Why are influencers always depicted so badly by traditional media?

Posted by Jennifer Adetoro in Comment

3 years ago

Selena Gomez will be starring in an upcoming thriller produced by Drake called Spiral, Deadline reported over the weekend. However, here’s where it gets a bit weird. The story follows an influencer (played by Gomez) whose addiction to social media causes her body to fall apart – quite literally. And though there’s no word on which streaming service the film – directed by model Petra Collins – is set to debut, this toxic depiction of the influencer space is starting to become worn out and overplayed.

In February, tech journalist Nick Bilton projected similar notions via his 90-minute HBO documentary Fake Famous. The “social experiment” followed three non-famous individuals who attempted to become influencers by “faking” fame. What could have offered an insightful exploration into the multi-layered billion dollar industry was instead reduced to the tired rhetoric that anyone can be an influencer if they follow the tactics of buying followers and faking a luxurious lifestyle. In Netflix 2019’s documentary Fyre, which documented the disastrous and fraudulent tale of Fyre music festival, influencers similarly endured the brunt of blame and criticism. And last year, the streaming service’s original series Emily in Paris additionally perpetuated the typical surface-level themes associated with the industry when Lily Collins’ character unrealistically becomes an influencer – jumping from 48 followers to over 25,000 on Instagram in a matter of weeks – just by posting cringe-worthy and basic posts.

Oh and it gets worse. Last month, Netflix (notice a recurring theme here?)  announced two new reality series to document the lives of influencers – TikTok’s infamous Hype House and some of Australia’s prolific influencers in Byron Bay. And while both announcements were immediately met with a lot of backlash – the latter, entitled Byron Baes, saw many residents launch a petition that has already reached almost 10,000 signatures – a big issue here lies with these production companies and their eagerness to continuously portray the toxic side of the industry.

Both the Hype House and Spiral – unintentionally or intentionally – will broadcast a negative, inaccurate depiction to a mass audience that already has negative preconceived notions about influencers, further damaging the industry’s already bad reputation. And this is not to defend the influencer space – like many industries, it needs a lot of work – however, the hard work of content creators and entrepreneurs doesn’t deserve to be reduced to addiction, likes and numbers just for commercial gain. We need to do better people.

By Jennifer Adetoro, culture editor of CORQ. Picture credit: Selena Gomez via Instagram.