Whether they have 100 followers or 100,000, it seems like everyone on TikTok is trying to sell you something.
Get Ready With Me videos are a staple of the platform where the creator provides partner details for every cream and tube of mascara they use and every item of clothing they wear that day in an impressive form of brand recall. The Sunday Reset videos are full of mentions of vacuum cleaners, surface cleaners and the trendiest sponge to buy to make your home shine – and your life in general better.
Viewers know the names of specific, trending items fluently – and if they’re unfamiliar with the brand, they’re not afraid to ask. Open the comments section of a “Day in the Life” video and you’ll find inquiries about where the creator purchased their duvet cover, graphic tee, or bookshelf. If the creator doesn’t respond or doesn’t respond quickly enough, he or she is labeled a gatekeeper (for those unfamiliar with TikTok phraseology, this is not a compliment).
To make the purchasing process as seamless as possible, creators with even a hint of followers boast about Linktrees in their bios, allowing viewers to purchase whatever they’ve just seen in the video with just a few clicks. And if you can’t afford the $46 Charlotte Tilbury Flawless Filter, don’t worry, there’s a dupe for that (translation: a cheaper product that’s similar to what you really want to buy), which is also a different influencer happy to shares.
It all became a bit much. But of course, for every trend there is a backlash. Enter: The Disinfluencer.
Disinfluencers condemn the consumerist mindset
Over the past few weeks, dozens of videos showing creators “un-influencing” their followers have flooded TikTok’s For You page. These videos denounce the consumer culture inherent in the app. In some, creators suggest to viewers which products they don’t need to waste their money on; in others, they reflect on materialism more generally.
“Don’t get the Ugg Mini, don’t get the Dyson Airwrap, don’t get Charlotte Tilbury’s wand, don’t get the Stanley Cup, don’t get Colleen Hoover’s books, don’t get Airpods Pro Max,” jokes one creator, listing some of the current trendiest in app purchases. “If you do any of these things, a bomb will go off.”
The trend has spread to the beauty and fashion realms in particular, highlighting the extent to which audiences are losing trust in influencers who seemingly offer a different moisturizer or eyeshadow palette every week. In an application where inauthenticity is deadly, being perceived as a fraud for a product you don’t actually use or like is the best pass.
“De-influencing is positioned as a form of offering candid digital advice, often as a way to break down hype or share the truth about a product, experience or something that just isn’t ‘worth it,'” Larry Milstein, co-founder of Creative Communications Agency PRZM, tells Happiness.
It also coincides with younger generations’ growing interest in conscious consumerism and sustainability, and comes amid ongoing problems of runaway inflation and growing economic uncertainty. With less money to spend on non-essentials every month, TikTok users are getting tired of being sold over-hyped products in every video they watch. And while experts aren’t yet sure whether a recession is imminent, almost everyone at TikTok is convinced we’re already in one.
De-influence as a concept is still evolving, says Emma Austin, a 24-year-old social media manager and content creator who has posted videos about the trend. But she’s excited to see more and more people talking about changing their attitudes toward consumerism in general.
“De-influence is a movement to be more cautious about consumer habits and to be careful about buying a product when it is over-hyped, talked about too much or advertised in a way that is too good to be true” , Austin says. “We’re in a recession and people are much more likely to keep their money and be more careful.”
Still, Austin notes that the conversation is pretty limited right now: Most of the videos are still centered around a product, whether it’s encouraging people to buy it or sharing a hoax about it.
But at the very least, it highlights the need for companies to rethink their relationships with influencers and the types of sponsorship deals they offer, she says. For example, Austin says she’s much more likely to follow people and try products that influencers are talking about if she knows they’ve been using them in their daily lives for several months.
“People are realizing that they don’t need 20 different blushes and bronzers,” Austin says. “It’s a really good opportunity for businesses to find influencers who have really solid audiences and build long-term relationships with them.”
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