I went on a walk with my mum this morning, and whilst trudging through mud and slush (I know, this is the picturesque version of Ireland we all have in mind), we got onto the topic of influencers, especially those on Instagram. She's editing a book about influencer culture and often comes to me with questions about certain terms; "what's 'shadowbanning'?", "what does it mean if somebody's 'sus'?", and often we'd go into detail about what these kinds of terms mean. And then, of course, there's the political side of influencer culture, which raises the questions of how these figures should convey messages about the topic.
I've often felt suspicious or slightly untrustworthy of people, whose main selling point is reviewing skincare products, suddenly launching into political campaigning. That's not saying that people can't be multi-faceted or interested in the two. I also dislike the whole 'stick to comedy' aspect of criticising influencers. I'm just confused as to when and why we started seeing these figures as responsible for political discussion, and why we get so angry when artists or other creators decide to abstain from the subject. Do they owe a large platform their opinions on politics? Is the political climate just so terrifying at the moment that you simply cannot be silent, no matter what your niche?
I think this is a dangerous path to push people down. Those who decide that they don't want to approach the subject and focus solely on their brand are often assumed to be 'hiding' something, that something rarely being positive. For example, I think of YouTuber Emma Chamberlain, a 19-year-old living in LA whose hilarious and no-bullshit videos gained her an enormous following in the past few years. When she stayed silent on the subject save for one or two Instagram posts about being registered to vote, her followers turned vicious, aggressively questioning her as to why she wasn't doing more and came to the assumption that she wasn't saying more because she was probably a Trump supporter.
Like, what?! We expect a 19-year-old to be spearheading the political discussion?
I understand that if you have a big platform, you are setting an example to your followers by the things that you do. Things like registering to vote or getting politically active are important. But why do people have to rely on Instagram influencers or YouTubers to tell us that? Are we that disengaged from reality that we get upset or angry when public figures - whose job is not to tell you to vote - aren't ramming information about voter turnouts or ballot information down your throat?
Maybe it's because of the state of the world right now - we're so fed up with incompetent politicians or untrustworthy talking-heads, that we look to people we admire to tell us what to do. I just think that if you rely on your democratic duties being read out to you by somebody who films themselves reviewing McDonald's meals in their cars, then you should take a step back and assess the media you choose to consume.