Are Influencers Out Of Touch During The Cost Of Living Crisis?
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The cost of living crisis in the UK is affecting people everywhere with inflation at an all time high.
Due to rising bills, a large portion of the country cannot afford to keep a roof over their head, buy basic essentials, make their home warm or feed themselves, never-mind pay for Christmas presents.
For those already struggling within low wage households, these rising costs are unbearable.
It’s no surprise that we’re also dealing with a mental health crisis due to the increase in goods and services, with studies showing that 86% of people are concerned about day-to-day living costs.
Social media and online content can be a form of escapism for many of us within times like these, it lets us forget about what’s going on for a short while.
During the pandemic we as consumers used digital platforms such as TikTok, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook to escape the reality we were faced with.
Although, we saw influencers breaking lockdown rules with some travelling abroad in the height of UK restrictions and posting about it online.
Toxic behaviours within influencer culture are not something new, it’s just this time we’re facing a new economical crisis.
It begs the question, are influencers out of touch during the current cost of living crisis?
How The Other Half Lives
It’s been a wild ride when it comes to consuming online content during the cost of living crisis.
As you scroll through social platforms, there are videos of parents who are unable to afford their children’s lunch money, or people who are freezing within their homes due to lacking the funds to pay for energy bills which have sky-rocketed.
We’re seeing increasing numbers of people unable to get by on a daily basis, whilst in the midst of this, we are also seeing influencers who are seemingly tone deaf when it comes to the day-to-day struggles regular people are facing.
Recently, a popular lifestyle and fashion influencer with over 1.2 million followers on Instagram has come under scrutiny for a TikTok video in which they state they’re heading down to check into the The Savoy hotel to “make full use of their wonderful hot water” after her boiler broke.
At the same time, a large portion of the users who saw this video on their for you page are facing unaffordable energy costs and are struggling to make ends meet.
The same influencer filmed a ‘Get Ready With Me’ video where they dressed up in high-end clothing and boasted about a one night stay in a 5-star hotel in The Capital with rooms costing around a grand per night.
Again, users were not impressed, as some of the comments under the video read “My TV is broken so I’ve hired a private jet to fly me to Qatar so I can watch the footie” and “I can’t believe this isn’t a joke”.
Of course, there is the valid argument that people within different wage brackets are impacted differently by the cost of living crisis and the scrutinised influencer is simply living within their means.
Though perhaps some sensitivity to the current issues many of their followers are facing wouldn’t go amiss. In reality, what really seems to be ticking off the usually devout audience they curated, is the inability to understand or at least attempt to relate to the reality that many Britons are facing.
Content like this can come off extremely patronising when there are people who are having to make difficult decisions between buying their food shop for the week or putting their heating on for a few hours.
Each to their own, as we say, and there’s nothing wrong in being able to afford more than others due to hard work and success, but it can feel almost out of touch to flaunt what is, realistically, privilege, to a currently struggling audience.
“Let them eat cake” was never a successful philosophy for those in the spotlight.
Unfortunately, the above can only be described as the tip of the iceberg for influencers being completely out of touch with the realities surrounding them. If it doesn’t affect them, why focus on it, right?
If only the average Joe could check into a hotel if their boiler broke – instead millions of people in the UK simply won’t put their heating on within winter due to the increase in costs.
It is not a standalone case either – another influencer, who is famous for hauls and vlogs on YouTube and TikTok, recently failed to think about the way they create content and how they engage with their audience.
The influencer shared a video of “Only eating the cheapest food in the supermarket for 24 hours” to over 1.35 million subscribers on YouTube. Within the vlog they tried and tested a popular supermarket’s essential range, along with other cheap food brands.
As it quickly became evident from the comment section underneath, videos like this can be extremely offensive to those who cannot afford to buy their food shop and are living in poverty not for a quirky ‘24 hour challenge’ but because of the economic hardship they’re facing.
The irony is, the influencer filmed this video from a deluxe London apartment and, most probably by nature of monetising content, profited off the “imaginary” to them struggles of working class people.
Whilst there are those who face the 24 challenge, only 7 days a week, and having to rely on food banks all across the UK within this climate.
Research suggests that another 1 million people will be forced into poverty this winter alone.
Alongside this, struggling to pay bills and to buy food has led to an increase in ill mental health and chronic stress levels for many people, many of who are within the same age bracket as the influencers in the spotlight.
It is no surprise then, that the hardships regular people are facing can almost feel like mockery as they’re being recreated as “challenges” and “trends” by influencers who remain blissfully ignorant.
Could we hope that social media influencers, being the successful product of their own following, would be a bit more sensitive within this current situation?
What Does This Mean For Influencer Culture?
Public attitudes towards influencer culture have already started to rapidly shift within the last couple of years.
From Molly Mae’s “we all have the same 24 hours in a day” to Vanessa Hudgens “people are going to die” video to Kim Kardashian’s “nobody wants to work these days” viral video.
As we said earlier, during the pandemic many influencers deemed themselves as inapplicable to lockdown rules and jetted off on holidays or hosted parties in the height of restrictions.
There are also influencers whose content has been repeatedly branded as ‘performative’ and ‘unauthentic’.
The insensitive and toxic content we’re currently seeing isn’t something that’s new to us as consumers, but it’s worth thinking about when we say enough is enough.
One study has found that six in ten people find influencers insensitive and infuriating during the current crisis.
It’s not to say that there aren’t influencers who are using their platforms for good and are in touch with the grim realities affecting our country currently.
However, there are still too many who need to engage differently with their audience within the mist of the cost of living crisis.
Those with big platforms should be acting more socially aware about the content they put out to their audiences, otherwise it could be the nail in the coffin for their luxurious lifestyles and credibility.
It’s not an issue with wealth, it’s a case of not being mindful of people’s situations and being out of touch with your audience.
Whilst influencer culture is unlikely to fade altogether, it’s important for those who have big follower counts and create content for a living, to really read the room and pay attention to how they use their digital spaces.
Now, more than ever, influencers will need to step up their game (and empathy) if they want their audiences to remain engaged. People are tired of the socially unaware narrative that is getting tossed around.
After all, inflation is at a 40-year high and people are struggling – it’s equally as simple and as complicated as that. Users need content that will provide the much needed escapism, but also content they can resonate with.
Perhaps the most important thing to mention is how to address this in your personal life. If engaging with content doesn’t make you feel good nor does it feel relatable, switch off and unfollow from these users.
Instead, focus on more positive and healthy content which you like engaging with.
Lastly, if you are struggling during the cost of living crisis, don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
Here are some helpful resources that may be of use to you: