Is influencing a means of digital begging?

Popular influencer's death in alleged drug smuggling lifts veil on trend

In Summary

• The ugly side of social media careers is that many struggle to make ends meet

A woman uses her phone to advertise a product
A woman uses her phone to advertise a product

At this stage of ‘wokeness’ we all know what the term influencer means. Social media content creators and influencers are people who build a ‘career’ from followers and social media users. Others might argue that content creators and influencers are different, but they are all the same to me. They both rely heavily on digital traffic and support from their followers to make a gain.

Whether it's a cook, a comedian or lifestyle vlogger, they are seeking the same things. Firstly, in a competitive space that is the social media platforms, people are often caught doing extreme things to gain attention. For influencers to market their ‘brand’ to brands that offer sponsorship (which is their ultimate goal), they must have the numbers. Numbers are quantifiable statistics that they can use to propel their agendas further.

At some point, all the top social media creators have done something stupid, which they believed to be a good idea at the time. Later, when they face repercussions, they come back with a shallow apology and promise to “learn from their mistakes”. Some creators take such a hard fall, they never recover from it.

Since the exposure of Dubai Porta Potty, we all have an idea of how ugly the life of an ‘influencer’ really is. Even if it's not to that extent for some creators or influencers, we all know that behind the glitz of their glamorous posts is a dark undertone of struggle and survival. When it comes down to it, a career made from the unreliable wave of social media users is not one that pays well or at all. One cannot simply rely on monetising views and likes for money.

However, the more we head into this dark web of social media integration into every aspect of our lives, the idea of quitting jobs and taking up social media as a career appeals to many. The sheer laziness of relying of other’s hard-earned money is a concept I find revolting. I say this as I witness many people in Kenya choosing these ‘careers’ as well.

The popular social media TikTok has features that enable creators to go live and have their followers watch them in real time. The App also allows users to send gifts to the creator, which translates to real money, but the users have to buy these ‘gifts’ using actual money. Everyday as I aimlessly scroll through TikTok, I come across several Kenyans on live doing the weirdest things. Whether they are just chatting to their followers, chewing miraa at odd hours, verbally assaulting other creators for clout…

I know I am not the intended target audience for these people, but I also can’t help but wonder at those who would spend their hard-earned money to pay others in the name of entertainment. In this economy we are all struggling too much to promote such laziness and incompetence of merely showing up online to ask for followers to send you something.

Just this past week, news broke of the death of a popular Kenyan influencer by the name of Brendalicious. It was reported that Brenda collapsed in the airport in Malaysia after bags of drugs she was smuggling into the country in her stomach burst. Brenda’s death is a tragic wake-up call for the many people who idolise the glamorous life of influencers and wish to become influencers themselves.

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