Influencers? Influencing who? Influencing what?

Remember the first major war of influencers that erupted late last year and dragged on to early part of this year? Yah. That one between Xiaxue and Gushcloud. I must admit. I must have been living under a rock. Because before that whole thing blew up and SMRT Feedback got involved, I had no idea that there is this class of people called “influencers”.

Recently, another little war between a couple of influencers has broken out. Not as large scale as the one between Xiaxue and Gushcloud. But it apparently went quite viral.  This war (or perhaps skirmish is a better word?) is between a certain Tan and a certain Donovan Choy. Who are these people?

Emily Tan is apparently a vlogger. Or YouTuber. She posts videos of herself doing different things on YouTube. Mainly fashion and shopping related videos. She also posts OOTD (outfits of the day) on Instagram and apparently has 14,000 followers. That supposedly makes her an “influencer”.

Donovan Choy isn’t really an influencer. He writes for the satire news site Durian Daily.

So what started the skirmish?

emmtaan

It all started when Emily posted something on her Instagram admonishing people for using social media to stalk random influencers. She goes on to advocate that people ought to use social media as a platform to guide and educate themselves. Then, she launches into this whole spiel about the poor wildlife creatures (what a clunky phrase!) suffering because of the fires in Indonesia. She then goes on to say that we should speak for the minority, blah blah blah. Then she ends off by concluding that it is unfortunately saddening that society would rather use social media to stalk girls with big boobs and guys with six packs.

This ruffled Donovan Choy’s feathers. He felt that Emily was being hypocritical.

choy_facebook

Donavon felt that Emily was being hypocritical for two reasons. Firstly, she had hitherto not mentioned anything about any form of activism. Secondly, she is encouraging the exact phenomena of people using social media to look at girls’ boobs and guys’ abs that she found so unfortunately saddening. Donavon felt that Emily chose to highlight the plight of the wildlife creatures to create a more appealing persona for her followers.

I really don’t understand why Donavon is so worked up. Even if Emily had never been using her social media channels to talk about activism, what’s wrong with her bringing it up now? If she really feel strongly for the wildlife creatures that are being harmed in Indonesia, what’s wrong with her using her social media channels to raise awareness?

And so what if she is encouraging people to use social media to look at girls’ boobs? I mean… an attractive young lady is Nature’s work of art, right? And art pieces are meant to be ogled at appreciated, right? And if by doing what she’s doing, Emily manages to get people to pay attention to what she says, and then she uses that to raise awareness for a certain worthy cause, what’s wrong with that? Even if it then helps her build a more appealing positive persona, which she can then use to get more awareness and galvanise action for a worthy cause? It becomes a virtuous cycle, no?

But the more fundamental question really is this: are influencers really influential? Yes, they may have the reach because of the thousands of people who follow them on Instagram, or watch them on YouTube. But are these people really influenced by the influencers? Or are they just there to be entertained?

Perhaps the influencers do help to give some ideas about fashion, make-up, styling and food to the people who follow them on Instagram or watch them on YouTube. But I’m sure these “followers” don’t imitate the influencers or flock to the make-up salon or food places that the influencers talk about, right?

More importantly, the influencers don’t really shape the thinking and attitudes of their Instagram “followers”, right? Not in the way Kong Hee shapes the thinking and attitudes of the members of City Harvest Church. Right? I mean… I’m sure no one who watched the “Things to do at Chinese New Year” videos of whichever YouTuber will actually do the things that are suggested in the video, right? I highly doubt that any of these influencers are truly thought leaders in any field.

And let’s go back to the “war” between Xiaxue and Gushcloud. How was that resolved? I have no idea. Did it have a major impact on our lives? Erm. Probably not. Just goes to show how “influential” these “influencers” are…

But if these “influencers” use their “reach” to send messages that raise awareness about certain meaningful causes, or call people to action in support of those causes, then, surely that can only be a good thing.

The world is messed up as it is. I think whatever little good anyone does should be welcome and encouraged. Be it reaching thousands or just to the people around us, I would encourage all of us to do a bit of good, spread some cheer, galvanise one another to do meaningful things that benefit the wider community.

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