Caroline Calloway, whose only proper designation on a business card would be “influencer,” is the latest of her peers to upset the internet, which is coming to terms with the possibility she’s no good. How could it be that these masters of image curation have curated images that mask their flaws?
Our celebrity class is just as rotten as the rest of us, and that’s always been the case. The influencer era, however, has suddenly thrust upon us a baffling class of amateur celebrities. They thwart traditional gatekeepers, manufacturing an often illusory, sometimes legitimate, base of organic popularity. They did not rise through the ranks of record labels or film studios or modeling agencies, accumulating the usual infrastructure of support and polish that comes with it.
What to do with this phenomenon of scattershot big shots, whose ascents happen so rapidly they defy vetting and tempering? First, consider that our likes create them. Then, consider what that says about us.
Importantly, consider the truth in their label. They are, indeed, influencers. They enjoy sprawling audiences of impressionable teens. They are a nebulous network of superficials. They speak to the niche-ification of popular culture, which makes them nearly impossible to track. But while we search, they influence.
They hawk questionable products. They hawk questionable worldviews. They fake it until they make it, and when they make it, they’re still just faking it. (Calloway’s story is Exhibit A.)
Maybe that’s no so different from celebrities of yore. But the influencer’s unique lack of talent (beyond gaming social media) makes them uniquely boring, and their modus operandi makes them difficult to pin down. That’s not exactly a winning combination.
Anyway, good luck to us.