by Alejandra Torres
This morning, before my eyes open, my hand is already reaching for my phone. I hear the pings of all the new Tik Tok videos my friends sent me. One video was of a father refusing to wear his mask in a private business. After watching that video, I had enough boiling rage to fully get up from my bed. The video became a reminder that even after a year of a global pandemic people will still react negatively to the rules.
In recent years, social media has become my very existence. When I wake up, when I eat, when I’m supposed to be doing any sort of schoolwork, I take out my phone when my favorite content creator posts anything new. With platforms such as Tik Tok, it has become relatively easy for influencers to spread their content and become celebrities in their own rights.
Since its launch in 2016, Tik Tok has become an integral part of Gen Z culture and how we rise to fame. For example, 16-year-old dancer Charlie D’amelio became No. 1 on Tik Tok in only a matter of nine months after posting her first dancing video in June of 2019. As influencers create content, they engage with the audiences and influence their thoughts, actions, and reactions. These interactions can truly become a blessing and a curse. As platforms become more accessible to reach a large part of the audience, influencers have made it relatively easier to speak out about global issues. However, this comes with the risk of having their true colors made public for the world to see that can later influence the actions of those who choose to support these creators.
For instance, take the case of Bryce Hall. Bryce Hall is a well-known Tik Tok star who has used his platform to create dance videos with other influencers. Hall, along with other influencers, found himself in hot water around August of 2020 after getting caught not once, but twice, partying. Even after receiving backlash and a warning from the city, Bryce still refused to stop partying, to which the city of Los Angeles promptly responded by shutting off his home’s water and power.
Hall, along with influencers Noah Beck and Blake Gray, threw himself a 21st birthday celebration at a rental home in Encino on August 14. It was later shut down by the Los Angeles Police Department after several neighbors made noise complaints and calls. Videos of the event show dozens of people packed tightly into the small space, along with several male and female strippers grinding on Hall. The lack of safety in these videos really shows Hall’s irresponsibility and carelessness for the safety of not only himself but others around him for the sake of a party.
This isn’t Hall’s first brush with pandemic partying either. Back in May and early June, he found himself in trouble for similar issues in the Sway House in the Bel Air area. Sway House was where influencers lived together to create content with one another. Hall held his influence and fame above public safety, not only endangering himself and others at these parties, but he had the potential to greatly affect the lives of a younger audience that watches his content. An impressionable viewer can take the wrong message to how we should behave during the pandemic. Although LA’s mayor took control of this situation, there are still many influencers like Hall who collaborate with others and go to events in order to maintain their income source.
However, avoiding the mask order and social distancing rules can greatly give an impression of carelessness. Influencers and how they behave during the pandemic can affect the daily lives of people and how they abide by the rules and mandates.
Social media platforms can be a place to get both reliable and false information. However, this idea about influencers does not define all influencers. One of the many reasons young people believe misinformation is because they tend to get the majority of their news on social media and platforms that they use daily (that includes TikTok). At times like this, social media plays a big part to get across updates and helpful tips for the pandemic, and influencers can use their platforms to spread these messages. TikTok user and scientist, Dr. Noc, also known as Morgan McSweeney, has created a platform for himself to address misconceptions about COVID-19 and the vaccines developed to fight the disease. McSweeney believes that even users with small followings can post videos to TikTok and gain a major audience. It’s a great way to reach new people, especially the young, who might otherwise miss important facts about the pandemic. McSweeney is a good example of an influencer who has used his platform to spread accurate information that can potentially be a lifesaver to someone who might be clueless about this virus. The hope is that other influencers follow in his footsteps to spread the correct information in regards of COVID-19 safety.
I’m one of those people who tried to follow his lead. I have talked about my experiences and methods to stay safe with my 41.2K followers. In doing so, my videos have reached over twice those numbers. This response has also influenced my followers to open about their own realities with COVID 19, which shows the true nature that comes with a global pandemic.
What influencers need to realize is that they’re not just there to entertain. At a time like this, social media platforms can change the behavior of large number of people. As Arthur Schopenhauer said, “Wealth is like sea-water; the more we drink, the thirstier we become, and the same is true of fame.” As for influencers with large platforms, it is important to remember that fame is a privilege and what they decide to do their fame will not only affect them, but the audiences who choose to support them.