I have been aware of the existence of “influencers” for about a year now - before, I must admit, I never actually thought this would be a “thing”, even less that this would be a “job” netting people insane amounts of money. Yeah, yeah, you may think I was buried under a rock or something, but I’m telling you - I honestly think it was a subconscious part of my brain refusing to believe this. I think what broke me was the fact that these people refer to what they’re doing as a “calling”.
Now, I went against this since day one! I think this is stupid, hollow and pointless and only a sign of our times that more and more people live their lives (or what would very loosely be called “life” through the antics of others sharing what is, 99% of the time, absolutely fake, in social media. Of course, I caught a lot of flack because of my “backward” attitude but guess what? The basic reasons I am so absolutely against this are now coming home to roost!!!
Just over the past few weeks there have been repeated incidents where this whole “influencer” stupidity is starting to REALLY annoy people, destroy property and damage nature and much worse. People are starting to react - and react increasingly violently - to what influencers do and how they act and pretty soon there will be a more-than-peaceful backlash. Let us quickly review, shall we?
About a month ago, a moron chose to drive his rented 4x4, through the barriers and into a protected natural gas spring area (because, well, apparently having a million followers on Instagram gives you that licence!) and, in the process, not only destroy a large area which will take about a decade to return to normal but also to get stuck in the process, requiring emergency services to have to pull him out. Of course, the moron stopped and took selfies of his stupidity and those selfies gathered hundreds of thousands of likes!!! Oh yeah…apparently hundreds of thousands of people think destroying something rare is “cool” and they would absolutely support said moron if he were to do it again somewhere else.
So, what would stop him? Why wouldn’t he, next time, destroy a rare bamboo forest? Or something even worse? The answer is, unfortunately, that nothing would stop him! Because now company X or company Y will mind-numbingly rush to sponsor the moron to continue doing stupid stunts like this as long as he sports their logo or tags them. And the moron will because, hey, there’s no consequence to what he does in the name of Likes and, of course, money.
I’m sure most of you have heard of Notting Hill and even if you haven’t, a quick search will show you tons of pictures of people against colourful doors and house entrances. That’s right, thousands upon thousands of pictures of people in front of colourful entrances. Now, these are entrances to people’s homes, the overwhelming majority of them inside small gardens, behind small metal gates, usually closed. Does this stop all those influencers from illegally opening the gates, walking into someone’s garden and taking selfie upon selfie, pose upon pose, doorway after doorway. In fact, it’s gotten so bad that more and more Notting Hill citizens are now actively reacting very negatively, sometimes even semi-violently, when people encroach on their privacy.
Leaving legalities aside - it is actually VERY illegal to open a closed door, walk into someone’s yard (for non-official purposes) and take pictures of their home without their permission - the biggest problem according to the residents is how all those influencers treat their properties, sometimes even them, in the altar of getting the image which will net them their next 20, 30 or 40k Likes. Stories of influencers jumping over stone walls onto flower beds just to get to the right coloured door, of removing practical elements such as garbage bins, letter boxes etc because they “spoiled” their selfies (and of course not returning them to their place) and much, much more are becoming the norm rather than the exception.
You see, everybody can take a selfie, from the street, in front of one of those beautifully coloured doorways - this is both legal and non-disruptive - but EXACTLY because everyone can do it, this is no longer good enough for the influencers - they need to do something different, something bigger…they just don’t care if in doing that they actually disturb someone’s life. These are very normal people, with partners and families, with young children and pets and everything and none of them deserve having random strangers snapping pictures in front of their front door!
So, Notting Hill residents are now taking matters into their own hands. Police are being called more and more frequently, buckets of water have been known to be deployed and harsh words are being exchanged more and more. Local residents’ associations have been actively discussing more active measures and things are rapidly escalating.
An influencer emailed the owner of a luxury hotel, pretty much demanding he (and his friends!) would be provided full accommodation for a week (oh yes!) in return for a mention to their 40k followers. Now, the owner, in a very calm and polite - but also pointed - way, not only declined the request but suggested the requesters “find a job” which would allow them to stay in his hotel like normal paying guests.
The influencer’s reaction was only typical of how skewed our perception of normality has become: not only did he not say “okay” and try another hotel (with potentially a more accepting owner), but launched an entire campaign to boycott the hotel and embarrass its owner, presenting his request for several thousand dollars worth of free services as “normal” and the refusal as “rude”. Now in this case the whole boycott campaign backfired rather badly, as dozens of hotel owners across the entire region flocked to the owner’s side and also blocked various influencers’ requests, in a couple of cases actually evicting influencers already staying in their properties.
Subsequently the absurdity of this entire situation became even more obvious as the original owner described, in excruciating detail not only what had happened but compared it to the way his hotel had always worked with high-reaching influencers (his qualification levels were over 250k followers) for promotion etc., putting a lot of things into perspective, including, in a very practical way, what actually constitutes an influencer and what a social media moron really is.
Case 4 (and, by far, the most ludicrous of them all!): you surely must have read about the so-called “influencer couple” who are fundraising around $10,000 so they can take a holiday cycling across Africa. If you haven’t, let me describe the insanity of what they’re doing: you see, according to them, their very style of life and what their followers expect of them simply does not allow them to work - in their words, “work is not an option for us”. So, how have they been living and travelling until now? Well, again, in their own words, the guy’s mother is working 2 (and sometimes 3) jobs to support them both and allow them to continue living the way “their followers expect them to” (I am telling you, this gets worse!).
Yes, you read it right: a 60-year old woman works 3 jobs so her influencer son can travel and supply his followers with lifestyle images.
I’m not sure if their campaign will manage to gather the money they’re asking for - I have the fear it will and it will simply enable them even more, essentially rewarding this totally insane lifestyle and, I am almost certain, lead other morons from trying something similar.
The above cases are just examples - there are countless other cases out there fuelled by nothing more than the absolute boundless disturbed idea of these people about themselves and how they have come to alter the very notion of normality for the rest of the world. And the world is starting to take notice. When in early 2017 influencers were hailed as the new marketing messiahs and the harbingers of infinite reaches (notice the pun?) - it was The Guardian itself who called them “the new stars of (web) advertising” and Forbes assigned a new economic value to them rated in multiple billions! - 2019 has brought a new era of slowly coming down to reality.
Unilever, one of the world’s largest companies is actively scaling down (see stoping) working with influencers citing lack of trust and traceability - fake accounts, bought followers and fake engagement metrics all appear to come into play. And more companies have since followed suit and more are turning to micro-influencers (oh yes, apparently they never learn!) who tout not their amazing stunts but daily and even hourly engagement and interactivity.
But this is nowhere near the end of this sad story: ordinary people’s tolerance for these stupid stunts and their impact will increase and their reactions will start driving waves of increasing intensity and ferocity and, eventually, this will spill over to those companies who fund this insanity. Because, ultimately, the real blame rests equally with them - after all, why would anyone strive so hard to become an influencer if nobody was willing to support them?
Until then, the rest of us, normal people, actual respectful photographers and tourists alike should expect to get “hit” by the rising wave of resentment, to have to deal with hostile locals and everyday people, to have our access to beautiful places limited or even blocked. All we can do is try to be better, nicer, heal some of the “wounds” those morons will continue causing.