TikTokers have taken up "deinfluencing." It's a trend that aims to topple influencer culture, but why does it feel like a messy contradiction?
"Deinfluencing" is the newest buzzword and trend that aims to disrupt the influencer economy.
Creators in the beauty and lifestyle space are now gleefully gaining views by talking down cult-favorite products.
While well-intentioned, it's a deceptive rebellion. And it may pose knottier problems for creators long-term.
Over the past week, swarms of TikToks have been cropping up on my For You page, telling me what I shouldn't buy.
A video with 1.8 million views says the Mario Badescu face cream is a "monstrosity," Olaplex's shampoo and conditioner apparently made another TikToker's hair fall out, and one blush stick has been described as the "tackiest" blush this woman has ever used.
It's called "deinfluencing," and it's suddenly everywhere.
What is "deinfluencing?"
"Deinfluencing" is a term that's been recently invented by creators who are urging viewers not to buy something, or calling criticism to cult-favorite products. Because influencers are known to shill products — at any unethical cost peril to their reputations, as we've seen with MascaraGate — "deinfluencing" is meant to invert that notion.
If traditional influencers create hype around a product, deinfluencers fiercely interrogate that hype.
@alyssastephanie I love deinfluencing ❤️ #deinfluencing #deinfluencergang #cultproduct ♬ original sound - Alyssa ✨
It's also a way for creators to build up their credibility. They're seen as more honest and authentic if they're willing to tell fans, "Hey, this product, I kind of hate it. It's not worth your money."
The term first cropped up at the start of the new year and the hastag now has more than 52 billion views. While it can apply to all communities online, it seems to be mostly found in the beauty and lifestyle space. Some deinfluencing videos are going so viral they may become a real threat to staple brands of the influencer economy who have historically poured a lot of ad dollars into influencer marketing and spon con.
Last week, TikToker Alyssa Kromelis captivated over 4.3 million viewers proudly denouncing the very items she was influenced to buy. "Here are all the things I will deinfluence you from buying as somebody that spends thousands of dollars on health, beauty, hair products, but loves to save a buck," she intros her video.
She then lists a number of cheaper dupe products that she believes are way more effective than their luxe-label counterparts. For example, she recommends $30 plastic hair rollers from Amazon over the universally-loved Dyson Airwrap (that retail for up to $600). Most of her other endorsements are products you can find at your local drugstore or a Wal-Mart.
Kromelis calls it "recession-core influencing," she told Insider. "I think these big, rich influencers constantly showing their fancy new shoes, handbags, haircare products can make the average viewer feel incredibly uncool or like they're falling out of trend," Kromelis said. "Most people can't afford to buy every single thing that goes viral, but they want to feel like they belong and fit in."
@katiehub.org Replying to @.sam_ross THIS MIGHT BE A HOT TAKE HAHA #fyp #deinfluencing #dior ♬ original sound - katie
She thinks the deinfluencing movement can level the playing field in an increasingly mercenary world. "There's no longer a need for us to be buying $45 blush when eggs are $8 a dozen," she said.
The same day Kromelis went viral, another creator went viral for singling out and slamming Dior makeup. "Just because you put pretty packaging over garbage does not mean it's still not garbage," @katiehub.org says in her TikTok, which garnered 1.6 million views.
Every video seems like a shrewd attempt to regain control over our consumerist tendencies. And it's a nice idea — a new online campaign to eat the rich, so to speak. But deinfluencing will soon run into the same issues that plague influencing.
Influencing and deinfluencing are two sides of the same coin
Herein lies some paradoxes about this new resistance. As one creator pointed out, bashing a product can be as shallow as touting a product — and both serve the creator by driving engagement. "And so the pendulum swings," wrote beauty influencer Charlotte Palermino in an Instagram post she shared on Monday.
"Telling someone a product is perfect for everyone (impossible) drives just as much 'outrage' as telling someone a product is the worst. When I see balance and nuance perform well…that's when I'll believe we're officially 'de-influencing,'" she wrote.
Kromelis has even begun to acknowledge the ironic dilemma she now faces as someone who's become the go-to person on TikTok for touting more affordable products.
"Whether I'm telling somebody to not buy something, to buy something, to buy this versus that, it's going to be seen as influencing either way," she said.
@rachelledistasio More than just a trend #deinfluencing #makeup #transparency ♬ original sound - rachelledistasio
While some deinfluencing videos, like Kromelis's, recommend replacement products, most serve to persuade people out of purchasing items they do not "need." Again — this is a worthy reminder for all of us who have to manage our worst consumeristic anxieties. But it reinforces the same relationship between a fan and creator.
At one point, I scrolled from one video by a creator who told me I didn't need the big trendy plush headband, immediately to one where a creator is seen wearing a big plush headband. One second, I'm persuaded to resist joining a trend; the next, I'm bewitched by that same trend.
In every video, I'm at the whim of someone telling me what I should and should not be doing. I don't feel more empowered to make my own choices; I simply feel new apprehension about where I should be spending my dollars.
Deinfluencing may create a bigger and more complicated problem for influencers in the long term
Deinfluencing may make influencers appear more credible or honest in the short-term. But it poses tricky challenges for their careers in the longterm — especially if they depend on brands to get paid.
Alex Paquin, the founder of the ad agency Zerotrillion, told Insider brands may be more careful about "vetting" influencers they work with now.
"Brands have to ask themselves, 'what is this influencer's propensity to turn on us in the event that their followers don't like the content they make for us?' Influencers need to be careful not to be too quick to use this trend as an 'oopsie button' for partnerships they're mildly self-conscious about," he said.
"I also think a lot of influencers themselves are jumping on this trend to earn back some authenticity credit with their audiences … But they need to be vigilant they're not trading long-term viability as a brand partner, for a short-term boost in visibility."
@basicofcourse you do need plants tho #deinfluencing #trendcycle #amazonstorefront #sustainablefashion ♬ Right Back Where We Started From - Maxine Nightingale
It's a predicament. While we may individually save a few bucks here and there, we're mostly funneling money into different products. And different corporations are now benefiting.
True "deinfluencing" can only happen if influencers confront the addicting and byzantine relationship they have with themselves, their audiences, and consumerism. Perhaps then we can start unpacking what makes the influencer cottage industry so hard to quit.
Read the original article on Insider