not to mention the safety aspect of putting your children on the web. Even the most innocent of pictures can be used by sick individuals in a bad way. It’s actually quite scary how vulnerable our kids are online.

I have never understood why people need to share every aspect of lives online. Do they think they are so interesting that their day to day routine needs to be followed along by others? From my perspective, I think there must be other issues going on with people who do this. Is it attention seeking? Is something missing from their lives that they need interaction and validation from others? Narcissism? I don’t know but when someone elevates themselves to a level higher than others, you have to start to ask the question why? Some of the influencers actually think they are celebrities or something.

What is being on devices constantly doing to your own wellbeing? You do have to wonder how many people could actually step away from their phones for a day or longer and how many are addicted?

As you may see on our social media and website, I never post on the weekends. This is family time.

What do you think about social media influencers?

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