I've long viewed Instagram as a source of inspiration for all things fashion and beauty. It's been a place where I could daydream, get my mind off of things, and catch up with what all my friends are doing. But lately, I've found myself frustrated with the fashion influencers I see all over my feed. Over the past few months, I've seen one influencer after another jet off to different parts of the country (or even the world) to go on vacation and throw birthday parties, posting outfit pics the whole way. While I would have been excited to see these pictures in the past, this year was different due to COVID-19.
At the start of the pandemic, I didn't think much of these egregious images. I chalked up my lack of enthusiasm for following influencers on their trips around the world to my own situation, as I've been back at home helping out my grandmother during COVID. Now, nine months in, after everything we've learned about this horrible virus, I realize it's just plain reckless. It struck me hard around the time of Kim Kardashian's 40th birthday party in October. While I'm a fan of the star and was excited to see what she would wear for the big 4-0, I was shocked to learn that the whole family ignored travel guidelines and hopped on a private jet to Tahiti with friends despite soaring COVID numbers across the country. Plus, her tone-deaf caption threw me for a loop, as it did with plenty of others: "I surprised my closest inner circle with a trip to a private island where we could pretend things were normal just for a brief moment in time." Didn't we all want to feel normal for just a brief moment in time? I know I would certainly like to go back to normal, book a vacation for my birthday, and post cute outfit pictures without a care in the world, but last time I checked, we were still in the middle of a pandemic. I briefly wondered why they couldn't wait until things settled down or maybe just . . . not post it on the 'gram. But then I realized the whole concept around "if you didn't post it, it didn't happen" is a thing for a reason.
The definition of a fashion influencer has changed over the years, but one thing that hasn't changed is the core of what they do: they influence, whether it's what brands they're shopping for or where they're traveling. While I understand that influencers make money through paid gigs like sponsored trips and product promotion, seeing their vacation #OOTDs on my feed day after day as COVID cases are at an all-time high is disheartening, and pretending it's not a luxury to be able to pack up and hop on a plane to a tropical destination at a time like this is a total joke.
After broaching the subject with a few people, I was happy to learn I wasn't the only one who had been feeling this way. My DMs filled up quickly with one person after another saying they shared my frustration and wished more people were expressing this view. Some of my contacts had even unfollowed a handful of influencers because it was just too much to handle. They felt like they were being gaslighted after being stuck at home for the better part of the year. Influencers I'm friendly with have even reached out, saying they feel the same way.
Maybe the reason this reckless behavior is hitting us wrong is that we've all started to demand more from the celebrities and influencers we look up to. We've become more thoughtful as a society about shopping consciously through vintage retailers and pressing for brands to become more inclusive with programs like Aurora James's 15 Percent Pledge, which asks retailers to commit to buying 15 percent of their products from Black-owned businesses. While we are still in the thick of it and have a long way to go before life starts going back to normal, I think it's about time we start demanding more from influencers as well.