Influencer Culture Is Making Us Cynical. Now What?


It’s time for us to move beyond the idea of the social influencer.

For those who aren’t familiar with the idea, the story goes something like this:

A few years ago, a number of larger companies saw enormous potential in directing their digital marketing dollars to employ a number of people who had an existing trust with a particular group or subculture. These companies used their newly-acquired social bullhorn to promote products and services, blurring the lines of what was a personal interest of the person, and what was essentially a strategically-placed infomercial.

The popularity of the advertising practice evolved into an industry unto itself: the savvy social media influencer. Individuals amassed an army of followers as leverage so that they could command higher salaries for being the one who had sway over the direction of a trend.

As with any competitive field, the more players vying for high-paying gigs meant an added pressure to portray their life as flawless and exciting — not to mention enviable. The person evolved into more of a commodified, curated persona.

Nowadays, employing these similar marketing methods is standard practice for a business maintaining relevance on a digital platform — brands want to be associated with the same kind of fancy-free perfection embodied in the life of a social influencer.

But we’re slowly seeing the problem: this strategy isn’t doing us any favors in the long-run — it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish what is genuine from what is a manufactured experience meant to plug a product or service — the lines have blurred.

Influencer culture is making us cynical because we are continually encountering something that never delivers on what it promises, and it conditions us to anticipate insincerity.

This simply isn’t a sustainable way of building connection or authentic engagement online.

It’s tempting to adopt similar tactics of the picture-perfect narrative when we’re trying to stake out our own digital territory — whether we’re a small business trying to find a wider platform, or a freelance artist who’s trying expand their visibility. It’s hard to get noticed without the use of hype or sensationalism.

So how do we cultivate an online presence that doesn’t depend on gimmicks and a false reality to broadcast who we are and what we care about?

Here are three ways that I think will develop a more authentic digital voice for your brand or project (and ideas we’ll explore in the next blog):

  • If influencer culture is defined by the attaining next big thing, become journey-minded instead.

  • If influencer culture encourages us to be shape-shifters to what’s popular, discover find what defines your voice and grow deeper and more authoritative in it.

  • If influencer culture driven by being convincing others we’re flawlessly impressive, aspire to be engaging and approachable instead.

In the long run, the online voices people end up trusting and connecting with are the ones who forgo the shortcuts in favor of more substance.

Would you like to develop a more thoughtful digital presence for your project?
I’m ready to help.

Christopher Maier