Influencers don’t deserve special treatment in a global crisis

Before the pandemic, influencers occupied a strange space in my moral compass. I disagree with their participation in a culture of toxic materialism, but then again, so little of the criticism levelled at them until now has looked past the revealing swimwear and cosmetic procedures. Somewhere in the onslaught of ‘get a real job’ and ‘they’re all bad role models’, I became a half-hearted defender of their cause. Was the vitriol toward them rooted in anything more than prudishness or envy? Were they really any worse than other marketable brands of celebrity? Apparently so. 

While musicians have converted cancelled gigs into virtual fundraisers and talk show hosts cheer us on over two-metre distances, these tone-deaf D-listers are whining about not getting special treatment in a global crisis.

Frustratingly vague as the government has been over the last 11 months, one slogan has remained constant: stay at home. Simple instructions. Then, tier four restrictions rained down upon their hometowns and influencers decided taking photographs indoors was simply too difficult. Under the guise of ‘essential work’, they sought out looser rules and brighter skies in Dubai and the Bahamas, then seemed perplexed when public favour ran cold. 

Ultimately, it comes down to privilege. Influencers have the money and the excuses to while away the lockdown from sunlit hotels, while us Neanderthals cradle our Christmas pot bellies and envy the idyllic views from their workstations. But Covid doesn’t care what your job title is. Spiking cases in the UAE are directly attributable to an influx of British tourists – yes, they’re tourists, not workers – and even then, the only concern these individuals have is redeeming their own image.   

Influencing from home should be easy. Basic ideas spring to mind: livestreaming to fans, photoshoots against blank walls, continuing to push brand deals from their homes as has been their job for years. Online businesses (if I’m being generous) shouldn’t need to relocate. I am not discrediting other people’s career choices, but reality stars and beauty gurus have made products of themselves, their faces, their personalities, and their lives. None of these things cease to exist from their big-city studio apartments.

The most outrageous part is they excuse their flagrant holidays by citing their mental health – as if we aren’t all suffering too. To be clear, I don’t mean to belittle an issue which has plagued the industry for years. Last February saw the tragic passing of Love Island presenter Caroline Flack, the third celebrity tied to the show to take their own life. It reminded us how fickle fame can be and revived the #BeKind hashtag across social media. But this sentiment rang hollow in fitness trainer Sheridan Mordew’s poor excuse on This Morning: “in a world where you can be anything, be kind.” 

Criticising irresponsible behaviour isn’t mean. Accountability is important, and as she begs for softer treatment, Mordew exposes her own guilt. After all, these people hardly seem cognisant of the feelings of others as they relish in poolside shots and plaster it all over our feeds. Two million victims of the virus will never have that luxury again.

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Emma Liggins

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May 2022
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