Aside from panda and doggo videos, there is probably nothing left on social media that does not draw flak. The comments box of any controversial post is constantly crammed with online judges. In the Philippines under the incumbent regime, you’d notice that extremists in the pro and anti camps have created a great divide. People are now quick to assume that if you are not pro-this, then you are pro-that. So if you don’t have a clear standpoint, then you are also a villain in this narrative.
After all, “Mean Girls” has taught us that there are two kinds of evil in this world: 1) those who do evil stuff, and 2) those who see people do evil stuff and don’t try to stop it. From where I stand, it’s a simplistic statement. Person 1 says evil is killing a living thing regardless of character, Person 2 says it is evil to let a violent person live another day and continue to prey on the innocent. So how can you label someone evil if people perceive evil differently?
But badly as being neutral is portrayed, it could potentially be a sanctuary for rational minds—the ones who applaud a good deed, and condemn a bad deed regardless of whose merit or demerit. In this day and age, diehard fans defend even their leader’s misdoings, and diehard haters scavenge for the tiniest flaw in his achievements. If there is none, they will dig into the past and create a scorecard of bad vs. good. So can it be that the real perpetrators are the extremists who insult people who counter their opinions? Honestly, I have limited knowledge on the psychology behind this self-righteous human nature. Human minds are brilliant, but also a little odd.
With all the sociopolitical fuss, the middle-ground people are perceived to be just as bad as enemies, when in truth, some are victims of cognitive dissonance. And those with power to influence are put on a pedestal, exposed to a great amount of pressure.
Social media influencers have of late been taking flak from citizens for turning a blind eye on local issues. Of course, the public expects these famous people to use their platform to provide genuine inspiration and plug real advocacies. What do social media influencers do, anyway? I don’t personally know many, but I follow a lot. They inspire me to work harder for my now cliché dream of traveling the world. Those #feedgoals will really get you dreaming to be someplace else, but at some point they distort your idea of reality and let you think you are running behind your timeline. But when you look at the bigger picture, they are, simply put, low-key celebrities who get paid to promote brands because of their follower base.
If you are on Instagram enough, you can actually classify on your own who are the elite, the emerging, and those trying hard to penetrate the saturated influencer market. I have read some influencers’ books and was disappointed to find that those with the most well-curated feeds lead less interesting lives. While business tycoons share tear-jerking backstories on their success, we read about social media influencers with almost the same traveling capabilities publish that they also had their own share of struggles in their blogging careers, such as, but not limited to, getting humiliated walking into class in Paris wearing a multicolored ensemble while everyone else was wearing neutral colors, or not being able to enjoy their vacation because they need to take a thousand photos and only choose five.
Perhaps the clamor of the public comes from the fact that common folk will not understand how these are struggles when hunger and death stalk this country. It gets pretty hard to take when they try to inspire people by saying not everything was handed to them on a silver platter as they travel the world at the age of 23—and a common office worker could stretch work up to 12 hours a day and there is not a single chance that his employer would sponsor his travels, let alone grant him a monthlong leave. It’s not the kind of influence and inspirational stories certain groups would want to hear, since we can’t all live such glamorous lives.
The clamoring groups complain about how obnoxious it is to see all superficial aesthetic, but we don’t really know what goes on behind their cameras. They could actually have a strong stand, but also stronger reasons to remain silent. Here is a little business mindset that could possibly justify their perspective. Social media influencers are paid by brands to promote products. They are human marketing tools who also market themselves for a living. They are not actors who rely on acting skills and good managers to earn projects. They are their own product. Based on my understanding, their job is to look good. Hence, their likability is not just a contributing factor but plays a major role in the success of their business.
A single opinion could make or break their careers. I once read about a fitness influencer who lost thousands of followers when she changed her clean diet to a not-so-clean one after realizing that her “fitspiration” theme is also breeding insecurity among her followers. Now she promotes loving your body regardless of your shape, but of course this did not please all the sporting brands with which she partnered. Their advocacies, their voice, no matter how morally uplifting, may be bad for the business.
Now I know many will think it is selfish to think of one’s business ahead of sociopolitical issues because then we would be no different from greedy capitalists. But maybe it is easier for us common folk to take it to the streets since it does not affect our line of work. If actors can get bullied for making an unpopular opinion, then maybe it is too much of a risk for influencers who do not have a PR team to control bad publicity. As much as we do not want to condone their nonchalance, we simply cannot force people to fight battles of which they never wished to be a part. Maybe they are going for the less talk, less mistakes approach. It could also be true that they refuse to speak for it is unbecoming of a socialite to act like an activist. But clearly it only means that the opposing side is barking up the wrong tree. In an alternate universe, maybe we could have social media influencers who can voice for our country, but in the here and now, these are what we have: fashion, travel and lifestyle.
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Maye Dellosa, 25, is a business management graduate of De La Salle University Manila and a corporate account officer at Avega Managed Care.
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