Tik-Tokers. YouTubers. Influencers. Three words that didn’t exist until the last five years or so. A new type of celebrity that gains a rapid number of followers within a few months or even days if their content goes viral on the internet. The hype and the beauty of these new-found celebrities is that anyone has the potential to become one, no matter your background or who you are.
Before Netflix and other streaming services like Disney Plus, YouTube was the go-to for instant entertainment. Back in 2014-15, I would spend hours watching vlogs of different influencers, following their daily lives and adventures around the world. Like many others watching, you felt like you were tagging along with a friend or older sibling on their fun or sometimes mundane adventures. Now, five years later, teenagers follow a new type of YouTuber - TikTokers and Instagram Influencers. It’s the same concept, just different platforms.
Influencers update their followers on the daily using stories and posting content on their accounts. It’s a full-time job that pays well when you have millions of followers, as they can advertise and have brand deals within their videos or posts. They create a strong connection with their fan-base by keeping them entertained on their latest news. Often they collaborate with one another and build networks within the platform to extend their names and fame. However, it brings attention to the fact that when a number of influential, young, and immature content creators do something foolish or dangerous, what message does that send to their young followers?
Over the summer, a number of TikTokers and YouTube creators such as Jake Paul, Bryce Hall, and the Nelk Boys, hosted or attended huge gatherings of hundreds of people without masks in the middle of a pandemic. After spending months living at home, like the majority of people, limiting my in-person interactions with the world to practically non-existent, seeing this news left me feeling angry and upset.
[bf_image id="qb2w9g-12c91k-ajcyqr"] I don’t normally write negative content, but I think it’s important to acknowledge this and ask ourselves an important question - who do we follow and support? These “influencers” not only hosted these events and put everyone at the gatherings at-risk, which then puts every single person they come into contact with at-risk, but advertised the parties to their millions of followers. When younger viewers see this, they see the message that it is okay to not care about others and that we should be continuing with normal life and seeing multiple people (without the protection of masks) during this time. To be honest, it is shameful that people would not only do this but also brag about it. If hundreds of thousands of people can respect the measures put in place to help us all, why can’t others?
Since the backlash online from followers, fellow creators like Tyler Oakley, and celebrities, some of the content creators have apologized. Others have said they need to create content and argued that their lives shouldn’t be put on hold... Jake Paul got publicly called out by the Calabasas Mayor for hosting a summer party at his home. Bryce Hall had his power shut off by the LA Mayor after hosting a large birthday party. Youtubers "Nelk Boys" now have their channel suspended and are being investigated.
“So many of our businesses are still shut down or are open with limitations. No child in the state is starting school in person. These are the consequences for parties like this: the constant spread of the virus,” Mayor Alicia Weintraub said.
I can't help but ask, is this enough? Do these creators deserve to still have their platforms? If you ask me, the answer is no. Poor decision making deserves stronger consequences, especially when you are followed by millions of people. Whether they like it or not, these creators have a responsibility, not only that but an opportunity to use their platforms to spread good.
I’m writing this article because I want you to question who you follow on social media. Who are they? What do they stand for? Do you follow and support the actions of these people or not? YOU have the power to choose who you do and don’t support.