The current global health crisis has been called "the great equalizer," yet the activities of influencers and celebrities have shown that this is not the case. As a result, we are witnessing a shift in our connection with influencer culture, with big shows of wealth and power, such as Kim Kardashian's "private island birthday party," being criticized during a particularly lethal second wave.
During the early stages of the epidemic, influencer Arielle Charnas faced flak for travelling to the Hamptons with her family following a positive Covid-19 test result. Following that, she apologized on her Instagram Stories. “I apologize to everyone I've insulted or injured in the previous several weeks. “We’re simply trying to get through this difficult period, as I'm sure many others are," she explained.
While tens of thousands died in the first month of the pandemic, celebrities performing "Imagine" on Instagram left a bad taste in many people's mouths. From the Twitter roasting of the star-studded “I take responsibility” video during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests to the backlash from Kendall Jenner's recent birthday party, the aspirational nature of influencer culture appears to be the exact cause of its current downfall, as we know it.
“Influencer promoting is continually advancing and getting more tricky. The notion of the typical influencer is rapidly changing,” she says, referring to the fact that before this, influencer culture included lifestyle content and alluded to riches. "I don't think people understand how rapidly marketing influences boom at the moment." While it is undeniable that celebrities and mega-influencers faced criticism during the epidemic, which has not impeded the rise of influencer marketing, Karwowski claims that there has been a shift in what brands are looking for.
Social influencers have existed long before social media, as seen by the British monarchy and Princess Diana, therefore fame and influencer culture are unlikely to go totally. Consider the rise of TikTok stars and our increased usage of social media, with a 10.5 percent increase in July 2020 compared to July 2019, according to a Global Web Index survey. There is also the fact that not every influence is inherently harmful, as Elliot Page publicly came out as transgender, and there are times when celebrity culture can be unifying.
The changing nature and role of an influencer, on the other hand, is a reflection of the current class conflict, as some experts expect a rise in populism as a result of the worldwide pandemic. As we seek to alleviate societal imbalances, aspirational influencers will become less and less important. While this may not necessarily imply the death of influencer culture, it may spell the end of celebrity and influencer culture as we know it.
Creating a fairer “new normal” post-pandemic society is dependent on our capacity to remove celebrities' extraordinary riches from a pedestal and instead promote smaller accounts, local businesses, and BIPOC creatives. The good news is that there are a plethora of bright, skilled, and socially involved micro-and macro-influencers who are more than competent and deserve our respect.