Sunday, 5 December, 2021
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OPINION

Waning Influence Of Influencers



Aashish Mishra

The era of “influencers” may soon be coming to an end – at least on the international stage – with data showing that Gen Z prefers people with established talent and substantiated authority or those taking actions on the ground over people brandishing their lifestyle on social media.
The creative agency We Are Social carried out a study in the United Kingdom in 2019 analysing the beliefs and behaviour of this zoomer generation i.e. people born between 1997 and 2015 and found that Gen Z wants to see authentic activities of real people rather than micro-celebrities exaggerating their life and promoting stuff for money. The idea of “influencers” no longer cuts it for this particular generation.
This diminishing sway is certainly not helped by the scandals that appear every now and then about idolised influencers lying about themselves, selling out for money or preaching something they do not practice. Also, Gen Z has very little tolerance for these “people of influence,” as they are sometimes referred to, presenting their opinions on things they know nothing about. As the We Are Social study shows, Zoomers gravitate towards informed views coming from experts that contribute to furthering their knowledge and broadening their horizons rather than purely speaking solely from stardom. As the research puts it, “Influencer sway over Gen Z is very limited if the celebrity is trying to flog something outside their realm of expertise, while influencers with mega popularity are downright unappealing.” In simple words, the glitz and glamour that previous generations found attractive, Gen Z finds hollow.
Gen Zers seem to favour people who have earned their authority through their experiences and/or actions rather than from their fame. The Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is more appealing to Zers than say, Zach King or Venessa Hudgens. This is because Gen Z is by far the most learned generation. They were born with the internet, grew up exposed to the world through social media and are now reaching adulthood equipped with ideas of post-truth and misinformation. Their knowledge was not just limited to books and the media like their parents and grandparents. They saw and were shaped by the world and hence, have a very critical outlook on it. They can easily see falsehoods and are not hesitant to point them out. They want the real deal, not a “created self,” which is why influences appear phoney to this generation.
This is more of an international outlook but there is no reason to believe that the same is not the case in Nepal as well. Our Gen Zers are just as exposed and knowledgeable as those in the west. The youngsters here have just as much access to technology and they are equally non-hesitant to call out lies. So, the days of so-called “influencers” are numbered here in Nepal as well.
Now, the argument to make here is that the waning influence of influencers is actually a good thing. People questioning celebrities’ credentials and seeking out true experts to form opinions will help curb the spread of misinformation. It will also make the “stars” more responsible towards their followers. Influencers will have to act on what they say if they want to stay relevant and amassing a huge social media following will not be the only thing required to establish an online stature.
But perhaps, most importantly, the downfall of influencers will make social media social again. Instead of clamouring around a single individual, we will interact with each other, exchange ideas and provide mutual support. It will also mean that brands will not be able to buy our interest by recruiting the influencer we follow. Therefore, it is a good thing that the influence of influencers is declining among Gen Z. It is a cause for hope.