Reflecting on ‘flexing’: Christmas, Covid and influencer culture

For as long as I can remember, I’ve watched influencers share their ‘What I got for Christmas’ videos. I loved seeing the beautiful things these older women had received, and I dreamed that one day I would be able to receive things like that too. Nowadays, I still watch these videos, but this year, especially, they feel different. 

As much as these videos are aspirational, giving people the chance to dream of what they could have in the future, and, in some cases, inspiring people to work hard to afford similar items, they are somewhat problematic. I don’t want to say that these influencers haven’t worked hard as content creators in order to receive and afford luxury items, however they lead very privileged lives, lives that look very different to most ordinary, working class individuals. What you or I would have to work extremely hard to afford, comes a lot more easily to these influencers. When they share their Gucci bags, or Dyson hair accessories, these aren’t massive purchases to them in the same way that they represent months and months worth of savings for the general populace. So when you watch these influencers and see what they so easily have, and some may argue ‘flaunt’ or ‘flex’, it can portray a really distorted image of reality. 

This is especially true of examples of these videos still going ahead this Christmas. Many, many people have lost their jobs, or fallen on extremely hard economic times, struggling to pay their rent or afford food. Watching influencers continue to flex their designer bags that cost more than several months of rent, can be really difficult to stomach. There is a strong argument to be made that maybe influencers should have been a bit more considerate this year, and perhaps not gone ahead with uploading these types of video. Some, such as Emily Canham, have justified their videos by asking via polls on Instagram if their audience would be happy to see these videos. Now it is true that for some people these videos offer a form of harmless escapism, but for most of us, they will only remind them of what they could only ever dream of having. Now while Emily Canham’s video was actually really humble, with her mostly sharing the kitchen appliances she received, and not bragging about any big or especially luxury items, not every influencer took this approach. 

Ex-Love Islander Molly Mae’s ‘What I got for christmas’ video was filled with designer after designer gift. Whilst she did preface this by explaining that there had been Christmasses in the past where she received nothing and, so understood what it felt like not to experience privilege at Christmas time, I wonder if, as she herself has been on the receiving end of a hard Christmas, she should have potentially been more considerate. I personally love Molly Mae, and find her to be honest, refreshing, and humble, but I do feel like her video missed the mark.

People are addicted to consumerism, and they love to see what other people have and what they’ve spent their money on, but it does unfortunately come at a cost. Maybe these videos are wholly meant to be innocent and to give nosy viewers some sense of living vicariously through these influencers, and maybe there will always be people offended by these types of videos. However this year, especially this year, perhaps a more tactful approach should have been taken by influencers. Even though some viewers may have wanted to see the content, there would have been many people watching, heartbroken they couldn’t pay their rent, whilst someone else was flaunting their designer item. Fashion and beauty is important, but perhaps not always at the cost of people’s feelings. 

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Leia Butler

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May 2022
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