Influencer Culture and Fame

Influencer Culture and Fame

By: Grace Wennerberg

March 14th, 2023

Before the rise of social media, being famous was only a far-fetched idea for most. Over the past few years, popular apps, including Instagram and TikTok, have opened the floor for the everyday person to become an overnight sensation. Sure, social media creates more opportunities for people to reach success, but have influencers tainted the concept of being famous?

Whether it was through print or electronic media, society has been conditioned to follow the opinion and advice of individuals with a large following. Traditionally, only celebrities and elites had the resources to appear in advertisements or endorse a product, but now, anyone can become an influencer. 

Rising to fame just months ago, 22 year-old TikTok sensation Alix Earle was a normal student at the University of Miami before becoming the fastest growing influencer on the platform. In just a month, the college senior’s TikTok following grew from 1.2 million to 4.4 million. Although Earle has had tremendous success on social media, there are thousands of other TikTokers and Instagram users that have blown up online in a similar fashion. 

Despite having a social media presence, influencers often struggle to hold onto their newfound fame. With new content and trends constantly flooding social media apps, it is not surprising that the hottest influencers at the time are replaced by the next best thing. Unlike traditional celebrities such as actors and musicians that have become household names, influencers tend to only be noticed by the tech-savvy younger generations. Because content creators are predominantly followed by teens and twenty somethings, obtaining mass fame becomes nearly impossible. 

TikToker Michelle Wozniak, who has 2.4 million followers on the app, provided insight into her life as an influencer. When talking to Michelle about her TikTok success, she revealed the truths about life as a content creator. “When I lived in Cleveland, I started making Tiktoks just for fun. I posted videos doing my makeup or a skit, you know, what every girl does when making Tiktoks,” Michelle shared. “I really started to blow up in 2020. I was consistently getting over 500k views on my TikToks and my following was growing. I was making money and things seemed promising, so after I graduated high school, I moved to LA to pursue influencing full time. LA was a dream when I got there, but a couple of months after I made the move, my views and likes started going down.”

Michelle now lives in New York City where she still creates content on social media, but she is focusing on her growing modeling career. When asked why she believed her success as an influencer was so short-lived, Michelle shared that, “Everyday I go on TikTok, there’s somebody else who’s prettier and funnier than me on the app. I honestly think because there are so many influencers nowadays, people get tired of what they’ve seen and want to find something new and entertaining. You can’t compete with that.”

While most influencers only experience fifteen minutes of fame, some have managed to infiltrate Hollywood. At last year’s Met Gala, influencers Addison Rae and James Charles were seen on the red carpet, causing uproar amongst A-List celebrities. As social media stars slowly begin to appear in Hollywood, the idea of fame has started to lose its exclusive feel. 

In a 2022 Variety interview, Jennifer Aniston, star of the hit TV series “Friends”, shared her feelings about being a celebrity surrounded by influencer culture. “I always say I feel lucky that we got a little taste of the industry before it became what it is today, which is just different — more streaming services, more people,” Aniston said. “You’re famous from TikTok. You’re famous from YouTube. You’re famous from Instagram,” she added. “It’s sort of almost like it’s diluting our actor’s job.”

As influencers popularity continues to skyrocket, traditional Hollywood celebrities are beginning to lose their once sought after fame. Instead of appreciating celebrities that have a craft or talent, society has become consumed with the instant gratification social media and influencers provide. Social media opens the door for the average person to become an overnight sensation, diluting the idea of fame and minimizing the success of talented celebrities. Influencer culture is here to stay jeopardizing the future of Hollywood celebrities.

Grace Wennerberg is a junior majoring in Professional and Public Writing with a minor in graphic design. She aspires to work in the fashion industry in writing and content design. In her free time, Grace enjoys binge watching That 70’s Show, making dinner with her roommates, and sketching fashion designs.