There are mere days until Election Day in the United States of America. If you didn’t know this, you must be living under a rock. This election is being talked about left and right from commercials, advertisements, billboards, and even on social media. This election year, more than any other, has had a big presence on social media. Users are posting and reposting about registering to vote, how important voting is, how the debates have played out, the stances of each party, and more. If you haven’t seen the election and politics being talked about on social media you are following the wrong people. While it has been controversial in the past for social media influencers to break out of their #ootd and daily routine posts to talk about politics or beliefs, right now it is needed.
Influencers have been told to stay in their lane and that they don’t have the authority to post about politics. However, in times like these audiences find it very important that they speak out. There are a lot of inequalities in the world right now, police brutality towards Black folx, women’s rights to their own bodies, LBGTQ+ rights being saved, BOIC rights being saved, climate change, COVID-19 safety, immigration, and more. These are all important topics that shouldn’t be ‘shhh-ed’ or swept under a rug, these are topics you can’t hide when it is happening right now in front of all of us. Everyone should be talking about them right now, even influencers.
Influencers are put in a position of authority to influence their following in their niche. However, their influence can break out of that niche, specifically to talk about rights that have turned into politics. It is not a time for people to be apolitical or say politics aren’t important because that, more than anything, shows privilege. Human rights, climate change, and inequalities have now all become woven into politics. Therefore, it isn’t just politics anymore, it’s people’s lives and rights to protect. Influencers that have continually posted their usual content with no acknowledgement to the social justice issues, racial justice movement, and the current events that are inextricable from our daily lives shows privilege and how out of touch they may be. What they have to show becomes irrelevant to the audience and laughable how they can go on without mentioning the state of the country of social inequalities right now. Influencers may stay quiet for a while then claim they support all these movements and rights then it becomes questionable if they mean it or saying it because of their criticism of inaction to keep followers. Where is the credibility to the influencer then?
The longer the influencer stays quiet about the current state of the country and how important this November 3rd election is, the longer the audience becomes angry that the influencer may never be able to recover and win them back. Influencers stay quiet because they have been told to stay in their lane or they try to not upset either side of the political spectrum to keep all their followers. However, now the audience has the power to decide for themselves to stick around someone who doesn’t use their platform to make a stance. It has become a breaking point in audiences.
According to Stephanie McNeal’s -BuzzFeed News Social Media Editor- Instagram Story poll that consisted of right around 5,000 responses, 81% of respondents said they have noticed when an influencer has ignored politics, the election, BLM, or COVID-19 and 58% unfollowed someone because of this omission. 75% said they unfollowed an influencer when they realized they didn’t agree with their political views. Lastly, this poll reported that 78% respondents do not think an influencer can remain relevant while being completely apolitical and/or avoid discussing current events.
Influencers need to take a stance to show they are paying attention, care, and give their audience, especially BIOC and LBGTQ+ folx, a safe place to exist.
For example, Megan Rienks, a white known YouTuber for beauty and lifestyle communities, as well as new author and podcast host, has been an influencer with a platform for a decade. She has been openly liberal on her platforms, however, since the death of George Flloyd she has been speaking out more openly about police brutality, systemic racism, white privilege and other inequalities. She became disappointed in herself when she got a message after speaking up from a Black follower saying she was relieved she was in support of the Black community. Rienks told Insider during an interview about influencers expressing politics, “I was like ‘Oh my God, how have I not made it so abundantly clear, over the top, all of the time. I’ve always tried really hard to practice anti-racism in my everyday life, in my professional life. And I was like, ‘I am not doing nearly enough, loudly online, because I don’t want anyone to have to ever question if I am a safe place, or I am a person who is supporting them through this movement,” She called this moment a turning point in her influencer career.
Influencers have the job of recommending style and recipes, but mostly they have the job to influence. They can influence anything to their followers because of their big platform. This influence has power and with that power comes responsibility. Their responsibility is to show support, take a stance whichever side that may be, and speak up about what is happening right in front of us. But no matter what, their responsibility should not be to stay quiet. And a black box isn’t enough.
Are you paying attention? Are the influencers you follow talking about the current inequalities and the importance to vote? Will you let them slide?