EVER since the word “influencer” began to take on a new meaning in the mid-2010s, it has been associated with an image of a young woman selling dodgy diet teas to boost her currency in social media.
If that has ever been accurate, it is less and less so. Influencers, a broad church that encompasses content creators, internet celebrities and anyone who benefits from online attention, are an increasingly powerful cultural force, an “influence economy” that is projected to be worth $ 24 billion by 2025.
In his new book, Breaking the Internet: In Search of Influence, digital strategist Olivia Yallop argues that we need to take the phenomenon seriously before it completely takes over our culture. What influencers do, including what influencers are, remains a slippery concept, and sometimes even those in the business don’t respond to the title.
“I would be wary of anyone who describes themselves as wanting a career as an influencer,” Dominic Smales, founder of Gleam Futures, the premier influencer management agency, told Yallop in 2018. “The word is too homogeneous and faceless. to be significant. .”
Because of this, drawing the boundaries of what influence is and the ways in which it is significant is no easy task, particularly given the volume of information on the subject and the dizzying speed with which it is being added. You might be wondering how long Yallop’s book will feel contemporary as the attention economy evolves. But the rapid pace of change justifies this full and clear account of how the earth is now.
break the internet does well to define the broad parameters of influence. Each chapter looks at a particular aspect of life as an online content creator, from getting a following to monetizing it. The accounts of mumfluencers, who focus their online profiles on her children, and influencer Caroline Calloway, who became famous on the Internet for sharing the ups and downs of her life, make for especially uncomfortable reading.
Yallop is an authoritative guide who balances her experience at a digital agency (where she worked as an intermediary between influencers and brands) with the necessary critical distance of someone with only a few hundred Instagram followers.
His analysis benefits from being based on rigorous real-world reporting, with Yallop participating in an influencer boot camp, attending meetings of “stans” (fans) and “snarkers” (the opposite), and visiting a “house of creators.” “, where teenagers live to produce content for TikTok.
The glossary of terms and careful attention to attribution and references also raise break the internet to a complete description of a phenomenon that seems more likely to explode than to disappear.
“If Yallop is right that we are all becoming influencers, what does that mean for who we are to each other?”
The book argues against “viewing influencers as an isolated industry” and for instead taking into account their already substantial and rapidly growing importance to culture. politics Y social trends.
“In the same way that we don’t talk about an ‘internet industry,’ one day we won’t talk about the ‘influencer industry,’ either,” writes Yallop. “Soon, every company will be a media company, everyone will be a brand, everything will be subject to the principles of influencers.”
On the case of influence as a cultural force to be reckoned with, break the internet it is convincing and persuasive. Where it fails is in making the stakes in the burgeoning influencer economy feel real to those of us on the fringes who keep the online world spinning with our attention.
We might conceive of ourselves as passive, as part of an “audience” or “followers”, but if Yallop is right that we are all becoming influencers, what does that mean for who we are with each other?
as always with write about technology, the challenge is to center the human element. As thorough as Yallop is in describing the world of influencers, personalities, and platforms, after a while, the steady stream of larger-than-life avatars, fleeting controversies, and sheer number of views, I like and followers become somewhat numbing, as the experience of being in the internet itself.