Influencers, not activists: Don’t count on social media stars to speak on politics

Gwen Henry | Cartoonist

By The Editorial Board

Social media influencers are often just everyday people who get thrown into the spotlight after a few viral videos. But does this mean we should look to them to speak up on controversial humanitarian issues?

The pressure of being an influencer is hard to conceptualize. Imagine going viral for a “get ready with me” video and, only a few months later, being asked to share your opinion about controversial topics you know nothing about. As a society, putting this pressure on our favorite influencers does more harm than good and is setting them up for failure.

Influencers often have no more political knowledge than the average person, and it’s not their job to be fully informed on serious humanitarian issues. It is time we look to people who are experts on the subject or who are actually living through the situations that we want to know about. Think about it: What does a random influencer who went viral for makeup videos and college lifestyle know about the crisis unfolding in Gaza? And why are we so eager for them to speak up on it?

Instead, turn to trusted news sources and humanitarian activists. They are dedicating their lives to being experts on these important subjects. TikTok is not a news source, and the influencers on the platform are not reporters.

Yes, influencers have a huge platform and more followers than many activists do, but influencers are not there to tell us what to think about important issues. In fact, doing your own research and forming your own opinion should be the end goal.

It is important to follow those who you believe are respectable, ethical people, and wanting to feel comfortable with who you choose to support is just being responsible. However, cancel culture has taken “speaking up” too far — often to the point that if an influencer doesn’t speak up fast enough, they will get canceled for not caring about the subject. Is it possible that they just didn’t know enough about it to speak up? Speaking up preemptively can encourage hasty research and underdeveloped opinions, leading millions of followers to be misinformed about the subject. That’s a lot of pressure for one person who just wants to entertain the public.

The idea that everyone should have an opinion on everything is toxic and is not a productive way to have meaningful political or social conversations. It is time we turn to the correct sources and encourage informed discussions on sensitive topics.

If an influencer wants to talk about a certain subject, they can, but it shouldn’t be because of pressure from followers. Instead of relying on social media influencers to be the face of controversial humanitarian efforts, put the spotlight on activists who have made fighting for the causes their lives’ purpose — and make an effort to form your own opinion rather than having it supplied to you on TikTok.