Influencers - A global pandemic through rose tinted filters
Throughout the pandemic, my mum has struggled working in our local hospital whilst me and my friends have struggled with school work, job loss and mental health issues. On top of these pressures, we are bombarded with images of influencers who seem to be completely disregarding the pandemic whilst showing off their new Gucci pieces and holiday snaps. Social media influencers are more often than not perceived as conceited beings that lack depth - is this really the case?
Throughout 2020, social media stars have held more responsibility than ever before. Speaking out and shedding light on important issues is an essential duty that everybody should be taking part in; especially those who have been privileged enough to gain a platform. Personally, I have been disappointed with the way that influencers have failed to use their following in order to highlight hardships faced by ordinary people during the pandemic, as opposed to their Dubai getaways. Constantly flaunting images of designer handbags and luxury holidays that no NHS nurse would ever be able to afford seems unjustifiable. However, my question is whether or not absorbing these images is enabling social scrollers to possess a more positive outlook on life during Covid, an idea promoted by influencers like Daisey O’Donnell and Bethan Kershaw who tell their followers that “Life is too short to be anything but happy” - or is it having the complete opposite effect? Molly-mae Hague, a former Love Island contestant is amongst those who have flaunted their seemingly unattainable lifestyle on Instagram and other social platforms during these extremely difficult times. As Coronavirus cases began worsening in the U.K, Molly, along with her boyfriend Tommy Fury jetted off to the Maldives where they spent the majority of their December. Instagram users were furious upon discovering that this was the pair's second holiday of the month - they had already spent the beginning of their December in Dubai, a current hotspot for influencers. On top of the insensitive Instagram posts, Molly uploaded a YouTube video titled ‘MALDIVES VLOG’ on December 30th, the same day that England went into Tier 4. To me, they seem to be empathetically challenged. One user commented “How are they in the Maldives when I’m not even allowed to leave my house?!” whilst another commented “Girl...we are in the middle of a global pandemic. Read the room”. The discontent amongst the public is extremely apparent when reading the abundance of comments written by fans expressing their frustration. Unfortunately, Molly is not alone in this. Fellow former Love Island contestants Gabby Dawn Allen, Montana Brown and Georgia Steel have also travelled during the height of the pandemic.
In my opinion, the fact that the vast majority of us are following restrictions and making sensible decisions whilst influencers are being completely ignorant and choosing to share their recklessness for millions to see brings forward a new kind of class divide. People working for the NHS and in supermarkets throughout the pandemic have received little to no reward - the highest recognition received was a mere applause during the first lockdown. Everyday, people are struggling to put food on the table; a candid trip to the Maldives is so beyond the realms of possibility given the current circumstances. The fact that influencers continue to share this content during a time that is so difficult for so many and masking it as ‘being positive’ after fans expressing their disappointment is seen as completely immoral by many and understandably so.
I spoke with Charlotte Roberts from North Wales - a 19 year old university student who is currently studying musical theatre in London. Charlotte admits to struggling during the most recent Welsh lockdown as she is unable to return to university to continue doing what she loves, performing. She says that she has no issue with influencers travelling under normal circumstances but struggles with it when others are not able to do so due to lockdown restrictions and financial circumstances.
Charlotte, like most other teens, believes that it is “naive” of influencers to be sharing images of their new designer purchases in light of the pandemic as a lot of people “can only just feed their children and pay their rent”.
In agreement with Charlotte is 19 year old medical student, Nathan Hughes, who says that he is “envious of influencers who are breaking restrictions” and finds it “discouraging and inequitable”. Upon speaking with an NHS nurse who has been working throughout the pandemic, it is evident that the anger directed towards influencers does not only come from teens who actively use social media. She stated that the recent actions of influencers are “completely selfish” and that their trips are “extremely unjust”. The opinion that influencers are unenlightened and self-serving was already extremely prominent amongst social media users. This has now been highlighted specifically as a result of their actions over the past few months.
In contrast to this, I would like to shed light on influencers who are both complying with restrictions and using their platform in a constructive way, starting with Dr Alex George. He is a 27 year old A & E doctor from Wales, who was a contestant on the fourth season of Love Island. Not only is Alex a huge advocate for mental health, who recently posted an open letter to Boris Johnson campaigning for quality mental health education in schools, he has also been working in A & E throughout the pandemic. Upon gaining his platform, Alex has shared words of encouragement for those struggling whilst also offering an insight into what hospitals have had to deal with over the past year. Alex has offered support for students, with frequent Q&A’s explaining how to revise efficiently and cope with exam stress and also explained how to deal with the pressures of social media via his Instagram stories. This is the type of positive influence that all influencers should strive to give. Dr Alex, I salute you.
Another person setting the standard for public figures is Marcus Rashford. Although he is not necessarily an influencer, he has an Instagram following of 9.6 million - so I think we can all agree that he is extremely influential. Rashford became an ambassador for the national food redistribution charity FareShare in March of 2020. Throughout the pandemic, the charity has seen the demand for food increase rapidly. Over the past year, the company has distributed more than double the amount of food in comparison to recent years. On top of this, in a recent episode of ‘The Official Manchester United Podcast’ Rashford revealed how he has helped in raising £20 million for charities working towards feeding children during the pandemic. Rashford is also an avid Twitter user who frequently uses his platform to highlight issues faced by everyday people. During the first lockdown, he tweeted “When you wake up this morning and run your shower, take a second to think about parents who have had their water turned off during lockdown” - this is just one of many tweets that Rashford has put out in an attempt to raise awareness for people struggling. Now THAT is how to use your platform effectively and responsibly. To conclude, I think it’s fair to say that the overall impact of the insensitive and irresponsible images posted by influencers is not a positive one. Personally my opinion of these people, that I used to look up to, has been permanently tainted as a result of their selfish actions. During these difficult times, it is important to acknowledge the struggles being faced by everybody and help in any way that we are able to - be it sharing helpful and altruistic instagram stories or raising £20 million for charities. With the help and determination of everybody, eventually, things will be better.
Article written Hannah Kitty Browbill
Follow her on Instagram here
You may also like...
Banksy's latest piece If You Don't Mask You Don't Get was removed by a TfL worker. Due it's estimated worth of £7.5m valuation he was been welcomed to re-do it. Phoebe Patrick asks why the rules of vandalism are different for him?