I know, I know. Nobody wants to read another post about disclosure or integrity in the blogosphere. Life’s a better place when we’re not Negative Nancies! CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?! Etc etc.
But the thing is, there are still some really uncomfortable aspects to blogging – or to be more accurate “influencing” – in 2016.
And a tweet from Hayley this afternoon reminded me of this…
Can I just say that it’s NOT normal for you to own your own perfect marble covered house at 23. And it’s NOT normal to do NetAPORTER hauls.
— London Beauty Queen (@LBQblog) May 19, 2016
I don’t think this needs pointing out to older readers. We know how unrealistic it is to have perfectly Instagrammable homes and holidays every five minutes because we’ve got the overdrafts to prove it.
We can appreciate a Snapchat haul as being what it is – PR – and still enjoy it, because we know it’s as pie in the sky as the suggestions on fashion pages that imply it’s ‘normal’ to buy a £2000 beach bag. It’s eye candy. It’s nice. We might feel a bit shitty that we can’t afford such loveliness, but we know the person in question probably can’t either and it’s all one big ruse. It’s a bit of escapism and it’s fine.
But, as Hayley pointed out on Twitter, it’s not fine when young people believe that these luxuries are normal to have.
The blogosphere has generally done a pretty good job of calling out those who don’t disclose sponsored content. It’s still a bit of a minefield but I generally think there’s been enough of a backlash that people are – for the most part – being honest about when they’re being paid by brands to endorse something. I’ve noticed myself that briefs from agencies are becoming much stricter about enforcing that paid work is disclosed, which is all really positive.
But it’s still super super shady when it comes to the disclosure of freebies.
I get the argument from a blogger’s perspective: “If I wasn’t sent the items then I couldn’t possibly afford to buy them all and review them” and I 100% agree with this. There are countless things that I’ve only been able to review or feature because I was sent them.
The problem comes though when influencers live an entirely gifted lifestyle and younger followers don’t know that it’s been gifted or simply don’t understand how staggeringly expensive some of these things are, as prices often go unmentioned. (I always find this particularly odd, is it through embarrassment that some people won’t mention prices? Hotel reviews aren’t helpful if you don’t mention even a ballpark area for costs).
We’ve seen the backlash against airbrushed images in advertising, young people know that the bodies and faces in magazines often aren’t “real”, but I’m wondering if the backlash against posing outside Kensington town houses is what comes next?
Posing outside a house worth *tens of millions of pounds* in a head-to-toe gifted outfit is very strange to me. We’re talking about houses which footballers and film stars couldn’t afford, yet young girls are growing up thinking these are where bloggers live.
I don’t know what the alternative is. Notting Hill backdrops are pretty and posing next to wheelie bins and double parked cars isn’t. I’m as guilty as the next person for double tapping images of sunkissed outfit shots in the Maldives over mirror selfies in cluttered bedrooms, but I’m old enough to see through it.
I also wonder how valuable it actually is for brands in the long run, gifting extremely valuable items to people whose audiences are unlikely to be able to afford them. I guess it helps build brand awareness and create that “I NEED THIS” longing which so many brands depend upon, but I feel like more and more conversations are happening where brands are waking up to the fact that likes do not always equate to sales.
I think with time, things are going to become a bit more normal. I don’t want to feel as a blogger like I have to justify every single thing I mention (I’ve seen catty forum posts suggesting that receipts should be featured in all videos, only to be told by other posters that receipts can be photoshopped and bloggers can NEVER BE TRUSTED) but I also hope that young people come to learn that there are a lot of smoke and mirrors online.
For Generation Rent, the idea of 13 year old girls thinking Charlotte Tilbury palettes are as ten-a-penny as Natural Collection seems almost laughable. There’s a very real housing crisis and I don’t think it does anyone any favours to pretend it’s normal to treat N-A-P like it’s H&M. It’s not normal. Even if you’re lucky enough to be able to afford N-A-P shopping sprees with your hard earned cash, you’d hope you’d know that it’s not normal.
I live where I live because my husband earns more than me. I couldn’t own a property where I live on a blogging income. I don’t think I could own a property anywhere in London on a blogging income.
The bloggers and vloggers who have made millions are famously held up examples because what they have achieved is not normal. That doesn’t mean people shouldn’t see blogging as a career option, but it needs to be grounded in young people that it’s risky as a career move if your sole aim is to make oodles of cash.
I wouldn’t put a young lad off playing football in the hope of one day playing for United, but most aspiring footballers know that making it to a level where you’re dripping with cash is unusual. I’ve spoken to some young teenage girls who think ALL bloggers are loaded…and that all their money has come from blogging. It’s often completely ignored that many of the high luxe bloggers were rich to start with.
I’m aware I probably sound bitter and old in this post but I just really believe that influencers need to understand the responsibility that comes with having an impressionable audience.
Living a high luxe lifestyle makes for *great* reading and I don’t want everything to be gritty Mike Leigh style blogging-from-the bins, but I want to see more transparency when “holidays” are actually press trips. More honesty when “I just got” actually means “I was just sent”. More awareness that not everyone has the same amount of disposable income.
It doesn’t do anyone any favours to pretend in the long run, even if it does make for #greatcontent.