The success of the two recent documentaries (on Netflix and Hulu, respectively) about the disaster called Fyre Festival inspires a few questions on the role of social media influencers in our society today.
Especially “Fyre Fraud,” Hulu’s take on the festival, points the finger at the influencers themselves that agreed to promote the Festival for money on their Instagram accounts. The influencers didn’t actually know anything about the festival or look into the planning of its first year, but were paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote it to their followers. Thousands of them ended up stranded in the Bahamas without sufficient food or water.
Others point to the supermodels that were hired for the original promotion video in the Bahamas, including Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski, Hailey Baldwin, and other big names. Are the models equally “guilty” as the influencers? Or are they all faultless?
It comes down to this: do influencers have any responsibility for the products and events they are paid to promote?
For models, it’s generally understood that they are paid for their work. A model in a shampoo commercial doesn’t need to actually use the product; it’s her job to have nice enough hair to influence the average consumer to buy the shampoo. Still, the promo video was done in a way that suggested they would be there. They were selling the idea of partying with models at the festival, not necessarily the festival itself. On top of that, many models like Kendall Jenner were also paid to promote the festival on their Instagram accounts. Several of the models are currently being subpoenaed over their involvement in promoting the disastrous festival and forced to disclose how much they were paid.
But what about Instagram influencers?
While there are several degrees of separation between the viewer and the model on a screen, Instagram celebrities (and models on their personal IG accounts) operate a bit differently. Their popularity and influence comes from the relationship that they build with their audience. They interact directly with their followers and built up a certain rapport and level of trust. Their followers believe in the products they promote (many not marked as an #ad even when there’s money involved) because they trust the influencer themselves. The lesser degree of separation means that they feel more attainable to their fans. The fans, in turn, get to model their lives after the influencer’s portrayal of their own.
Who do you think is to blame?