Content drives the internet. Without it, web advertising, social media, and blogs don’t exist. This is why the kids of Generation Z (yes, that’s a thing now) dream of becoming content creators. No, not musicians, or journalists, or bloggers—just people who churn out golden content sludge.
The modern-day rock star is a social media manager at Denny’s who uses the word “bae” in company tweets, or more seriously, an Instagram celebrity with millions of followers. The common thread between the two? Influence.
Online, influence means power—the ability to disseminate messages to a massive, attentive audience. The ability to influence their thoughts, moods, and decisions. Thus, the need to achieve a level of considerable influence is the unifying goal of every single person with a social media account (74% of online adults).
Those with high social followings (i.e. “reach”) exceed the mere title of “content creator,” the term now used for anyone that makes quite literally anything.
When these folks attain a considerable amount of followers (say, 25,000+) they are no longer content creators. They are influencers. And these people are essentially digital deities among mortals. Their opinions impact the views of millions with a single post, and people are proven to find influencers more trustworthy than traditional media or advertising.
In 2015, 59% of marketers plan to increase their influencer marketing budget. – AdWeek
As a result, influencer marketing is a booming industry for brands, which handsomely pay popular web personalities to promote their products. Think: sponsored content meets individual social profiles.
With all of the wealth and cultural influence accumulated by these behemoths, it stands to reason that they would use their power as a force of good, providing thought-leadership on meaningful issues and inheriting the responsibility to influence the internet generation.
Well, we profiled six prominent influencers and that’s not even remotely the case….
Influence: 7.7+ million people
Michelle Phan is a YouTube sensation. Her primary focus is providing make-up tips for young women, though like most influencers, she’s expanded into related lifestyle content.
Phan has received over 1.1 billion lifetime video views and was the subject of a nationwide YouTube advertising campaign. Our photo shows her instructing impressionable teen girls on “how to look like a bad girl,” or truthfully, how to look like a facsimile of counterculture without adopting any of the ideologies therein.
That sounds a lot like what’s wrong with millennials, doesn’t it?
Influence: 100+ million people
Everyone in the connected world knows of Taylor Swift. She’s inescapable. Thus, her influence extends far beyond a quantity of social media followers. And kudos to her for it. Yet, Swift never represents anything that doesn’t benefit her own image.
Swift recently displayed her incredible clout by strong-arming Apple with a viral open letter demanding they pay musicians royalties. It was a huge win for Swift, and Apple, a corporate giant, buckled under the power of her influence.
One can’t help but imagine the possibilities if she demanded government action on crucial issues like climate change or gun control. In the meantime, though, she’ll just have to continue slamming The Princeton Review for correcting her grammar.
Jay Alvarrez & Alexis Ren
Influence: 6+ million people
This Instagram-famous couple typically takes photos together, which most of the time, involve Alexis’ butt. And no matter how lovely the curve of her buttocks, these two purvey a lavish, vapid lifestyle of beaches, helicopter-jumping, snorkeling-in-a-thong-bikini entitlement only accessible to those with their parent’s credit card number.
Nevertheless, the anti-intellectual influence of these two is astounding.
Influence: 50+ million people
Kylie Jenner isn’t just a social media influencer, she’s an actual celebrity, born of the ubiquitous Kardashian clan and daughter to Caitlyn Jenner.
Here, she re-posted a meme to 10 million of her followers about chemtrails, a theory that airplane contrails are some sort of government chemical conspiracy and not simply water condensing. If there’s a greater microcosm of America’s infatuation with attractive dopes, we can’t recall it.
The Fat Jewish
Influence: 5.5+ million people
OK, so this is actually pretty funny. A cat wearing glasses and looking all quizzical. It’s relatable and social media gold, frankly. But consider that this account reaches millions of people, the majority of which are educated young adults, and routinely posts photos similar to this—again, a cat wearing glasses.
Marnie The Dog
Influence: 2+ million people
Yes, in the year 2015, even a dog can accumulate more than a million followers. Sure, Marnie The Dog—who’s tongue permanently hangs out—is ostensibly cute. But just try to imagine the person behind the camera, spending hours dressing up their dog alone before they take pictures of it for social media validation. That’s just kind of… depressing.
What does it all mean?:
Internet content should be fun. While all of these influencers create beautiful social media experiences, they’re completely devoid of substance. It’s not solely their fault, but the liner notes of a greater societal epidemic—apathy and anti-intellectualism.
Since we’ve democratically chosen to give them social influence that rivals many elected politicians, we must ask more of our influencers.
With the tremendous power these personalities attain, comes the social imperative to project something meaningful to the masses and promote positive change, at least in between pictures of their ass.