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Influencers need to step up their game

23 Jun 2020 / 19:52 H.

WHAT comes to mind when you hear the words “social media influencer” or SMI? Instagram? YouTube? Perhaps, even TikTok? These are all major social media platforms on which many young Malaysians have found fame and become internet famous.

What are they famous for? Some are known for being extremely vocal on various social issues, and providing content about their hobbies or pets. Others are known for merely having a pretty or handsome face.

Many young people today look up to SMIs and a lot of them even want to become one.

Having followed social media and SMIs, I would like to share some observations regarding SMIs.

Undoubtedly, SMIs have shaped the minds of many. They have helped the younger generation to be more open minded and empathic towards other people. The youth today are able to accept views that are different from theirs without becoming upset. They seem to have become better at putting themselves in someone else’s shoes before passing remarks.

However, many SMIs only care about posting the “perfect” picture and having tons of followers on Instagram. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

But when someone, especially one who is young and inexperienced, has a massive following, they often forget what it truly means to be an influencer, someone who spreads positivity and awareness about pressing issues to help educate the society.

Take a look at what SMIs post on social media: selfies, short funny skits on TikTok and sponsored content. Posting sponsored content isn’t wrong because they also need to earn a living. Even so, SMIs should be more conscious of what they endorse or promote and how it can impact society.

A lot of the youth today want to become influencers for the brand deals and fame but fail to realise the responsibility that comes with being an influencer. One of these responsibilities is to be a good role model to the younger generation.

It is fun to read and watch some of the entertaining content SMIs provide. Problem is that most of the influencers we see today are only famous for their lavish lifestyles. The content they post is often not beneficial to society. This has to change.

Influencers need to be more conscious and aware about what they post. They should advocate for something because they are truly passionate about it and not because it is what’s trending.

Merely posting a picture with the current hashtag just isn’t enough anymore. Influencers have so much power to educate society and spread awareness about many pressing issues. They need to use their platforms to do this instead of just gaining “clout”. This is the reason certain influencers are mocked as “clout chasers”.

There have been too many incidents where an influencer has posted something that has offended people. Take, for example, the time when a certain influencer made insensitive remarks on their platforms. This individual should have known how that would have affected people, especially since Malaysia is a diverse nation.

Such an attempt is often used by influencers to remain relevant and get their 15 minutes of fame. As the saying goes, bad publicity is better than no publicity.

Ultimately, this kind of clout chasing leads to the notion of “cancel culture”. It is a popular practice among the online community and involves “cancelling” other influencers, public figures and even corporations with offensive statements.

As a society that has information at our fingertips, we do have the power to change this. We, as a society, should take it upon ourselves to become better informed and aware of social issues. We cannot just rely on and blindly follow what an influencer says and does. As the saying goes, “just google it”. That is exactly what we should do.

Should SMIs be doing more? The answer is, yes and they are more than capable of doing better and using their voices for good.

They have the resources and opportunities to do more than clout chasing by merely posting a pretty picture with a hashtag, cynically selling out to sponsored content, or irresponsibly stirring up emotionally charged controversies.

Time for SMIs to step up their game and do more for society with their clout.

Samantha Olivia Skelchy is studying for her Bachelor of Communication at Berjaya University College. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

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