Written by Harvey Morton
It's fair to say it hasn't been a great week for influencers. The knives came out as criticism continues to flood in for stars who have spent much of the winter enjoying the sunnier climes of Dubai, from Amber Gill to Molly-Mae Hague, Tommy Fury and the TOWIE set.
But when does gentle criticism give way to vicious online trolling? And is it really fair to paint influencers with the same brush? A lot of them actually hate the term 'influencer', and many would rather be referred to as a content creators.
One notable exception to that rule is former reality star Dr Alex George. The 30-year-old A&E doctor may have been thrust into the spotlight via Love Island, but he has recently been appointed as Youth Mental Health Ambassador by the Prime Minister.
A reality television star who increased his profile on social media may once have been a focus of derision, but not all social media influencers deserve to be tarred with the same negativity.
Alex George has used his position to influence opinion on a subject of much importance. Young people's mental health has increasingly become a matter of concern for us all.
Then we have Bobby Norris. The Only Way Is Essex star has trained to become a volunteer vaccinator for St John's Ambulance. Having experienced the loss of family members to COVID-19 and suffering the impact of the illness himself, Norris decided he wanted to help.
Influencers have an opportunity to make such a difference to people's lives. Bobby Norris, by training to give injections, is helping those individuals receiving the vaccination. Yet he is also sending a powerful message to his followers that the immunisation is something we should all have. At a time of anti-vaccers and conspiracy theorists on social media, this is a significant and positive impact that cannot be underestimated.
So why do social media influencers get such an adverse reaction from trolls and from the general public?
Recently, stories have emerged of social media posters travelling far and wide, from Dubai to the Maldives, and calling it "essential work". You only have to look at TikTok to see the mocking videos of those angered at this unnecessary travel to see it hasn't helped social influencers' reputation.
There is obviously no comparison between the work of the NHS and those who post bikini pictures online. It is no wonder the trolls came out to play in the presence of such irresponsibility.
Other criticism is less reasonable. Look at the controversy surrounding Zoe Sugg, better known as Zoella online. She was recently attacked viciously when she used one of her blog posts to explore vibrators and sex toys. She was removed from a GCSE Media Studies qualification because her posts were now deemed inappropriate for study.
The hateful messages Zoe has received from angry parents over the last week seem misjudged considering she was raising awareness of sex and self-pleasure.
While some may see it as yet another case of social responsibility gone wrong, Sugg claims the examination board failed to do its research. She was emphatic in defence of her website and brand.
She noted that she was part of a team of women writing about items for women, with a demographic of 25 to 35-year-olds. The negative press she received was unfair. She is empowering women with her brand and not looking to educate 16-year-olds. It is the fault of the examination board, not the social influencer.
It also sends out the wrong message to any 16-year-old girl who might have taken the exam that self-pleasure is shameful and not something that should be openly discussed.
Sugg's experience goes go some way to explain why social influencers get a raw deal at times. People assume that all influencers are looking to cash in. However, the likes of Sugg, with her desire to empower women, has a broader aim. She also has a sound business plan and vision; we should admire her.
If people are unwilling to take the time to understand and differentiate between individuals, we will continue to miss the point. And what is the point? That people with influence can be a force for good, if only we believe in them a little more.
Featured Image Credit: Credit: Instagram - tommytntfuty/dralexgeorge
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