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The Flor-Ala

The Student News Site of University of North Alabama

The Flor-Ala

The Student News Site of University of North Alabama

The Flor-Ala

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Influencers are just Gen Z telemarketers


I fall in and out of love with a different social media celebrity like every 6 months. These days it’s Youtubers Sam & Colby. Their videos average about an hour long and mainly feature them staying overnight in totally real haunted houses. I was watching one of their latest videos with a friend when she said to me jokingly, “You don’t have any of their merch yet? Fake fan.” I laughed and said there was no way in hell I was paying $70 for a Gildan hoodie just because it had a cute guy’s catchphrase on it. What I didn’t say was that I had done that exact thing multiple times in the past, just with other influencers I had once obsessed over. It’s only now at the age of twenty-four that the novelty of influencer merch finally started to lose its luster. As the tidal wave of influencer culture crashes into every avenue of online entertainment, more and more we as consumers are realizing we are the product. And it doesn’t feel very good. 

“Influencer culture” has become something of a buzzword on social media. The term conjures up images of jobless twenty-year-old millionaires, dazzling Los Angeles lifestyles, and copious lip fillers. The word “influencer” is given to anyone nowadays. As long as you’ve got a credit card, you can boost their follower count into the thousands (or the millions) in just a matter of seconds. Even likes and comments can be purchased, and with the recent strides in the field of AI, soon fake followers will be indistinguishable to real ones. And it’s not just for attention or to look cool; social media is a business, and influencers are our generation’s telemarketers. None of us under 35 are likely to fall for a phone scam, but when you enter the domain to social media apps, things get murky. When the person speaking is a “relatable” influencer who you’ve grown to trust due to seeing their Instagram posts right next to those of your real-life friends and family, it’s hard to even realize when you’re being manipulated into buying something. And when you start to realize your favorite influencer is likely just as phony as the rest of them (as I did recently), it just feels bad. 

The birth of influencer culture can be traced back to the dawn of social media itself. I witnessed the rise of influencer culture by following popular YouTubers and watching them whenever I had free time after school. The 2010 launch of Instagram was a game-changer for influencer culture. It focused on visual content, and features like hashtags and a simple way to engage with followers, made it an ideal platform for individuals to showcase their lifestyles and preferences. Around 2010, brands began to recognize the marketing potential of these individuals with substantial online followings. Influencers became key figures for advertising products and services to their engaged audiences. Over time, new platforms like Snapchat, Vine (later replaced by Musicly, later replaced by TikTok) and others emerged. Each platform offered influencers new ways to connect with people, share content, and lie to their starstruck fans.

The most common apps used by influencers today are Instagram, Twitter (I refuse to call it “X” and anyone who does is just Elon Musk in disguise), YouTube, TikTok, and Twitch. Influencers can range from any age nowadays, but the average age for an influencer is fifteen to twenty-five years old. High-schoolers and college students are typically the main target audience on any social media platform. Because influencers start at a young age and are held to a high standard, many issues can occur. 

The lines become blurry when a person with a large following (three thousand or more) becomes an influencer. Some influencers resort to purchasing fake followers or engagement to boost their online presence. This not only undermines the credibility of an influencer but it also makes it challenging for brands to accurately assess an influencer’s reach and impact. 

Influencers often present curated and polished versions of their lives, leading to unrealistic standards for their followers. This can contribute to feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and body image issues, especially among younger audiences.

I think self-proclaimed “influencers” should change their title from “influencer,” to either “entertainer” or “salesperson.” Influencers typically either entertain their following by posting relatable content or persuade their following to buy a product or service they were paid to advertise. Influencers getting paid to sell a product or service makes you question their true intentions: do they actually enjoy this product or service, or are they just advertising for the money? Some influencers have been criticized for promoting products or services solely for financial gain, without genuinely believing in or using the products. This lack of authenticity erodes trust between influencers and their followers. 

Not only are there trust issues when it comes to influencers intentions when they post ads, but there can also be an oversaturation of ads. As influencers collaborate with more brands, their content becomes overly saturated with advertisements. Over time, folks get tired of seeing it and just mute their posts altogether. Or unfollow. I’ve done it more than once.

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About the Contributor
Bre Goodwin
Bre Goodwin, Former Lead Graphic Designer

Bre Goodwin is a junior majoring in Cinematic Arts & Theatre with a concentration in Acting. As a graphic designer for the Flor-Ala, she is passionate about art and the ways it can heal individuals and unite communities. She is from Leighton, Ala.

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