Back in the day (just weeks ago, before COVID-19 came to be regarded as a force of social disruption to reckon with) the familiar social media “influencer” call to action would echo out into the social media ether on late Friday afternoons: “Weekend starts NOW!” Today that call to action would sound quaint at best, sad at worst.
The economic Icarus, Consumption, after daring to fly so close to the sun for years is now coming down for a hard crash. Its feathers, social media “influencers”, can be seen flitting down in disarray right behind it. The wax that kept these feathers fastened to Consumption’s once glorious wings are all but melted by the sun’s heat.
Like their snowflake cousins that float gently to the ground from the sky, Consumption’s feathers will come to a soft landing as well, fortunately for them. The frame of the wings that held social media “influencers” together and kept them flapping in unison so that irrational spending could soar to greater heights — the advertising and marketing industry — will crash hard into the ground along with Economy’s Icarus.
What then happens to these “influencers” once they alight in the real world that once served as a mere backdrop to their carefully-crafted fitness- and virtue-signalling selfies? After almost two decades sustained by money skimmed off the milk yielded by the consumption cow, these social media “professionals” may have to seriously consider a career change — and find themselves real jobs.
The trouble is, this pandemic is redefining the world and the very notion of “real jobs” itself is being rethought. When it comes down to what is essential in a business enterprise, for example, there are job roles — and entire departments, for that matter — that clearly could disappear tomorrow and not materially impact the core operations that keep a business’s lights on. Scale that out to society at large and the outlook becomes even more stark. A “lockdown” scenario on national scales we see today reveals which organisations are essential too. At the top of the pyramid are the so-called “frontliners” that comprise these organisations — health workers, police officers, soldiers, farmers, carpenters, butchers, plumbers, electricians, and machinists among others — who provide the basic products and services. They keep people fed, care for the sick, maintain order, keep the lights on, keep water flowing in and out, and build stuff. They are the final engines of an economy.
Social media “influencers” are at the extreme polar end of a spectrum at the other end of which society’s true frontliners toil. They are parasites that now scrounge around for relevance in the new — hopefully, temporary — world we now live in. What to do with them when they no longer make compelling personalities to “follow” now that the beach resorts, fashion labels, designer jet-set lifestyles, and chi chi restaurants they hawk no longer fill polite conversation in households where happiness has been reduced to a stash of toilet paper?
Scratch that last question. It is a question about a community who are no longer relevant and are paying for the irrational exuberance and conspicuous consumption they helped spin into a storm that had achieved a perfection that is resulting in its own downfall.
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