The End of Influencers?

Life has changed a lot in 2020 and collectively we all must be hoping most things go back to the way they once were. Obviously, some things (like every restaurant in the universe) are never going to be the same. But maybe if there’s one potentially positive development it would be the end of influencers as we know it.

Before I even get into any of this stuff I want to acknowledge that there is a lot of suffering in the world right now and the issue of influencers is low on the list of important things. I know COVID has done major damage to families all across the world and it’s just an awful situation. It’s also clear to me how this is affecting different groups of people in different ways. Many of the most vulnerable have suffered the most. I’ve made it a point to help the small local businesses that desperately need people to rally for them. I’ve also tried to lend my support to various organizations like the Cleveland Food Bank that are desperately in need of assistance. I know I’m not solving this problem, but I am trying to have a positive impact and I want everyone to know I haven’t lost sight of the bigger picture.

Over the past few months, a lot of people have had a moment for reflection and analysis. When I compared my life before the pandemic and what it has been more recently the one thing that has stood out has been the lack of FOMO. I suppose I hadn’t previously processed just how much IG FOMO and “influencer bullsh/t” contributed to my unhappiness. I guess I didn’t notice until social media changed in the face of the pandemic. Now that FOMO has been largely eradicated and influencers are locked out of Europe unable to flex all summer from Il Pellicano, my happiness levels have been rising every week.

I have to admit that I have done my fair share of Influencer Bullsh/t over the years, and I can tell you that I regret *almost* all of it. I would take a few press trips a year and some of the experiences were truly amazing. Though it was always a struggle to do the quid pro quo for the PRs because the story almost always ended up a bit canned. That or I would have to do the exact same story as the other people on the trip. A lot of those trips would put me in an “amazing places with terrible people” type of situation and it felt wrong. (Not always, but some of the time.) You would be in this stunning place and everyone would just be documenting the sh/t out of it with their phone. Most of those moments felt like a pretty shameful existence to me. I feel like influencers depend on those trips for the content flex and they need that stuff to continue to prop up their imaginary lifestyle. Now that travel is limited for most people it feels like our feeds are starting to heal. Now scroll and see food, people gardening, hiking, or biking. It’s been such a refreshing summer in that way.

I know why influencers exist and I understand why brands want to partner with them. Though at this point I have to think that everyone who sees their content has to be having a negative reaction. People don’t believe this stuff, do they? Or am I just too deep in the game that I’m far more skeptical than everyone else? Do people actually get influenced by people with large Instagram followers? The people who are most influential to me are the ones who are highly real on social media or super original. I want to see the people who are willing to show the good and the bad on their feed. People who I can learn something from or appreciate a new perspective.

The main thing that I have come to realize over these past few months is that happiness is not gained through the things we acquire, but instead through the things we rid ourselves of. When the music stopped I figured out that the endless scroll on IG was the main polluter of my happiness. As a way to try to cope I would just buy things. That strategy never seemed to be as much of a fix as it was a distraction. Lately, I’ve been selling tons of stuff on eBay. Getting rid of those things. I’m here just unloading stuff to people that will hopefully need it and use it. It’s one of the most rewarding things you can do because you get a little money in your pocket, things don’t end up in a landfill and you help to unclutter your life.

The other thing I’ve been doing is unfollowing and muting the people who don’t add any value. I know it’s hard to add value on Instagram and I’m not sure my account even meets that standard. That’s one of the reasons I don’t post much. I just don’t think people want to know what I’m doing or wearing every day. There are very few people in the world who are actually interesting enough to be able to warrant such attention. So my tactic this summer has been the more I mute the happier I am.

It’s weird how much of a role something like Instagram (let’s not even talk about TikTok please) plays into one’s happiness. The disruption of the influencer status quo has been one of the few silver linings of the last several months. It has exposed just how artificial it all can be and the mental price we all pay for all of those perfect photos in faraway places.