The influencer role model is well established in the postmodern pantheon of heroes. Numerous films, books, series and investigative articles are now devoted to the supposedly glamorous lives of professional opinion-mongers and brand personalities.
Of course, such a social archetype also needs a suitable opponent: hero and villain, emo and macho, robber and cop. Anyone who paid attention to the social media whispers in the past few weeks was able to witness the birth of the de-influencer live and in color. Instead of bragging about all his sponsored purchases and free samples, he now says which headphones, sneakers and granola bars you shouldn’t spend your money on.
This seems unheard of in the social media world, where almost every attitude is accompanied by a corresponding brand sponsorship. Is it a reaction to the poor economic conditions? Are people finally tired of having goods for sale on every corner of the internet? The business with more or less subtle consumer advice in social media brings in 16 billion US dollars a year globally. Nevertheless, trade journals like that complained Financial Times most recently the slowing growth and stagnant investments in the market.
Logically, de-influencing immediately developed into its own form of marketing
Either way, consumer critics and friends of simple causal chains were already celebrating the imminent departure from the capitalist system. What was unfortunately overlooked is that the claim to be against too much commerce is of course also a well-established advertising tactic. Logically, de-influencing immediately developed into its own form of marketing. Then only the products of the competition are recommended.
The associated cognitive dissonance seems to be easily resolved. The underlying motivation is much more interesting anyway. With each such micro-trend hitting feeds overnight, there’s a growing sense that our online behavior has reached an odd and paradoxical point: people seem more obsessed than ever with individuality and the need to differentiate themselves while they simultaneously participate in one of the most extensive lifestyle reproduction mechanisms in history.
While some complain about hyper-individualism, others complain that everything and everyone feels the same anyway. All jostling for limited attention in a crowded space, struggling to pander to an algorithm that turns personality into a quantifiable commodity. So you differentiate and differentiate yourself further and further until you finally get back into the mainstream.
Renunciation of an image can no more be turned into an image than spontaneity can be planned
Fittingly, ultimately, for the majority of users, the purpose of using social media is not to tell the world how they see things, but how they are seen. Or how they would like to be seen. If you try too hard, you will quickly become embarrassed. But looking effortless is even harder.
The same mechanism also applies to de-influencers. In a consumer-saturated society, it may seem obvious to use renunciation as a means of distinction. This way you appear autonomous and the value of your own opinion increases. But you can’t turn image renunciation into an image. Nor is there an authentic way to plan for spontaneity. “Anti-fashion” is also just a variety of fashion. So consumer criticism degenerates into an authenticity performance by people who are well aware that they are being watched by thousands of fans.