Despite the UK being in the worst wave of the pandemic yet, and regardless of the government encouraging no non-essential travel, social media ‘influencers’ have been bending these guidelines by claiming to be going to the Middle East for ‘essential work trips’. Some of these business trips seem to include promoting fitness products and beauty brands, and many have questioned why these advertisements cannot be done from their own homes. The flouting of the rules, both at home and abroad, brings into question the integrity of these influencers and makes a mockery of those who have suffered as a result of the deadly virus.
With the target audience of the majority of social media influencers being teenagers and young adults, it is important to consider the direct and indirect impact that these content creators can have on their impressionable audience. For many, their actions downplay the seriousness of the pandemic. They can also be seen to encourage others to be more lax with the rules, and disregard government guidelines.
Public backlash, however, has been predictably intense. Many influencers have been called out and forced to publish grovelling apologies for their holidays, but the majority of the public feel these are forced and sarcastic, and not acceptable. As many have pointed out, if they were truly sorry, they wouldn’t have gone in the first place. Popular TikTok star KT Franklin was pressured into publishing a video regarding her recent trip to Dubai on YouTube that now boasts over four thousand dislikes, as many fans believe her to be insincere. The link to cancel culture here is evident – it feels as though KT, and others like her, are just ‘saving face’ with their half-hearted apologies so they do not damage their future careers.
In more mainstream media, the issue surrounding influencers travelling to Dubai was thrown into the spotlight when fitness vlogger Sheridan Mordew appeared on This Morning to discuss why she felt her recent trip to Dubai at the start of January was justified. After a grilling from Phillip and Holly, Mordew explained that her job was essential, as she was providing motivational content and needed to be in the best space possible to create. She also discussed the impact coronavirus had had on her mental health, and how she felt being in Dubai enabled her to perform at her best. However, she failed to take into account that the majority of the British public are also struggling with poor mental health due to the pandemic, and would love to be abroad and riding camels in the desert in Dubai – something Sheridan publicised herself doing on her Instagram page – but understand that staying home is vital in these uncertain and volatile times.
Phillip and Holly also pointed out to Sheridan that Joe Wicks, a popular fitness influencer, has managed to double his following and provide quality content whilst staying at home, and wonder whether Sheridan could have easily done the same instead of risking the health of herself and others.
Despite the extreme backlash, there have been a minority who have supported these influencers, claiming that the scrutiny is down to jealousy. Whilst this may be the case for a small number of individuals, overall it is fair to say that the majority are against certain content creators actions, due to their reckless nature and lack of responsibility for the audience they are influencing – as well as their failure to realise the possible consequences of their actions.
Nevertheless, it is important to remember that there are influencers who are making a positive change during this pandemic. An example is Dr Alex George, who starred in the 2018 series of Love Island. Unlike many of his former co-stars, Alex, who is a registered physician, has been working on the frontline and also educating the public through his Instagram.
With the government recently placing the UAE on the travel ‘red’ list, it will be interesting to see how this impacts influencers in Dubai currently. Will they face the consequences upon returning to the UK? It will be interesting to see if influencers continue to make the journey overseas – whether it be Dubai or elsewhere.
By Tabitha Wilson
Image by: Olivier Brugger Via Unsplash