Are audiences tired of repetitive, staged (read: any) influencer content: of consuming this seemingly perfect, overly styled, one dimensional view of a pretty, narrow world?
We scoff at them (me included) — with their perfect clothes, flawlessly made up faces — looking into the distance, posting pictures with inspirational quotes and witty one liners — relatable, funny, fit, perfect. We don’t buy what they are really selling anyway, or so we say. It seems like Gen Z and the millennials are asking for more authenticity, more realism in the people they see as content creators.
On the other side of that screen, though, is a view that we are rarely exposed to. Influencers are fatigued too.
They are tired, emotionally drained and constantly facing mental health challenges. Challenges that they share only too often on their pages and stories as well.
Recently, an influencer said to me, “It is exhausting to have to think of new ideas every day. I think it, I shoot it, I upload it, but every day has to be new, and that is a lot.”
It seems to me like the ‘influencer’ is on a treadmill — constantly trying to keep up pace with an idea of what ‘the pace’ should be — and yet they wonder if they really are going anywhere. A writer spends years on a book, a filmmaker spends months crafting the final product — but the influencer is constantly churning material — 15 seconds at a time, copies of copies, rehashed songs on repeat, allowing little room for any idea to even germinate, let alone grow to being original or unique, before they feel the next pang of pressure to share.
I spoke to a few friends about this struggle. “There seems to be this idea,” said an influencer friend, “that if you have a public account, you are ‘asking for it’ — so whatever mean comments or trolling you receive, you best deal with it, because hey, you asked for it by making the choice of going public.”
Struggling with fame, the pressures of always keeping up, the idea that we are hooked to a validation drug are not new. Actors and actresses and TV stars have been facing it for years — but what concerns me about the fatigue that we, as people on social media, face is that a) We are ill-equipped and did not expect this when we joined the platform. b) We talk about the idea of a digital detox, getting off platforms but we fear that this will mean cutting off a potential stream of income and never being allowed back in again.
c) The line between famous, getting this attention, and what we do for a living is starting to blur.
As Viola Davis says in her book, Finding Me: “Most people out there want to be famous actors, but the question is do you want to be famous, or do you want to be an actor?”
There seems to be a new cry from the younger generation for more ‘authentic content’ — but are we really asking for creators to be authentic, or are we asking them to curate what they put out there even more — adding a touch of realism to their glamour but not truly sharing the messiness of what it means to be human? Would we be okay to see our favourite influencers break down, lose their temper irrationally or be envious of someone they love? Would we cancel them if we saw this?
Isn’t this just part of the influencing game — the drug of validation and the ups and downs? Maybe, yes.
But what worries me is that somewhere, each one of us with a social account has become this person. Running on a never-ending treadmill of scrolling, wanting, one-uping, judging, experiencing FOMO, and desperately seeking approval with everything we do. And if it’s hard for the normal person, imagine how much harder it is when your paycheck is linked to how well you do on social media.
On one hand, we marvel at what it must be like to receive thousands of dirhams to recommend a brand or a restaurant. On the other hand, you wonder what years of selling yourself, your personality, your daily reactions to a fickle audience can do to you? How painful does the rejection feel then?
Life's Like That is a column that envelops Suresh Pattali's musings on everyday life
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