Dear Influencers: Do Better

Though many of us have been stuck inside with nothing to do other than scroll on social media all day long, it seems quite unfair (and irresponsible) that the influencers on the other side of the screen do not take COVID-19 as seriously as the rest of us.

Cole Drozdek

Though many of us have been stuck inside with nothing to do other than scroll on social media all day long, it seems quite unfair (and irresponsible) that the influencers on the other side of the screen do not take COVID-19 as seriously as the rest of us.

This article was written over the summer of 2020, yet with nearly six months past the original time, many more noteworthy actions have been taken that I felt needed to be addressed.

Who do we look up to in unprecedented times? During the many challenging months of COVID-19, many adults look to state leaders, governors and healthcare workers who have been taking charge during these unparalleled months. They may watch the news, listen to conferences or read articles that can give them guidance from those they trust. But who are kids and teenagers looking up to? Parents or guardians might be the primary resource many seem to find comfort in and assurance that everything will be okay, but next in line is a whole world of celebrities and TikTok stars.

By becoming a celebrity or social media influencer, your private life becomes seemingly nonexistent. Paparazzi, magazines and small news outlets are continually watching over these influencers and reporting on their every action, small or large, that they make. Pop stars have been in the heat of this for many years, and now with the social media app, TikTok, becoming one of the most popular in the world, smaller influencers are getting similar treatment. They can no longer walk the streets of Hollywood without being recognized by a fan or having to answer questions about the drama happening in their lives. Because of the constant infringement of their privacy, they need to present themselves in a specific way, not only in front of the paparazzi but an entire generation of kids younger than them. This is where they have some trouble.

These teenagers are getting millions of followers overnight from a young audience. The average age of TikTok users is between 13-24 years old, many of whom still have developing brains and look to some of their favorite influencers to find some direction.

Social media stars can bring comfort to someone during times of hardship, but they can have negative impacts on them as well. While many people have been quarantined in their homes over the past five and a half months, have not been able to see friends and family and lost out on the last couple of months of school, many influencers seem to be “breaking the rules.”

To illustrate, many of the most popular creators on TikTok live or have lived in The Hype House, “a physical location of a new content creator collective.” It is a giant house in the middle of Los Angeles, with over 30 members and 100 million followers in total (and still growing). For views and content purposes only, completely disregarding the health and safety of themselves and others, they have continuously thrown (maskless) parties, regularly talk to fans (maskless) and meet with paparazzi to speak about the recent “drama” happening in their lives (maskless). The further we get into 2020 and a global pandemic, the more influencers are becoming less conscious about their actions.

These stars are called influencers for a reason: they influence the way young children and teenagers act. Being in the public eye comes with responsibilities, yet unfortunately, it seems to be something they frequently forget. Though reckless behavior from stars is nothing new, a global pandemic is one not many people alive today have gone through. There are enough people in America who have blatant disrespect for others through their continuous breakage of CDC guidelines, many of whom do not post about their actions for hundreds of millions of people to see (and leave an impression on). 

During the summer of 2020, when the number of COVID-19 cases in California was continuously rising over 190,000, famous YouTuber and makeup guru Nikita Dragun decided to throw a giant party inside the Hype House for TikTok star Larray’s birthday.

What seemed to be almost 100 guests arrived at the party, maskless and ready to have the time of their lives. Some were drinking, but most were dancing to music and talking to paparazzi and fans outside. They were sweating, breathing hard and giving many hugs. The whole event seemed to be a perfect example of ‘what not to do’ during a pandemic.

Some guests, such as James Charles and Tana Mongeau, who posted videos of them in attendance at the party, have issued a public apology. However, the influencers responsible for the party, such as the host Nikita Dragun or The Hype House have not apologized nor taken responsibility for the party altogether. What kind of example are these celebrities being to teenagers? That it is okay to disregard every public health warning? That it is okay to put the lives of yourself and others in danger? As someone who has enjoyed watching these influencers’ videos in the past, I am quite embarrassed I ever supported some of these people who have been so blatantly disrespectful and irresponsible during this pandemic.

While I thought this would be the worst to come, much to my surprise, it was not the least of what these stars are capable of. In December 2020, a full year after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed, these stars still have no respect for those suffering. To celebrate the holiday season, six well-known TikTok stars—Charli D’Amelio, Dixie D’Amelio, Chase Hudson, Noah Beck, Larray and James Charles—decided to profit off of each other by making six Youtube videos. While watching a bad white elephant exchange designer bags between affluent influencers would have been entertaining in any other year, this year, it was highly insensitive to those who have lost a loved one due to COVID-19 or are sick and unable to be taken care of in a hospital. On December 26, the day after Christmas, a staggering 65,167 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed. While the six most popular influencers were wearing matching Santa costumes dancing to the latest popular song and making more money on their TikTok and YouTube channels, hospital beds were at full capacity and around 200 people were dying in California. 

Needless to say, their behavior is irresponsible. At the beginning of his video, James Charles addresses that he even was sick (not with COVID-19, but if I were sitting next to him with no mask on, I would be concerned). Though these six individuals are not entirely to blame for the spread of COVID-19—that falls on the shoulders of many anti-maskers in the country or those still convinced COVID-19 is a hoax—Charli D’Amelio alone has over 100 million followers on TikTok; she is bound to influence the ways today’s youth approach life, whether or not she takes responsibility for it. If she hangs out with her friends, that can only lead others to think that it is okay for them to follow suit. The one “precaution” these influencers take is getting tested on a regular basis, however, this is not the way actually to prevent getting COVID-19. Except while walking to and from restaurants reserved for rich families and famous celebrities or shopping on Rodeo Drive, these influencers are usually caught not social distancing and are with no mask in sight. 

In a recent live stream hosted by the most popular Tik Tok influencer, Charli D’Amelio, there was no apology issued from the 16-year-old, only a lecture to those taking part in similar actions as herself.  It was only a few weeks after her own disregard for social distancing and not wearing a mask next to her five fellow influencers that she went back to her hometown in Connecticut preparing for another vacation in the middle of a pandemic, but this time it was to the Bahamas. Though her words would be impactful if she herself had followed her own advice, her words are mostly empty due to her own actions.

These influencers need to apologize for their actions and realize their impact on children. Their actions impact themselves, the people in their immediate circle and the millions of viewers who watch them daily. We should not show the children of this world that it is okay to party during a pandemic and that it is okay to risk the lives of hundreds of people because these influencers think they are “better” or “more important” than others. I am appalled at how they have been treating the situation of COVID-19 and hope they all grow up to teach their audience what it means to be a good, decent human being.