THE RISE OF THE WOKEFLUENCER. A summer of protest has forced influencers, once so reliant on beautiful backdrops, to find new ways to post. The results are grim.
Over the summer, influencer Kris Schatzel went to a protest against police violence in Los Angeles. While there, she figured she’d do a little bit of work, too: in a video taken that day, she can be seen arranging her hair, swinging her dress into position, clutching her Black Lives Matter sign, and darting into the middle of the protest. Standing idly in the middle of a march, she waits for her photograph to be taken.
When the scene was posted to the @InfluencersIntheWild Instagram account, comments accused her of using the movement to further her own social media fame. To Schatzel, this was simply part of the job. “I took a few pictures, since I’m a social media influencer/model,” she wrote in an apology, also posted to Instagram. She continued, “My intent was to spread the message the best way I know how.” For influencers like Schatzel, something as seismic and deeply felt as the Black Lives Matter movement is not terribly different from Fit Tea and teeth-whitening devices: the best way to promote it is through a picture of themselves. (Use code SCHATZEL2020 for 15% off your next social revolution!)
In a year marked by enormous societal upheaval, I’ve been struck by one small, moderately nightmarish shift: the rise of an influencer class that, in an attempt to remain relevant without appearing tone deaf, searches out protests, USPS trucks, or looted stores the way they once chased sunsets. The influencers can’t stop posting; their followers reject silence in the face of dire political circumstances. But they can’t keep posting the same things. As a result, the photoshoot has taken to the streets, and the results are not pretty. This is the birth of the Wokefluencer.