The self-help Influencer and the world we live in
Panel fatigue, self-care, and Influencer Marketing - What is this, and what is it doing to our Relationships?
I had this thought while coming home from an influencer event last week, where a panel was tasked to speak about women and our role in empowering more of them. There was a rainbow of perspectives, stories and ideas; but it felt so carefully balanced, engineered by a dozen 30-something PR folk in a crisp white board room. Everyone had an arc that they could speak to; citing “now I’m happy,” “now I’m totally at peace,” and the aptly-timed if a little passé “if I hadn’t have had the support of my squad…”. There was fiddle neck fern in the corner, green juice on tap, and an expensive-looking hemp carpet strewn at the feet of its panelists.
On any given day, hundreds of these events are held all across North America, often speaking on the topics of inequality, gender pay gap, empowering #womxn in tech, and so on. Often, they’re sponsored by brands, too - usually timed with the mention of a specific product launch or hashtag initiative, and look, that’s smart - I’d much rather this than what I grew up looking at in the early aughts.
The event I’m speaking to more specifically was an amazing initiative, and one that made my well up with tears, several times, while hearing some incredible trailblazers speak. Women who had faced tremendous adversity. Women who had nobody to look up to, because nobody in media had ever looked like them. Women who left a perhaps more secure or stable life behind in the pursuit of something extraordinary...of being the women young girls can look to, of being the people who systematically change the world. It was brilliant. The core of it, I felt, was good.
And then, through it all, came this stream of sour thinking. Interwoven with the pulsating authenticity of these women came an undeniable twang of opportunism; the thirst for free product in the breath of its attendees, an air of desperation in meeting the right people, the checking off of handshakes like boxes instead of basking in the feeling of uniting with others. It’s a duality that exists in every industry - finance, politics, non-profits - but feels of course more pertinent in the influencer realms.
Is there a place, I wondered, for the market to cease in the gamification of our stories, personalities and friendships…simply allowing for influencers to be? Would followers resent bloggers if bloggers stopped feeling obligated to use every drop of pain as inspiration for a post caption? Can we sometimes post a selfie without feeling the need to justify it? In a world where profiles are businesses, and also still people, would it be possible to make space for both being yourself and getting that bread?
And look, underneath it all lies this:
Is a community like the one our modern culture has built even deep enough to support a depth like this?
These questions swirl through my head daily. They pop up first thing in the morning, and last thing at night. They insert themselves into my analytical brain when I observe brands moving too fast to allow themselves a gut-check, when I watch the majority of influencers look, say, and act the same, and when I notice the dial on deliverables increase like the viewership of the raptors on the NBA. How, of course, do we make room for authenticity when we expect people to like and subscribe above all else? How do we put the futures of people first when we’re also expected to wear the coolest, newest clothes and visit the pinkest, trendiest places? How do we save the planet when we’re unboxing 3 packages per day, packing peanuts pushed out of frame as we pose with green plants imported from another country? And, the biggest question - How do we “find ourselves” if being “someone” is the only thing standing in between us and complete fucking irrelevance?
I, of course, don’t have all the answers here. What I do feel is the urge to start learning out loud, to ask the questions in a room outside of my own, to try and create more room for conversations, yes, but with people that haven’t had the opportunity to do so every day for the past eight months, saying once-powerful phrases that now sound like lines on a script.
I want the un-panels. I want the things that influencers don’t go to; things that don’t have people with perfect eyebrows and the latest skincare launches and a glass of rosé in their well-manicured hands. I want people who watch these events unfold on the rectangles they carry with them every day, the people who are always on the outside looking in, who have ideas they don’t know how to execute, who have influence but in a way that is invisible to those who dedicate their lives to the management of KPIs.
That’s what I want. That - to now speak frankly - is what I think we collectively need.
My action item, after all of this preach? You. If you have something to say, I want you to feel just at home saying it, sharing it, exploring it, right here. Su is a home for that. It’s the home for people who are figuring it out, who are asking the questions, who are lovingly and humanely living their own lives out loud.
Want to write something? Want to ask a bigger question, build a bigger world? Email us. We are here for that purpose. It isn’t - and will never be - about me, my story. This, Su, is about what we can do when we do it together.
Stay Su, talk soon.