Influencer Culture & The Toxic Female Frenemy

I’ve worked in marketing for longer than I’d like to admit (Alexa, play ‘Forever Young) and as a social media user to boot, I find myself fascinated by the role the influencer community plays in shaping consumer decisions.

What was once a stream of wide-eyed youths posting their shopping hauls on YouTube is now big business. This exponential growth has expanded to new social media territories, and it is influencers who are responsible for algorithm and feature changes on our favourite channels that benefit consumerism. Not just that, but it’s influencers to thank for the shift in consumer and brand attitudes across almost all walks of industry.

Influencer marketing has become an entirely new way of working, marketing and communicating with consumers and everyone wants a slice of pie. What was borne from an internet hobby most scoffed at just a decade ago is now big business.

The influencer community backlash

Of course, as is the case with anything created online these days, the influencer community has not been exempt from its share of backlash and negativity. Simple things, such as demands to mark things as advertisements, so consumers know they’re being actively targeted and not hashtag influenced being one of the funnier ones I’ve seen.

I think a lot of it comes down to consumers simply not understanding how marketing or the influencer game works, and as evidenced a lot, general social media users believe that influencers owe them something for being a follower.

As such, there’s a dark underbelly to influencer culture that I’d never really noticed or paid attention to before. But, its emergence highlights how desperately cruel, insidious and dangerous internet culture can be (as if we needed reminding?!).

Influencer audiences are becoming toxic

As a staunch feminist, I naturally talk a lot about the detrimental impact the patriarchy has on both men and women, specifically in the form of toxic masculinity. But, I’ve never really touched upon how the patriarchy can also create toxic femininity.

Toxic masculinity plays itself out in tired stereotypes, such as boys being boys and men not crying as it makes them weak. Not even carrying babies in the appropriate way is emasculating (thanks Piers Morgan). Similarly, toxic femininity encompasses a lot of stereotypes often bestowed on women.

You know what I mean: we hate each other, we are all bitches, we can’t be in the same room with other women for too long because we’ll turn on each other… We’ll fight for the attention of men, we’ll stab each other in the back and maybe we’ll even sync up our periods and wage war on the bear community. You know, the usual.

Feminists like me, rage against that narrative because we understand that being women is awesome. Female friendships are wonderful, women are endlessly inspiring and there’s honestly no greater feeling than knowing you’re a woman, not just supporting other women, but being supported in return.

But for those still trapped in the clutches of the patriarchy, there’s a fundamental lack of this – it’s toxic femininity and it’s abundantly clear to see on a vicious anti-influencer website known as Tattle.

The website, owned by a woman named Helen, holds onto traditional gender roles, and the stereotypes they create are held onto like prized possessions, manifesting themselves in truly disgusting and tragic ways.

This community consists predominantly of women, and targets the influencer community – the majority of whom, yep, you guessed it, are women.

Is it trolling or is it tittle tattle?

This website, or message board, is filled with pages and pages of words, thoughts, pictures, screen grabs and comments that focus on women across the influencer community.

There are very specific and often impossibly cruel grievances against influencers, from their most recent haircuts, to their follower count, to the fact they’re given gifts by brands and don’t re-gift them to families who apparently, as decided by Tattle users, are worse off…

A few influencers I follow feature on Tattle and I’ve read them all in open-mouthed horror. I simply couldn’t believe the amount of vitriol being spilled from people’s brains, into their fingers and onto a webpage for anonymous users to consume and respond to.

I had the same sick feeling I had when reading through incel manifestos and websites; the content is inexplicably cruel and gobbled up as cold hard facts and opinions by other users, as opposed to what it really is: trolling.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that women are capable of being cruel – we all are – I just didn’t understand why this website exists and what benefit it brings to the lives of its users. Why these women think cruelty is an opinion worth sharing, or demanding to be validated by equally negative, like-minded anonymous profiles. That’s what I don’t get.

The whole website exists to tear unsuspecting women down for such bizarre reasons:

  • One of them has an awful voice
  • One of them has posted a picture of herself in her underwear
  • One of them talks too much about sex toys
  • One of them got a tattoo and went swimming
  • One of them might be really scruffy
  • One of them is talking about her belly but her belly isn’t fat enough to be considered fat
  • One of them goes out too much with her friends
  • One of them looks like her boyfriend is bored of her

You can scoff and ask ‘who fucking cares’ but they do, and there are thousands of threads just like it, about women across the influencer community with different levels of followers and fame.

The influencer community owes you nothing

The justification behind some of these threads is because Tattle users deem that if someone monetises their social media account, like an influencer often does, they then get to decide if that influencer is mean, or not very nice to their partner, or may be a nightmare or a bitch, or in some cases deserving of cancellation based on commentary made when they were young.

It’s cruel, and it’s cut throat and it’s allegedly acceptable because everyone is anonymous and if you don’t want to be targeted, don’t grow your account, don’t take our social media hobby and make it a career.

In other words: who do you think you are to think you’re better than me/us?

They behave as though influencers owe them something, and as such, they feel both justified and entitled in saying petty things, and cruel things, but some of them even go so far as stalking LinkedIn profiles and leaving cruel, fake reviews on certain influencer’s business pages.

It’s a reminder that cancel culture exists and it is toxic. It doesn’t exist simply to hold people accountable for their words or behaviour, it exists to destroy anyone who goes against the role that’s expected from the influencer community… To serve social media users.

The attitude of these people is that they simply don’t care if they’re destroying people’s livelihoods, relationships, businesses, income or mental health – influencers owe us.

And that’s not okay. Because they owe you fuck all.

Online bullying has serious consequences

The interesting thing is, that behind anonymous accounts, these bods are emboldened to be even more cruel, justifying their comments as something they’d happily say to an influencer’s face.

But watching what Jes and Amy Toole are doing on their social media accounts lately, it’s pretty funny to realise that these users don’t realise that they’re actually conflating opinion with bullying, but not just that: that they think an influencer – and in this case, Jes – is receiving PR and Ad gifts from brands because of them specifically and exclusively.

If you haven’t seen what the gals are doing to tackle Tattle Trolls, please click here for Jes ‘ Instagram and here for Amy’s Instagram.

There’s a level of control and ownership these users think they have over influencers that remind me of Harvey Weinstein et al, who believed women owed them something – usually sex- in exchange for success that they believe they gave to them.

Influencers don’t owe anyone anything for following them, and they certainly don’t owe you their lives in exchange for a gift box from Charlotte Tilbury.

Influencing isn’t about you, so pack it in

As a marketer, I often get people telling me they know how to market, they understand how it all works and I laugh, because lol they absolutely don’t – and the same can be said for the influencer community.

People think it’s easy, but if that was the case, everyone would be doing it and wouldn’t be sat on Tattle complaining about the size of someone’s pores.

The selfie or the story that you see from an influencer is the finished product. Creating the content takes such a long time; creating content that people engage with regularly and positively is even more challenging ,and creating content that does both, while also inspiring brands to work with you, is a fucking TASK.

Doing all of this alone, while working full time, having a family life and having a social life, all while living your hashtag best life online so that 70,000 people can get access to you every day is no mean feat.

It’s hard work. It’s a job. It’s a lifestyle and it’s for influencers and for their futures.

Online bullying and trolling is a criminal offence, and you can be prosecuted no matter how hard you try to hide behind an anonymous account. Something I read on Tattle about ‘the lie’ influencers tell about searching for IP addresses… Mate, I can do that and I’m not an influencer or a particularly gifted tech bod.

You can’t hide on the internet and privacy genuinely died a long time ago, just as you believe you have access to influencers ,with the right attitude and drive – like Jes and Amy – they have access to you too, so why waste precious time posting vitriol when the law absolutely won’t take your side because you were sad or on furlough or bored.

Think about your actions, think about your digital footprint and think about the consequences of being a dickhead online to poor girls who don’t deserve it.

Thanks for coming to my VicTalk.

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