The Influenced Influencer

Graphic by Rebecca Shapiro

What is an “influencer” exactly?

I’ve never quite understood the idea behind it. Yes, in the literal sense, I’m able to put together the fact that people who have a large following are asked to promote things because they’re “influential”. It’s become something new and unique to social media, not like anything we’ve seen before. People are making a living merely off of the fact that someone clicked a button on an app, and that’s pretty neat. However, there’s a whole side of the idea of being an influencer that really gets me.

Disclaimer: I would not call myself an influencer. I don’t really have a desire to be one, either. I’m a blogger; writing is my passion, and social media is an outlet to try and get new readers to my site and to allow people a view into my life. There was a point that the idea of being an influencer enticed me, so I suppose you could say I’m a non-influencer, or a wannabe-influencer, but in the end, it just wasn’t for me. What can I say? My talent is more in my writing than anything else.

That being said, I don’t understand why the idea of “being authentic” is pushed so hard on social media, especially when it pertains to influencers. Authenticity is such a big deal and is emphasized by so many, that to me, it ends up feeling inauthentic. It’s ironic to write this, because I pride myself on being authentic, but I feel like I let people see that in other ways. I may try to show that I’m a real person, but I am not displaying every part of my life, because it doesn’t need to be shared. If I posted every time I wasn’t feeling well, or that I was at the doctor, or something like that…well, that’d be a lot of Instastories. Everybody is entitled to use their platform as they see fit, but I am wondering where the true authenticity is and how it’s defined these days.

I can’t speak about influencers at large. The majority of people I follow are within the frum community, and it’s been fascinating to watch the changes which have occurred as social media has evolved. Being that the frum world is very small, and deeply interconnected, you often see the same 10-15 brands being promoted by the influencers within our circle. While there’s nothing wrong with this, it makes me wonder…are influencers the ones doing the influencing, or are they the ones being influenced?

I’m guilty of it myself—posting an Instastory of my new dress—that I paid for—and tagging the company, just in hopes that they may share it and I’ll receive more followers. I’ve tried to think about why I do that. Aren’t I able to get clothing and NOT share it? It’s a crazy concept, especially for someone who has the word “fashionable” in her blog’s name. But I’ve also fallen into the negative cycle of social media—you see other people doing things in a certain way, and then subconsciously, it seeps into what you do. I have had to stop and recalibrate a lot. I’ve needed to review what authenticity means to me and readjust. I’ve personally become disenchanted, because you can watch all the stories, and it is almost like you’re watching the same thing over and over again, since all of a sudden, everyone is promoting/doing the same thing.

So, how do we get out of this web of repetition? Do we need to get out of this web of repetition? Am I the only one who notices it?

Creativity is a very difficult thing (trust me, I really understand that), and it’s so easy to hop on the bandwagon when what you’re seeing appears to be working. But I think a true “influencer” is someone who is paving the way. Someone who isn’t influenced by what others are doing, and finds what works for them and is not thinking about the path that’s already well-established.

I’m in no way perfect. I’m also an influenced non-influencer/wannabe-influencer/blogger. Finding what works and creating something different and all your own isn’t easy; taking and strolling down that nicely paved path sounds great when you’re grasping at straws for content and feeling like you’ve got nothing.

We live in an amazing time, that with the push of a button, we can make an impression on people—just look at what Naomi Campbell posted about the Lubavitcher Rebbe on Gimmel Tammuz! That was quite the detour she made from her somewhat set path, and it inspired a lot of people. She didn’t stay “in her lane”. She spoke her truth, and the more people do that, the more we regain what true authenticity is.

The moral of this? Be exactly who you want to be. If that means following along with other influencers, great! They’re doing well, so odds are you will too. But if you don’t want to follow what others are doing, don’t be afraid to do something different. The world is yearning…and ready for fresh new ideas!