The Problem with Influencers during the Pandemic

By Emma Kidger

As Covid-19 cases increase, some wonder if we will ever get out of this pandemic. For the average influencer, living in the pandemic is more of an option. From Youtubers to Tik-Tokers, social media influencers seem to have no limits in their life especially when it comes to disregarding all stay-at-home orders and social distancing protocol. 

According to WIRED, an influencer is someone who has the “power to affect the buying habits or quantifiable actions of others by uploading some form of original—often sponsored—content to social media platforms.” The line between an influencer and a celebrity is extremely thin, due to the introduction of more social media platforms. However, the authenticity of their material often determines the popularity of their platform or cause. Often teenagers and young adults, in particular, are drawn to those whose content covers subjects of fashion or food: something everyone can relate to. For example, Youtuber Emma Chamberlain gained popularity through her various videos on coffee and simply by filming her daily life in the Bay Area.

I too have been drawn to internet personalities, but recently have withdrawn from all the chaos of the social media world, merely because of many influencer’s irresponsible and privileged actions during the pandemic. 

I understand how their life financially revolves around making content for their subscribers, but is it really worth the risk? The popular Youtube and TV personality David Dobrik put a pause on releasing videos, many of which involved his friends and the “Vlog Squad.” Unlike others, Dobrik recognized the risk of publishing videos so he decided to find alternate routes to maintain his job and popularity during the pandemic. Despite the other opportunities social media superstars are offered to keep them in the spotlight as well as financially secured, many including beauty and make-up Youtuber James Charles, have yet to change their ways. When fans react to irresponsible behavior during a time of tragedy and precaution, it is hard for influencers not to defend themselves. During the summer, Charles attended a massive party and chose to speak out about it in a video explaining how he “has been wearing masks in public and has tested negative multiple times,” when later apologizing. Despite this statement of him wanting to do good by others, he still promotes the exact opposite. 

With viewers ranging from kids to adults, influencers with massive followings, like Charles, tend to present the idea that we should be ignoring social distancing guidelines. Like Telephone, the popular childhood game,  the undesired message of ignoring the consequences of Covid can easily be misinterpreted, and by the time the media star apologizes or confronts their own choices, it’s too late. Influencers effectively influence their followers on fun and creative content. However, amidst the pandemic, they need to emphasize avoiding the problem of influencing the wrong ideas.