For so many individuals in 2024, TikTok is synonymous with a daily routine. From the mindless scroll upon waking up in the morning, to quick peeks in between classes or the notification of a video specially sent by a friend, TikTok has taken over. Along with this increase in app use is a skyrocket of influencers – those with large followings, who can easily become opinion leaders, even without any credentials.

Influencer culture allows regular people to wield influence on culture and trends. The format of TikTok takes away some of the regulations and gate-keeping for regular media. With the press of a button, anyone can share their opinions. These opinions can be simple, such as clothes they are wearing or products they love. They can also become bigger when politics or culture are brought up. It is almost inspiring that any thought can be released to the public so quickly.

On the other end of this freedom to blow up, though, is the question of legitimacy. If anyone can have influence over others overnight, it begs the question: Should they? Influencers with large followings are often looked up to. Whatever they say is taken as truth. This can become problematic, though, when influencers then share thoughts with little or no education behind them, and soon their opinion is taken as truth.

 I remember first seeing this consequence during the COVID-19 pandemic. Large influencers would encourage quarantining or masks in a video but then were spotted out at large parties at the peak of the pandemic. Especially in a time when everyone was online, these posts left many infuriated over the message that was spread to their young and impressionable followers. 

There is a danger in the power that these people can hold, especially when they blow up for their opinions on something like dancing or comedy, and then are expected to lead when it comes to political matters.

Another problem with the rise of influencers is the illusion of authenticity. Since the nature of influencers now is so casual, it is easy for followers to feel as though they know everything about the people behind their phone screens. They start to feel a connection to people they have never even met. They feel obliged to know the ins and outs of their life, and can even feel personally slighted when said influencer does something outside of what they think is in line for them. 

Furthermore, feeling like one knows more about an influencer than they really do can cause trouble when it comes to comparison. In 15-second snippets, anyone can seem as though their life is perfect. Both physically and mentally, people can display the best version of themselves. So, when someone is scrolling and sees person after person with the perfect outfit, or the newest things, or on an exotic vacation, it is easy to feel down about yourself, like you’re somehow less than others.

There has been a shift recently, with influencers becoming increasingly relaxed and casual. More and more influencers have been embracing openness, which is where I hope the future of influencers lies. Since, hypothetically, anyone can become an influencer, those with that power should work to be as open and honest as possible with their platform.

Influencers are not going away anytime soon. In fact, the number will only increase as time goes on. I think what is most important is that viewers continue to recognize who influencers really are, typically regular people without much legitimate knowledge behind them. Influencers can provide a sense of connection, offer advice, or simply be a breath of fresh air from the reality of life. Influencers should be enjoyed for what they are, not taken far beyond the TikTok screen.

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