Influencers Are Gaslighting Us

*TRIGGER WARNING* Somebody is about to get pissed.   Here in the House of JAWBREAKING, we don’t just follow influencers but we stan them. We love them. Live for them. Dress them. Support them. They are our friends. So never will you hear us ask, “What do influencers do?” Because, we know what they do. They entertain. They educate. They INFLUENCE.  And while we know what they do physically, there are times when one questions…. what are they doing? Or moreover, what do they do to us, psychologically? If you were to stalk an influencer – a professional one - you’d quickly pick up on a few things: their vibe, their passion, their best angle, and the schedule of their emotional cycle. Every blogger has one. It’s how long they can push themselves to be consistent in emotion, color palette and effort until it becomes too much. Humans may crave stability in their everyday lives but consistency in a 2D format is taxing at best and nauseating at worst. The idea that our emotions, inspirations, and desires manifest into the ether at the same frequency on the same schedule for a prolonged period of time is, frankly, insane. Typically, you know a blogger has reached the end of their cycle because they get a bit too sassy on Twitter or they start spilling the tea on Snapchat, or they might just disappear for a few days minus the sponsored post – which was shot 3 weeks ago. And that’s ok. We aren’t robots. Humans are allowed to be as flawed and complicated and difficult as they can stand to defend. So why does the audience require of people who are praised for their relatability, individuality, and humanity, something that at its core, is inhuman?  Don’t get me wrong, I understand the business side of influencing, I just don’t think I quite understand the fan side. If you fell in love with this person because you related to them, or they felt like your new best friend, why are you holding them to a standard that you would hate to be held to? How does your admiration translate into expectation? Why do you have so much power? Why do they? The definition of gaslighting is “ a form of psychological manipulation that … sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity.” Essentially, gaslighting is when someone overrides your reality for their own, or at least at the benefit of their own, and in return you feel crazy and overly emotional. Having said that, think to the last time you saw a picture of that fitness guru you follow or a vlog of your favorite guru in Paris on an all-expenses-paid trip with their boyfriend…. How did that make you feel? Poor? Uncultured? Maybe even jealous? Me too. And while I know influencers are not out to “get us” and that they don’t solely exist to make us feel crazy for not being able to eat whatever we want and still have abs, or just apply concealer and get rich, my question is…. Is that the end result? Is their consistency – that we’ve demanded - which provides a narrow and focused view of their personality and their life, overriding our reality in a way that gives unrealistic expectations, narcissistic assumptions of familiarity, and a heightened emotional state?

Taking it a step further, what if they make a mistake? Or worst, show a quintessential character flaw or state an opinion that we don’t like. For instance, how would you react if your favorite fitness guru gained weight, either intentional or unintentional.  OR if your go-to lifestyle vlogger - who is 21, and perky with long hair - somehow descends into a depression, cuts off her hair and can’t muster the energy to smile for you but instead shares her truth? YOU ARE PISSED. And I know you’re pissed because I see it on Twitter. Does anyone remember when Remi Ashten Cruz had to make a video explaining why she is unfollowing her real-life friend? Or apologize because her content – which follows her life - has taken a shift towards fitness and health – which is her new found passion, IRL. Like what the fuck is that? Or how about the simple fact that every YouTube couple feels the need to endlessly plan out and plot how they are going to share their break up. Think about that. These 19-year-old's feel the need to apologize to strangers who they entertain for free because they have made a personal choice that effects their real life and do it a through 6-month roll-out! Does that not sound crazy? If the tables were reversed and average teenagers felt the need to call HOA meetings every time they got a new boyfriend would we just accept it? Or would we call bullshit and RUN to therapy.  Influencers do not owe you anything. As a matter of fact, nobody owes you anything. And in return you don’t owe them anything. Jeffree Star is allowed to be racist and Kim Kardashian is allowed to share photos of her nude body and her children within the same platform and frankly, I’m tired of being outraged by it. If you don’t like the content, don’t watch it. If you don’t agree, don’t subscribe. Influencers are not entities of impact. They are people. And they are allowed to be as complicated and self-indulgent as they please. And before you say that influencers are businesses because they make money and have fame, Yes! You’re right. But also, no, you’re not. Are influencers money-making business? Yes. Are they entities of necessity and societal impact? No. Jeffree Star being racist – which he is  - does not negatively affect your life or anyone else's without permission.  If a company like Wal-Mart or a government agency is racist, it affects people outside of the organization, the shoppers, the employees and the overall community in which it sits and engages with. In both cases, the community only has one choice. An influencer doing something good or bad can only reverberate into your life if you choose to consume their content and give it power. We need to start seeing influencers for what they are: resources of information, sources of entertainment and interchangeable manifestations of the human experience. And since we’re all millennials, and social media breaks aren’t in the cards for us, the least we can do is to start compartmentalizing. Don’t search for travel bloggers search for their blogs. Don’t follow comedians, consume their comedic content. If all you want of a person is their work then don’t follow the person, follow the work. But if you’re going to follow a person who has a hobby, or a job, or a skillset, then you must also allow them freedom to be human. Which means that they may change their mind, try something new, and yes they might even disappoint you. But that’s what people do.