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Should influencers keep on influencing during a pandemic?

A

s I was scrolling through my Instagram feed earlier this week, it suddenly occurred to me that, if we had to go through a pandemic – like, absolutely HAD to – then I suppose we should be grateful it happened at time when the internet makes it so much easier to stay connected to people – albeit from a distance – and, in some cases, to work from home.

I mean, can you imagine if this had happened in the 90s, say, and we’d all been stuck at home with four TV channels, and no social media? (And, OK, sure, if it had happened in the 90s, my teenage self would’ve found it hard to tell the difference between enforced isolation and … just normal life, really… but you get what I mean, I’m sure.) Nightmare

Flawed though it may be, then, there’s no denying that social media and the internet in general does help make the current situation feel a little bit more bearable. (There’s also no denying that FaceTime makes it a whole lot easier for Max to wrap his grandparents around his little finger from a distance, as we recently discovered. They spent at least 20 minutes one day gamely pretending to make a puppet and a doll talk to Max via the screen on my phone: I’m still not convinced he wasn’t just trolling them…) That doesn’t, however, mean it’s perfect: and while there’s a lot of support and camaraderie to be found on social media right now, there’s also been a lot of conflict, as people desperately try to work out how to ‘pandemic’ correctly, and then lash out at those who chose to do it differently from them. So much for last month’s #bekind message, huh? 

flatlay coffeeFor influencers and bloggers, meanwhile, there seems to be two main camps:

01.

The ones who’ve adopted a ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’ attitude, and are continuing with business as usual, in the belief that keeping their feeds as normal as possible, and giving people even a momentary break from the real-life distopian novel we’re all living through right now can only be a good thing. 

02.

The ones who are basically just waiting to die now, and, well, misery loves company, right? 

(Er, I don’t have to point out which camp I fall into here, do I? Didn’t think so.)

The thing is, though, neither of these approaches are wrong: although you wouldn’t think it to see some of the comments on Twitter or Instagram, as people lambaste influencers for continuing to post adverts, or get equally annoyed when someone dares to admit that they’re struggling with the situation. It’s not like everyone’s been given a handbook on how to deal with a pandemic, though, is it? (Although, come to think of it, that would be super-handy: can someone please get on that ASAP??) It’s not like we all have the same coping mechanisms, or reactions to things – so it’s a shame that some people seem to have taken it upon themselves to start policing the internet and telling everyone that they’re pandemic-ing wrong. Are things not bad enough right now without us all starting to turn on one another, too? 

For myself, meanwhile, I have to admit, I find it jarring when I stumble upon the feed of someone who’s apparently just carrying on as normal, without any kind of acknowledgement of what’s going on in the world … but then again, I know all too well that there’s comfort in routine, and that keeping things as normal as possible is sometimes the only thing standing between you and a nervous breakdown. I mean, I’m trying to spend as little as possible at the moment, because, like many of you, I’m worried about the financial implications of all of this, but I’ve still been loading up the ASOS website every day, because scrolling through the ‘new in’ section and ‘hearting’ everything I’d like to buy from it is comfortingly normal to me, in a time when very little else is

So, I might not particularly relate to the people getting dressed up to take outfit photos at home right now, but I don’t really feel I can judge them, if that’s what’s helping them get through this. And while I was relieved that the sponsored post I had scheduled for last week was postponed at the last minute, because the subject matter really didn’t seem appropriate under the circumstances, this week I’ve been responding to the brands who’ve contacted me about potential collaborations – assuming they’re relevant, obviously – because, the fact is, pandemic or not, girl’s gotta eat.

Is it wrong for influencers to continue to try to … well, influence… under the circumstances, though? 

Plenty of people seem to think so – if Twitter is anything to go by, anyway. I’ve been fortunate in that I haven’t had any comments to that effect myself, but I have a few blogging friends who’ve been quite upset by the backlash they’ve had for continuing to create content (Or even just continuing to promote older content…) over the past couple of weeks, and I’ve honestly been quite surprised by it. Content creation, after all, is how these people – myself included – make a living: and – crucially – it’s the kind of living they might just be able to continue making without leaving the safety of their homes. Why would anyone expect them to NOT do that, if they possibly could? What’s the alternative? Should they just give up, and not be able to pay their bills next month, even although it was – potentially – within their power to continue to do so?

And, if so: WHY? 

Why would you expect someone not to work, if they’re able to do it? We don’t seem to have this expectation of people in other industries  (Even other non-essential, totally frivolous ones: I haven’t seen anyone calling for online fashion and beauty brands, for instance, to stop trading at the moment, but apparently the people who just write about those brands are doing something morally reprehensible?), accepting, instead, that they’re just doing their jobs, and trying their hardest to keep their heads above water, and/or their businesses afloat during hard times. When it comes to influencers, though, there’s still a lot of stigma involved attached to making money from selling/promoting things, and I worry that it might force people to shut up shop, even although they could have stayed open.

For my own part, I honestly have no idea whether or not I’ll be able to keep this blog afloat over the coming months: not just because we now have absolutely zero help with childcare, which leaves me only really able to work in the evenings, once Max is in bed, but also because a site this size costs money to run, and we’re yet to find out what kind of impact the pandemic itself, plus the almost-global shutdown we’re going through, will have on the industry.

Should influencers keep on posting during the coronavirus pandemic?We do know that Terry’s work as a web designer will be massively reduced: people just don’t have the cash to pay for new websites right now, and many of his clients have already contacted him to put their projects on hold. We’re hoping we’ll be entitled to some of the financial help the government are making available to small businesses, but it won’t cover the losses we’re expecting to make from this –  and that, of course, means there’s even more of a reason for me to continue to work for as long as I can: and it worries me that I’m probably going to be criticised for that – as if not paying my mortgage next month is a viable alternative for me. 

So, should influencers continue to work during a pandemic – or any other crisis? 

Of COURSE they bloody well should. As I said above: why wouldn’t they? Why wouldn’t ANYONE who’s able to (safely) continue earning a living right now continue to do it for as long as they can? 

If you want your favourite bloggers and Instagrammers to still be around once the crisis is over, then, now’s the time to support them, if you can. Keep reading their content – and, if you’re feeling particularly generous, consider sharing it. Follow them on social media. ‘Like’ their Instagram photos. Don’t complain if they dare to take on paid work in order to be able to feed their families: I don’t think many people would do differently, under the circumstances. Above all, try to understand that we’re not doing this because we want to cynically exploit our readers, or make a quick buck from them: we’re doing it because this is our job, and our livelihood, and we can’t afford to lose it any more than you can afford to lose your main source of income, whatever that may be.

I should probably also point out here that, in making this plea, I’m not asking for special treatment, or for people to do anything we’re not doing ourselves. We are, sadly, far from the only people who’ll be dealing with loss of income due to this pandemic, so we’re doing our best to continue supporting the businesses and people who matter to us, in any way. So we’re shopping local where we can (We’re really fortunate in that our village store has started running a free delivery service, which we’ve already used a few times, rather than relying on the supermarkets…), we’ll continue to pay for Max’s nursery place and swimming lessons for as long as our finances allow, even although he’s no longer using them, and while I don’t always understand or relate to other people’s responses to the surreal situation we all find ourselves in, I’m doing my best not to judge: because I think we’re all walking a pretty hard path right now, aren’t we? 

More than anything, I’m trying to remember that one day this will be over, and we’ll be able to go back to normal: so let’s do whatever we can to make sure that there’s still some “normal” to actually go back to…

 

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17 Comments
  • Steph
    March 26, 2020

    People love to get all self righteous during a global crisis, it really winds me up. It’s like they think it’s a competition or something. Both me and my partner are in the pub trade and I’ve seen it there too – when some of our businesses started selling off their stock (at cost price so not for profit) they were lambasted for ‘profiteering’ and told they should just give it all away for free – god forbid they should try to at least make back the stock losses before they shut the doors for the foreseeable and face an uncertain future! We fell foul to the Insta mob too because we were on holiday in Wales when BoJo announced the stricter measures. Suddenly overnight I was a selfish, arrogant w***** despite the fact we’d been following govt advice and at the time we’d left that was simply to keep your distance from people and stay indoors if you had symptoms/were vulnerable. It was just really unfortunate timing! We came home as soon as we could but I’m still getting snarky DMs now! I think people forget how quickly and frequently the situation changes. The most annoying thing of all is that most of the people doing the preaching are the people that two weeks ago were saying ‘chill out, it’s just the flu!!’ I genuinely don’t know what to say to those people other than ‘congrats, you are winning Coronavirus, good for you. Now STFU!!’

    • Amber
      March 26, 2020

      It really is like a competition for some people, who’ve taken it upon themselves to turn into the Pandemic Police, and tell us all what we’re doing wrong.

      It’s so true about the advice changing constantly, too. Two weeks ago – before the vulnerable groups were officially told to isolate, and the current advice was basically just “wash your hands – I posted something on Instagram saying that Terry and I had decided to pull Max out of nursery, and not see anyone other than my parents, who were also voluntarily isolating. That night, the advice changed, and two days later I got a comment from someone lecturing me about how isolating shouldn’t mean seeing my parents, so I was doing it wrong, and THEY were doing it MUCH better than me. 🙄 Fair enough, they obviously hadn’t seen the date on the post, but even so, I was left panicking over the implication that I hadn’t been doing enough, at a time when we hadn’t been told to do anything at all – thanks, that person 👍

  • Sandra
    March 26, 2020

    Dear Amber,

    I must say I don’t really get this discussion… But it is the same here in Germany.
    I’m working in a small family owned travel agency, and I guess I don’t have to mention that I do not have much to do there at the moment. So I’m very happy I still have my blog where I at least have something like a “job” during these crazy times. I haven’t got negative feedback, yet, but some other bloggers/influencers in Germany definitely did. (I maybe should mention I also didn’t publish a sponsored post in the last few days, but some even got criticised for using affiliate links in a blogpost/on Instagram.)

    My boyfriend, on the other side, works for a huge German online magazine and noone is judging him for still doing his work every day… So it is allowed to work for an online magazine as long as it isn’t yours? Sorry, I really don’t get it…

    The only thing I can say to you: Go on, Amber! I will read all your blogposts and you have all my support!

    Best wishes
    Sandra

  • Angie Silver
    March 26, 2020

    I will be forwarding this post next time I get a rude remark. Well said!

  • Kelli
    March 26, 2020

    Rock on and I support you!

  • Cheila Martins
    March 26, 2020

    Of course you should keep creating content. It would only be a bad idea if you were to promote something offensive or taking advantage of the pandemic for profit which I have come across more than once, unfortunately. I know you’d never do that. So many people have lost their jobs, we’re all in a complicated situation. Please keep working and we’ll be here to support you.

  • Brenda
    March 26, 2020

    I definitely agree that you should keep working, if you are able to! My husband has moved his work to our home; it’s not internet based, but what’s the difference? I did see on Instagram a couple of “influencers” who were lambasted for continuing to post content, but their fans got in there and explained that they probably had contractual obligations, that they are attempting to keep some sense of normalcy, etc. I think most people who know and follow you understand where you are coming from. Those who are complaining… well, it says a lot more about THEM than it does about YOU. Carry on, girl!!

  • Candice
    March 26, 2020

    Ah!personally I feel like bloggers should keep blogging! Blogging is my escape and a place I share my thoughts. Especially with everything going on in the world and my country being in lock down blogging is the only way I can cope.

  • Emerald
    March 26, 2020

    Keep on posting and giving us your thoughts. It’ll be a historical document in the future. 😊

    My FB page is a mix of the C-word as well as things I find interesting. I can’t not acknowledge it, as you say, but I do want to keep my spirits high. (Albeit NOT in that über-positive way you wrote about last week.) You all need to keep momentum up and keep yourselves visible, so to speak.

    This staying indoors lark though! So much to do in the house. But without the daily stimulus from outside the home my motivation is waning.

  • Aunt fiona
    March 26, 2020

    Just keep doing what you are doing. You are entitled to work just like anyone else. We should try and keep things going as much as possible. Routine is a great healer, especially now. You are a great writer, people need to read your work. The government seems to have you covered, as it should. Yes it’s tough max not getting to cuddle his gran and grandad. Just remember CHUMP has said it will be allover by Easter😂. Yay Easter eggs coming our way. Look after yourselves. 😍😍😍🇨🇦🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

  • Myra
    March 26, 2020

    Of course you should go on working. You work from home and are putting nobody else at risk. Everybody needs to pay their mortgage or rent and their bills and they need to eat. Everybody is worried about where the money will come from if they can’t work at the moment, so anyone who can work, should work, if for no other reason than they are not having to make any claims on the government for financial support. Do what you can and look after yourselves and your local businesses until this passes.

  • Miss Kitty
    March 26, 2020

    Please don’t stop what you are doing! We are in total lockdown here in NZ. I thought I would be able to still do online shopping, but the government has announced that only essentials (i.e. food supplies or medications) can be delivered during the lockdown. So glad I stocked up on cosmetics before we went into lockdown. It’s silly to feel so shut up when I didn’t necessarily leave the house everyday anyway, but just the fact that you CAN’T leave makes it worse! We are allowed to go for a walk in our neighbourhood thankfully, as long as we keep away from anyone else. But that still leaves a lot of time at home, and internet content is the only thing that is going to get me through this! I really appreciate bloggers like you who are still posting, whatever you’re posting, as it’s something to read!

  • Katie
    March 27, 2020

    I have no problem with people continuing to post etc at the end of the day it’s your job and you need to make money. For me things have changed in some ways but I am still working everyday because I work in a special needs school and it’s not closed. I like look at blogs and Instagram it cheers me up x

  • Donna
    March 28, 2020

    People should absolutely keep working. Personally, I haven’t created any content since the theatres closed, because that was the day my world fell to pieces, which probably sounds dramatic to a lot of people but at the end of the day all of my work for the next year has now either been cancelled, or is probably going to be… I’ve found other blogs and Instagram and Twitter a comfort during this time, and I’m determined to crack on with NaPoWriMo to try and restore some sense of normality and get back to creating again. The last part of this article, about keeping something normal to go back to is the best thing I’ve heard since all this started. So many people are too angry about other people not doing enough or it all being overblown and not mattering. “Be kind” was definitely forgotten far too quickly. 🙁

  • Nicola
    March 30, 2020

    The charitable explanation is that emotions are running high and everyone’s stressed and anxious, so they lash out at the easy targets. Which are, unfortunately, influencers, because the popular idea of an influencer is Kim Kardashian shilling flat tummy tea to add to her growing pile of millions of dollars.

    There was a whole stramash on Twitter yesterday about book copyright and piracy after NPR and the NYT (amongst others) promoted a free online ‘library’ that had copyrighted works it did not pay for, and writers – who have in many cases lost money from things like talks and other events lately – criticised it. One of them was called an ‘ideas landlord’ for the shocking notion that she should be paid for her books so she can pay her rent.

    It’s the same kind of thing – people think all authors are JK Rowling and Dan Brown and they can easily take the hit for a few months, but the reality is for most of them, too many free downloads and not enough sales can mean a publisher cancelling a series (and asking for some of the advance back) or passing on the next book.

    None of this makes it right, of course. Authors (whether of novels or online content) deserve to be compensated fairly for their work. Art of any sort is more important than ever right now, and we shouldn’t expect people to just create it for free any more than we should expect to be fed at a Michelin Star restaurant for free.

    But I think people are anxious and scared, and when it looks like someone wealthy is trying to turn a profit in a crisis they lash out.

    Personally, I do find it a bit ‘off’ if people don’t even acknowledge the pandemic, but I try to remind myself that that can be a conscious choice, to create a space of comfort and escapism, especially for those who HAVE to continue with business as usual because they’re leaving the house every day for essential jobs, who don’t want to log onto social media to see another loaf of bread baked by someone with the luxury of quarantine.

  • Lena
    March 31, 2020

    I’m a blogger/influencer although it’s not my day job – more a hobby and a bit of pocket money here and there. I had some sponsored posts coming up and we ended up agreeing to postpone as it didn’t feel right marketing clothes when so many people here have lost their jobs and our entire country were shutting down. But I don’t think wrongly of anyone who is continuing to post as usual, just for me, I couldn’t pose and smile with what’s going on

  • Victoria
    April 2, 2020

    I am on the same page as you! New Zealand is on a total lockdown for a month and hell, the wheels have fallen off some pretty major magazines and has forced ALL ‘non essential’ businesses to temporarily close down. Those who can work from home are expected to work from home, those who can’t are on a month “holiday”. If I had the ability to work from home, I absolutely would!

    Most people have a job. Or two. The bills (for the most part) don’t stop coming just because the world has stopped turning. People have to keep generating some form of income otherwise their world will implode. Bloggers/influencers included. I’ve seen some nasty things on social media about families going for a walk in their “bubble” and being verbally abused by outsiders that don’t understand how eight people can live in one house. It is absolutely INSANE!

    I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that we’re currently all living a piece of history. This WILL be talked about in schools one day. We are all doing the best we can and that includes supporting others in their endeavours!

    xo, Victoria