The Dangerous Influence of Influencers

The Dangerous Influence of Influencers

Arielle Biran, Opinions Editor


Two years ago, then fifteen-year-old Charli D’Amelio lived a completely ordinary life. She hung out with her friends, danced at her local studio, and occasionally made TikToks. What began as a simple pastime for the young star blossomed into a full-time career, not only for Charli, but for her sister, Dixie, and their parents as well. One effortless fifteen-second video of the TikTok star smiling into the camera launched a multi-million dollar business, between the family’s reality television show, The D’Amelio Show, the sisters’ innumerable brand deals, and Dixie’s emerging music career. Though the massive extent of their fame may seem normal for people who are accustomed to the insanity of the internet today, when one takes a step back and re-evaluates it, the success that an entire family has achieved because of the minimal effort exerted by their fifteen-year-old is nothing short of lunacy.


The broad impact of TikTok fame is not limited to the D’Amelios, however. Addison Rae Easterling, 21, who rose to fame beside the sisters as a member of the short-lived Hype House, is another prime example of this phenomenon. In the past year alone, she has starred in the Netflix film, He’s All That, released her debut single “Obsessed”, and was in attendance at the Met Gala, which is objectively the most exclusive event in contemporary popular culture. Her plethora of brand deals, her podcast, Mama Knows Best, hosted alongside her mom, Sherri, and her makeup line, Item Beauty, have led Ms. Easterling to accumulate over five million dollars as of mid-2020. It goes without saying that this figure is absolutely ridiculous, especially considering the weakened state of the economy following the tumultuous effects of the pandemic.


By no means am I slandering Ms. Easterling, the D’Amelios, or any of the other young stars who have risen to insurmountable fame and wealth from the platform. To be perfectly honest, if I was given the opportunity to build an entire career and life for myself off of TikTok, I would take it. My issue is not with the influencers themselves, but with our societal treatment and perception of them. Once again, I hold no ill will towards any of these young women, rather I applaud them for capitalizing off of their fame in the way that they did. However, it must be acknowledged that this fame did not stem from talent or effort, simply the dumb luck of the TikTok algorithm. In comparison, there are many hard-working and talented individuals in the world who will never receive even a fraction of the recognition that these “influencers” do. Our society’s devaluation of talent and effort in favor of trifling entertainment value is terrifying.


The concept of an “influencer” in and of itself is immoral. Promoting clothing brands and recently released movies is one thing, but advertising appetite-suppressant lollipops and detox teas is entirely another, especially for TikTok stars whose followers are primarily impressionable children. Kim Kardashian, who sports upwards of 200 million followers on Instagram, has advertised these teas alongside dietary pills (which, by the way, lack any scientific backing) to her extremely susceptible fanbase. The six figures that she is reportedly paid for such endorsements obviously trumps any semblance of morality she may wish to uphold; even after she was sued for doing so, Kim continued to sponsor products that encouraged disordered eating for their users.


Sadly, this sort of arrangement is not an isolated occurrence. The manipulation of their following seems to have become just another bullet point on the job description of an influencer, rather than a behavior exhibited by a corrupt few. This phenomenon is worsened when one considers that this new era of influencers, who have risen to fame from TikTok, have audiences consisting almost entirely of those under eighteen. When the exploitation of minors is implicit to a position, the morality of that position must be called into question. Though I am sure that most of these newfound stars mean no harm, the societal impact that we allow these teenagers to have is dangerous, not only for the influenced but for the influencers themselves.