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Social media Why influencers are so hated

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Comedians, feminists, your neighbor: they all despise influencers. The reasons for this could not be so much with the influencers themselves - but with the fundamental media change that they embody like no one else.

By: Hardy Funk

As of: 10/21/2020 | archive

Oliver Pocher is only the tip of the iceberg: His handling of lockdown and corona seemed and still seems to consist in getting upset about influencers and, above all, influencers. The culmination of a hip-hop track, in which he, supported by his wife (and influencer ...) Amira, rapping over contemporary hitting trap beats, draws the haha-funny comparison with the "flu influenza". So far, not really surprising.

But Oliver and Amira Pocher are just the tip of the iceberg. You are surfing a monster wave of a social consensus that says: Influencers are by far the most superfluous people of all. Influencers encounter determined rejection and even open hatred from almost every direction: Parents shake their heads, old white men turn up their noses, feminists clap their hands over their heads, comedians crack jokes, journalists only scorn. Everyone today has a bad word about influencers - with a high probability the remark that it is actually a disease, namely a flu, influenza, haha.

Sure: Influencers are not a substitute for reading Marx, nor do they have the poetic power of a Truffaut love film. Quite the opposite: Many posts and videos affirm a life that is fixated on consumption (or even exhausted in it), unquestionably carry on common ideals of beauty, unconsciously cement questionable images of women and men. That may, yes, should be criticized, in order to perhaps at some point come to a less clichéd representation of genders and ways of life, in order to perhaps at some point also discuss things that are beyond the question of what to buy next.

From young people for young people

In the vast majority of cases, however, a little more calm is recommended. Influencers do what they do for young people - who they love for it. Because they often do it better than all the 40-year-old editorial managers in their editorial manager offices all over the country imagine. They give their fans orientation, they offer a sense of belonging as well as possibilities for demarcation. Often also an escape from an everyday life full of constraints and a break from perfectionism (because many influencers are disarmingly self-deprecating). Often they just make nonsense. And yes, they do advertising too. Influencers are like the pop stars of the 21st century. They are something like the "Bravo" of the 21st century. They are something like the teleshopping of the 21st century. Or all three together. But do you have to reject them outright? And why do you have to reject them so much more than other people who advertise?

Annekathrin Kohout, cultural and media scientist at the University of Siegen and among other things co-editor of the book series “Digitale Bildkulturen” has an answer. She explains why influencers are hated much more than football stars or models, for example: “From a culture-critical perspective, advertising is generally manipulative. And the criticism of influencers is stronger than that of previous advertising media, because influencers often suggest that they are not doing any real advertising. That they pretend, so to speak, that what they are doing is not manipulative. ”According to Annekathrin Kohout, this also applies, although influencers have long been labeling their advertising content as such:“ Nonetheless, the advertising itself is selected. Or influencers argue that they receive a great deal of mail, but only show what they really like. That means, they permanently claim authenticity, realism, authenticity for themselves. At the same time, however, they are de facto advertising. And for us, advertising is always manipulative. Most people encounter this contradiction. "

More than beauty and games

Of course, advertising by influencers is also manipulative, to a certain extent it is even particularly manipulative - otherwise it would not be so popular with companies. But it is also more authentic than a Manuel Neuer who advertises a Coke Zero. At least that's what Marlis Jahnke, managing director of a Hamburg advertising agency for online marketing and editor of the book “Influencer Marketing”, is convinced of: “For me, authenticity is so important that I believe that every influencer really makes a mistake when entering into cooperation that he is not behind. It is not a magazine where you place an advertisement, but rather a person with his or her wishes, goals and experiences. And the followers notice very quickly whether something is set up or whether it is real. "

In addition, there are not just the girls who give make-up tips in the children's room and present the latest H&M collection or the boys who play the latest games in the gaming chair donated by their parents. There are tens of thousands of influencers and they cover just about every hobby, every phase of life and every community. There are fitness influencers, there are influencers for DIY or gardening. Food influencers and influencers for health, sustainability or travel. Influencer for cars, bikes, pets, plants, for books, music, art, design. Influencers who go to school, who are training or studying. Influencers who make their partnership an issue, their pregnancy, their marriage or their children. There are gay and lesbian influencers, Afro-German and German-Turkish influencers. So there are enough influencers for almost every topic - and with specialist knowledge for almost all interests. But mostly we only have the make-up tips influencer in mind.

Scapegoat for media change

But even the make-up tips influencer, Annekathrin Kohout from the University of Siegen is convinced, is only representative of completely different, larger issues and problems: “Certain contemporary discourses are reflected in this figure of an influencer. Discourses that also exist independently of this figure, discourses about social media, such as the big topic of attention economy, the big topic of narcissism on the internet. And of course, classic, culture-critical argumentation patterns keep coming up: consumer criticism and prejudices such as: the influencer is superficial, what she presents is just a pretense. "

The hatred of influencers therefore has deeper causes that have to do with the media change that we all know as digitization - and this has increased again since Web 2.0 with its social media. The influencers receive the receipt for their well-known negative aspects from cell phone addiction to hate speech to narcissism - as a scapegoat for the media change, so to speak. Because digitization is so abstract, so difficult to grasp. And influencers so real and exposed. Perhaps also because the Brave New Digital World is a little overwhelming for some and some.

Because new things always stir up fears and misunderstandings, as Annekathrin Kohout explains: “It has a lot to do with the fact that large areas are changing in the course of this media change: The public and private sphere, for example, behave differently and in a new way. We cannot yet grasp this with the old models of thought. We now have to see what kind of public is it that social media have created? What does it look like? It is obviously new. And we're still evaluating everything using old criteria from the time before social media. Then there is friction, and that is why this criticism and perhaps this hatred also arise. "

Influencer hatred will decrease

This media change, Marlis Jahnke from Hamburg is also convinced, can no longer be reversed - which would, however, also offer an opportunity: “In any case, influencer marketing will not go away, the media change is likely to intensify even further. And I think that all market participants have to work on becoming more professional. And the more professional the influencers and the campaigns, the less the hatred will be. "

Annekathrin Kohout also sees the hatred of influencers as a temporary phenomenon. Because as social media lose their novelty, the hatred of influencers could also decrease: “If we sooner or later learn how to deal with this new social media,” says Annekathrin Kohout, “it will definitely lead to one tolerates these phenomena differently, and that perhaps one no longer speaks of hatred, but takes influencers for granted and no longer hypothesizes that as the product of hell. "

Night studio broadcast and podcast: why are influencers so hated?

Influencers are met with the most resolute rejection everywhere. What makes advertisers and lifestyle icons objects of hate? The envy of the presented dream life? Or the idea that influencers have read the signs of the times and know how to turn them into money? By Hardy Funk Listen now at the Nachtstudio Podcast!