Editorial, Opinion

EDITORIAL: Social media lifestyle is tainted with toxicity

Social media influencers tend to itch us “normal” people in more ways than the typical celebrity would. Our loathing may come from a sense of envy or disappointment with ourselves. As much as we hate to admit it, influencers are the ones who got lucky. They got the big break. While they’re off jet setting with millions of followers and designer clothes, we’re studying for classes and working a part-time job we despise.

Jun Li/DFP STAFF

Influencers across all platforms of social media have pioneered a lifestyle that has put new expectations on young audiences. You get rich young, move in with your attractive significant other and spend your days drinking mimosas at the country club.

Their skill is admirable in a sense. They know how to elevate and market themselves in ways that continually draw us in, despite our disdain for their profession.

Influencers must know how to maintain success in some capacity if they have remained in the spotlight for so long. Job well done on the business front, influencers. But behind the facade of business-savvy, carefree young adults is an industry filled with a deeply-bred toxicity that favors shallowness and ingenuity.

To begin, how do these influencers get famous in the first place? They have a Tik Tok or YouTube video go viral, and if they can capitalize on the moment, then they are an influencer. As an audience, we decide who becomes famous, and a lot of the time, it’s people who are conventionally attractive.

So, even if someone gains a large following, they no longer have to be talented. Once their platform is large enough, opportunities are just handed to them right and left. Suddenly everyone is an actor, model, makeup artist, podcaster and singer. They are so passionate about these projects, you know. Just ask their parents and they can show you a home video of their child singing “The Wheels on the Bus” at the age of two — they were made for stardom.

Influencers also love to talk about how busy they are — granted, this doesn’t apply to everyone — but after watching people vlog their lives for years, it’s not difficult to imagine what their life really looks like on a daily basis. At the basic level, it’s avocado toast, SoulCycle, vlogging and getting iced coffee. A lot of big YouTubers also hire editors to work on their content for them. Very busy.

And slowly but surely, they start selling out to companies for brand deals. Sponsored content is obviously a part of the job description, but with each deal comes the risk of pushing followers away or losing their audience’s trust.

It’s hard to believe an influencer actually cares about a product they are using when they include random, scripted segments raving about a brand in their videos. Brands also feed on young, impressionable and inexperienced influencers to share horrible products.

Influencers are also sent publicity packages nearly, if not every, day. These gifts are filled with an exorbitant number of items people simply don’t need, and can’t use all at once anyway. So, they are forced to dedicate whole rooms in their mansions to public relations packages. How does the saying go… the rich get richer?

The industry is shallow, wasteful and disingenuine. But it’s also important to acknowledge how the toxicity affects the influencers themselves.

A lot of influencers believe they have to be perfect. They get thousands of hateful comments every day — even death threats. This behavior has become socially acceptable on the internet. No one even bats an eye when people stalk influencers as if it’s their job. People have eradicated relationship boundaries with public figures they haven’t even met in real life.

The industry is definitely intense, so it’s never surprising when an influencer has some sort of breakdown on the internet disclosing that they’re burned out and need a break from it all.

You might even see them go through some sort of metamorphosis afterward, when they finally try to break out of the bubble they put themselves into when they first started. This is especially difficult for those who have younger audiences, or started off on a more G-rated platform.

They then get more backlash for evolving. We have pinned them on a stagnant wall and have no tolerance for their personal growth. The public eye puts such pressure on them to document everything they do, and to do it so perfectly.

The general public has attached itself to a moral high ground and seems nowadays to purposely go on manhunts to bring people down. They will dig up influencers’ Instagram posts or Twitter likes from 2014 and use that as evidence to prove they are a bad person worth being “canceled.”

While we should hold them accountable, we cannot hold them to perfection. Going viral can ruin someone’s life just as much as it can make it.

We have created a truly toxic environment on the internet. People profit off of drama with one another and exploit their children for views in constant efforts to stay relevant for a living. For most, the clout comes and goes.

You have your 15 — maybe 20 — minutes of fame, and then it’s up to you to say something controversial or otherwise stupid to get back in the spotlight. Besides that, you’re coasting with the fans you started with, and are hoping you can do something to build up your audience again.

However, as much as we love to hate on these people for profiting off of our procrastination and boredom, we still admire that they have something we don’t. They’re narcissistic enough to think people will spend hours watching their content, and they’re savvy enough to ensure we keep doing so. Well played, influencers. That’s exactly what we do.

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