The first week of 2022 saw Molly-Mae Hague the victim of a social media backlash after her comments made on ‘The Diary of a CEO’ podcast. In the episode, Molly-Mae told listeners that her success was down to hard work, and that anyone could achieve similar if they were to make better use of their time.
Whilst her intentions may have been to motivate, it was generally received as tone-deaf and condescending. To suggest that Molly-Mae, a 22-year old reality TV star with no business background, landed the job of Creative Director of fast-fashion brand Pretty Little Thing via hard work, seems a little wide of the mark to say the least.
An internet pile-on followed. Whilst much of the criticism was warranted, the extremity of the backlash appears to indicate a shift in mood towards influencers and their contribution to digital society.
Influencers have been around for a while. They're primarily on our Instagram feeds, to influence our habits, without directly telling us what to buy. The trick to this subtle salesmanship is to elevate oneself above the audience; “aspire to be like me”.
This is not dissimilar from companies sponsoring celebrities and elite athletes. You've probably seen Anthony Joshua doing pretty much nothing on adverts to sell deodorant, sportswear or soft drinks. The difference is that highly esteemed athletes have achieved something substantial for the rest of us to aspire to.
What has become clear over the course of the Molly-Mae's social media saga, is that the audience are seeing through influencer culture. We have a better understanding of the effect of social media on our mental health and values, and people have become better at protecting themselves from the manufactured reality presented to them on their screens.
This is a cause for celebration. Influencers are certainly here to stay but their audience is savvier and more willing to challenge the values they promote.
A more thoughtful and genuine influencer culture could positively impact people's lives. Swathes of consumers have been 'influenced' to make detrimental decisions off the back of social media pressure. Whether it's accumulating credit card debt to have the latest clothes, using sunbeds to get an all-year-round tan, having cosmetic surgery to maintain the trending look, or doing things we don't really want to do to be 'seen'.
So, fingers crossed for a brighter 2022 where influencer culture moves to think more carefully about the people whose lives it looks to affect.
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