We used to eat what they ate, buy the clothes that they wore and turn to them for elaborate beauty tutorials. But the coronavirus pandemic has not been kind to Instagram influencers. In the midst of a global health crisis that has claimed millions of lives and sees travel and socialising banned in most countries, bikini selfies and #sponcon freebies are not what many of us want to see right now.
Indeed, some are already calling 2020 as the year that the influencer bubble finally burst. And considering the outrage directed at the Instagrammers currently holidaying in the “COVID Casablanca” of Dubai, it’s not hard to see why.
But what do influencers themselves think? Does their content still deserve a place on our feeds during the pandemic? We spoke to a bunch and asked whether they think that they’re still relevant.
“If we define being relevant as appealing to the masses, I'm happy to say I’m probably not”
If we define being relevant as appealing to the masses, I'm happy to say that I’m probably not. However, if we think about a South Asian woman who uses fashion and beauty to improve her confidence then I'd say yes, I am and will work towards being relevant to her.
Whether it's through an understanding of how fashion can provide solace in a dull period or a colourful eye make-up tutorial, my content is meant to create joy – as opposed to simply being “aspirational”, which can sometimes feel unattainable.
I’ve also touched on important conversations surrounding the political climate and current events. It's important that I don't gloss over these things even if they don't feel “on brand”. Radical transparency, coupled with a deep sense of talent, is where it's at. Malvika Sheth.
“I had some uncomfortable revelations at the beginning of the pandemic”
I don’t feel relevant at all. I had some uncomfortable revelations at the beginning of the pandemic. I felt like the world was shifting, and I asked myself, “What the heck am I doing to make it better?” My social media felt meaningless amidst all the chaos – cute tops and jeans didn’t hold much sway anymore. It felt tone-deaf to be posting bikini pics while people were losing their jobs or their family members to the virus.
I wanted to provide a non-judgmental, safe space where people could go for love, support and a listening ear. Being in and out of lockdowns has made us shift our focus onto the things we did before COVID. We question whether our actions, jobs and priorities are relevant anymore. I’ve sat with these questions and felt less inclined to share my life publicly and more inclined to make my IRL experience fulfilled. Ali Tate Cutler.
“Influencing is still a career and sometimes it’s not taken seriously”
At the start of the pandemic, I went back to my job working as a pharmacist to help out, and being able to do my bit felt amazing. I feel like my followers and many people found that very relatable, and I was surprised by the praise I received. It felt good posting and making content initially, especially to help people pass their time.
However, recently I think people are more frustrated because the pandemic has gone on for so long (I don’t blame them), and they don’t have as much patience for influencers. Influencing is still a career and sometimes, it’s not taken seriously. I’m only human and this whole thing has been hard on me too. I always have and always will be myself and keep it real on my platform. I don’t want my followers to feel upset or alone – we’re all going through this together. Anna Vakili.
“We may not be in the same boat, but we are in the same storm”
I think I've changed my role in COVID times to stay relevant. I used to share occasional workout videos, but as the pandemic came into full force, I put my energy into producing regular fitness content that my audience could follow along with at home.
I think it's important that we share our reality at a time like this, so we can see others online who are experiencing the same changes and shifts as us. Ultimately, we may not be in the same boat, but we are in the same storm. Zanna van Dijk.
“I was trying to make it through lockdown, the same as everyone else”
I think seeing yourself as relevant to anyone is a slippery slope in terms of your mental health and self-worth. I haven’t created as much content, but not because I didn’t think it would be relevant to anyone – because I was trying to make it through lockdown, the same as everyone else.
When I stopped posting as often, I lost a fair few followers. But it’s not my job to show up for people online or be some voluntary beacon of hope. I’m not the sort of person who slaps a black square on social media and believes I’ve done my bit. I prefer to be consistent on the issues I post about: women’s mental and sexual health, identity and LGBTQ+ issues, beauty, luxury and self-esteem.
I think it’s important to bear in mind that the term “influencer” is incredibly broad. I’ve always said the more followers you have, the less humanity is attributed to you. We’re just trying to get through this shit, same as you. Emilie Lavinia.
“We’re all influencers”
Pandemic or not, engaging your audience with authenticity is a must. That has always been my ethos. People were able to see different sides to me that I don't usually publicise, including some of the important causes that are dear to my heart: mental health, confidence, self-worth and issues that affect society – such as campaigning against the SARS brutality in Nigeria.
Amid the pandemic madness, I experienced the good and the bad, from members of my family sadly passing away to seeing some of my sisters get married and have babies. These things brought me joy despite the bleakness. The pandemic has cemented that I am resilient and will help inspire young girls to be determined wherever I can.
We’re all influencers: our mothers, our friends and the local postman in each of our worlds. We all have the ability to create and move. Kika Osunde.